In today’s world, we spend almost 90 per cent of our time indoors, in our workplaces, leisure areas and our homes. It is no secret that the built environment has been relatively slow in its embrace of information technology and automation.

According to KPMG’s ‘Building a Technology Advantage’ report, fewer than 20 percent of construction and engineering executives, and major-project owners said they are re-thinking their business models, so as to incorporate new technology. Yet, it has now become a necessity, as energy efficiency becomes a more prominent topic discussion, which is leading to sweeping changes across all aspects of our lives and none more so than in the built environment.

Commitment to net-zero emissions

Governments are beginning to impose tighter restrictions on building use, energy consumption and emissions. Policymakers around the world are committing to net-zero emissions targets, with more than 60 countries pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

For example, the European Union (EU) is committed to become a carbon-neutral economy, with net-zero emissions by 2050 and all new buildings within the EU must be constructed as near-zero energy buildings. Meanwhile, China has legislated that at least 30 per cent of all new buildings must be ‘green’.

Smart technology to better manage HVAC

Technology can help optimize energy consumption and create energy efficiency in our buildings

Given this new trend towards energy efficiency in the real estate sector, smart technology is needed to better manage HVAC and energy consumption. Buildings currently contribute 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, a problem exacerbated by extreme weather conditions across the globe, which increases demand for electricity, as more people rely on air conditioning for cooling.

Technology can help optimize energy consumption and create energy efficiency in our buildings, alleviating many of the problems that we have today. Technology enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) can optimize comfort and safety, while providing remote operability and access to everything from HVAC systems to security cameras. At the same time, data collection and integration with cloud-based services allow for powerful energy efficiency measures.

Designing and operating Smart buildings

The concept and operation of smart buildings is not new. Architects and developers have been installing separate systems to control lighting and HVAC for decades. Later systems have evolved and helped building managers control access to different areas of a site, mitigate fire risk and protect against power surges.

What is new is the addition of web-based platforms, in order to allow these verticals to integrate seamlessly with each other. The building of tomorrow is achievable today, using the latest in automation intelligence to control lighting, air-conditioning and heating. With these digital solutions, everything can be controlled remotely and allow for complete control, whenever it is needed most.

Increased use of smart technology

The first step in managing HVAC energy is to understand exactly how much is being used and where it is used. With this information at hand, managers can highlight areas for improvement, which in turn will help a building become more efficient and ultimately, save money.

Another step in managing HVAC energy is including smart technology alongside your system

Another step in managing HVAC energy is including smart technology alongside your system, as it can minimize maintenance costs. Predictive fault-finding can save maintenance time and labor, as well as minimizing downtime for expensive equipment or services. It is estimated that smart-enabled predictive maintenance is three to nine times cheaper than a traditional reactive approach. Tenant and occupant satisfaction are often also higher, as systems that experience failure can be identified, repaired and re-booted quickly.

Smart building systems

Smart building systems, such as ABB i-bus KNX ClimaECO and ABB Cylon BACnet solutions, can combine HVAC in one holistic solution, from central control and management of heating and cooling systems, down to room-level automation.

Smart systems simplify the implementation of intelligent automation in modern buildings and using pre-installed algorithms, can make autonomous decisions on things, such as adjusting lighting and HVAC levels, to reflect time of day, external environment, occupancy levels or other variables.

Additionally, data collection and data analysis enabled by IoT allows for increased knowledge and better predictions of use. Working with a smart building, which is interconnected, can act and learn on this data, while providing remote access to data and analytics for human oversight.

The ROI of smart technology implementation

In addition to legislation driving change, being ‘smart’ provides other real benefits for developers and owners. As a building adapts to the demands of its users or the goals of its managers, it can save energy, cut emissions and reduce energy costs.

More effective and efficient use of power can save money, quickly repaying initial technology expenditure

Comparing energy savings to the falling cost of installing a basic smart management system, smart buildings immediately prove their worth. According to HSBC, if a smart system delivered an energy cost saving of 25 per cent, on an installation cost of US$ 37,500, for a 50,000 sq. ft building, the annual savings could be as much as US$ 23,000, giving a payback period of less than two years.

More effective and efficient use of power can save money, quickly repaying initial technology expenditure. HVAC and lighting alone can account for about 50 per cent of energy use in an average commercial building, but by incorporating smart automation, managers may see decreased energy costs of up to 30 to 50 per cent.

Leading the fight against climate change

Technologies, such as IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are crucial to help us in the fight against climate change. These technologies help users, owners, operators and facility managers interact with the buildings of the future effortlessly, with personalized comfort and maximum efficiency.

Artificial Intelligence and IoT is constantly in a state of evolution, as more applications for the technology are discovered. Given the ever-changing nature of technology, the possibilities for smart buildings in the future are endless.

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Author profile

Adalbert Neumann Head of Global Marketing & Sales - Smart Buildings, ABB Group

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