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Embracing a Data Driven Approach to Reducing Carbon Emissions

22 Mar 2023

Reducing carbon emissions has become a worldwide necessity. And with the built environment contributing to almost 40 per cent of all carbon emissions on a global scale, there is increasing pressure for the real estate and construction industries to invest in greener alternatives that will meet the government’s 2050 net zero targets.


However, whilst there are various initiatives being widely adopted in the realm of new builds, according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), 80 per cent of buildings that will be standing in 2050 have already been built. This means that upgrading the buildings already in place needs to become a priority, in order to avoid high carbon emissions for the foreseeable future.

Retrofitting existing buildings with modern, energy efficient heating and ventilation solutions is perhaps the most obvious solution. But it’s one that comes with significant financial barriers.

To really get the most out of modern low carbon innovations, such as mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems, it will often involve a deep retrofit, in other words, taking the building back to its basic structure. All good if the budgets are there to tackle such a project; but it’s likely this will only apply in the minority of cases.

So, what’s the alternative?

If we take an existing commercial building, there will be numerous functions that could potentially be made more energy efficient. But how can we satisfy ourselves that we really know which of those functions need attention, and can we really rely on behavioural changes and human-led actions to make that all-important difference?

Would it not be better to take more of a data driven approach to reducing carbon emissions, so that you have the hard facts before you that will drive your decisions and actions? And, better still, to be equipped with rich data that can be used by artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to set automations within the building? Automations that will routinely reduce energy usage, without the need for human intervention?

This would seem to make more sense. And the way to do it is through smart building technology.

Any building can become a smart building by combining smart building technology with the existing building management system. And with the costs significantly less than low carbon retrofitting, it’s a solution that is accessible to a far wider audience.


Digital Twin Image 1


The smart building market is growing – considerably

As well as reducing carbon emissions, businesses are seeking to reduce operational costs, improve energy efficiency and enhance productivity. And the smart building is capable of doing all of the above, and more.

It’s probably why the smart buildings market is growing considerably. Worth £68.5 billion in 2022, it is reckoned it will see £279 billion by 2029, according to a recent analysis by Fortune Business Insights.

Using Internet of Things connected devices such as sensors, cameras and thermostats, smart building systems are able to collect, analyse and respond to data in real time. They also allow multiple systems to talk to each other, collating even richer data that reveals the effects of a single action on a range of functions.


In a traditional building, lighting, HVAC and security systems are distinctly separate from each other. However, in the smart building, usage data from all these systems is fed into a single, central platform where smart building analytics show overall trends, and where multiple tasks can be actioned – or automated – from one control centre.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of smart building technology is that the information collected across the various building functions no longer sits dormant until the facilities or building manager takes the initiative to review it.

Instead, they can set up notifications to be sent to their smart devices to alert them to the fact that, for example, that the ambient temperature in the main office area has risen above what would be considered comfortable based on the external climate, or the artificial lighting is no longer required because there is now sufficient natural light.

This allows managers to take immediate action to make changes, rather than wait to be tracked down and confronted by frustrated workers who are finding it hard to focus on their work, perhaps because they are too hot, or finding it difficult to cope with the lighting conditions. And of course, making such changes sooner rather than later will help in reducing carbon emissions.


Reducing carbon emissions with automated actions

But the data driven approach to building management doesn’t end there. Because as well as managers using the rich data to take action, the machine learning that’s part and parcel of smart building technology will also make use of it to create automated actions.

So the heating is switched off automatically when the outdoor temperature rises, and the lighting powers down when there’s sufficient natural light inside.

And there are a whole host of potential automations that will reduce energy usage and help with reducing carbon emissions…

  • Sensors detect a room is unoccupied, so heating is powered down to frost safe mode, lighting and air conditioning are switched off, and appliances such as TVs or monitors set to energy saving mode. This removes the need for people to actually remember to switch things off; a valuable feature, considering how difficult it can be to retrain behaviours.
  • Vibration and sound sensors detect anomalies with a machine, which could be a sign that it is not functioning optimally. An automated alert prompts a service engineer to resolve the issue, before the machine has wasted too much energy functioning below par, or before it fails altogether and needs replacing, which in itself is a drain on raw materials and therefore energy.


Why should we be striving towards a net zero building?

The term ‘net zero’ refers to the target of reducing down to zero the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming, by balancing the volume released into the atmosphere, with the amount taken out of it.

Global warming is a major issue, with every degree leading to serious consequences. Increased storms, drought, heatwaves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ocean temperatures getting higher are interfering with the very fabric of our life on earth, destroying habitats, harming wildlife, ruining livelihoods and taking lives.

This is precisely why the demand for action on climate change is gaining momentum on such a rapid scale.

As we’ve already mentioned, the built environment is responsible for 40 per cent of worldwide carbon emissions. So taking steps towards lowering consumption and reducing carbon emissions to get the percentage closer to zero – or net zero – is crucial to combat climate change.


How can Smart Spaces help with reducing carbon emissions?

Smart Spaces is an Internet of Things powered platform that works in conjunction with the building management system, gathering crucial data from every part of the building, including highly valuable energy consumption and emissions related data.

The smart dashboard element of Smart Spaces technology allows for the setting of energy consumption goals and makes it possible to set advantageous energy saving automations. Predictive analytics streamline energy usage optimisation, even across multiple premises. It really is the ultimate data driven approach to reducing carbon emissions, and combatting energy wastage in the built environment.


To discover how Smart Spaces could help reduce your energy consumption and assist you in reducing carbon emissions, please get in touch or request a demo.


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