Intelligent building technologies are critical to a low-carbon future

Rapid urbanisation and climate change are intertwined, making decarbonisation of the built environment paramount to stabilising the future. The technologies that will deliver significant emissions reductions there will deliver benefits for all those involved, writes Casey Talon.

Casey Talon is a research director with Navigant Research, contributing to the Intelligent Building Management solution.

Decision-making and investment processes for constructing and operating buildings must be redefined to achieve the deep emissions reductions required to course correct climate change.

Electrification is a major focus for decarbonisation—notably replacing gas-powered space and water heating with electric systems—but intelligent building technologies also have a critical role in the low carbon future.

In particular, analytics offer insight necessary to monitor and achieve efficiencies in ongoing operations for emissions reductions while delivering the enhanced experience and financial benefits that drive stakeholder commitment.

Navigant Research is bullish on the market’s outlook due to the maturing use cases and impacts of key enabling technologies, as outlined in its report, Intelligent Buildings OverviewIn Europe, revenues from enabling hardware, software, and services are expected to grow from €7 billion in 2019 to €26 billion in 2028.

New synergies feed into a competitive building ecosystem

Intelligent building offerings are key to the energy industry’s transformation for a low carbon future. The relationship between building energy supply and demand is evolving. A more sustainable, highly digitised, and dynamic energy system is emerging. Intelligent building solutions enable engagement in this new ecosystem.

Intelligent buildings use data analytics to direct automation and controls to optimise energy consumption, comfort, and experience. These digital, future-ready buildings use technology to coordinate building operations with other onsite distributed energy resources like solar, storage, or EV charging infrastructure.

New synergies will emerge between utilities, technology and service providers, and building owners as traditional market roles give way to a more fluid competitive ecosystem. 

Significant value creation opportunities will emerge as an increasingly dynamic, flexible, and intelligent building stock achieves seamless interaction with an evolving grid infrastructure that prioritises clean, distributed, mobile, and intelligent market systems.

Early examples illustrate the opportunities for intelligent buildings such as the Lighthouse Cities, the GrowSmarter urban laboratories initiative. Projects in Stockholm, Cologne, and Barcelona are showcasing the future intersection of smart buildings, infrastructure, and energy.

In a recent article, Gustaf Landahl, project coordinator and Head of Department for Planning and Environment in the Environment and Health Administration at the City of Stockholm, explained, “Looking at buildings for example, the focus is mainly on newly built buildings; but most of the building stock in use is much older. Around one-third of Europeans live in buildings from the 1960s and 1970s, which are all in need of renovation. Under GrowSmarter, buildings from the 1960s have been refurbished to meet newly built energy standards. If we see this potential, we can start putting in solutions to save energy and give people better instruments to control their own use of energy.”

Focus on decarbonisation and eye the bottom line

The intelligent building technologies market is a competitive, dynamic environment. Small, nimble startups with unique hardware and software solutions can earn a place in an intelligent building solution on their own merit or in partnership with other more established players. Advisory services have moved to the forefront as business relationships have evolved from a technical focus to offerings with deeper strategic business guidance and a roadmap forward.

Challenges in the market, such as the integration of diverse systems, are being overcome through persistent innovation of technologies, partnerships that enable complete solutions, and the flexibility of intelligent solutions.

Norway offers one example with Powerhouse Brattørkaia. Real estate company Entra, construction and development company Skanska, the nongovernmental organisation ZERO, Snøhetta architects, and consultancy Asplan Viak partnered and introduced the high profile energy positive office building.

New revenue streams will emerge when the building sells excess clean power generation to neighbouring buildings or the grid. Automation and control and data analytics—key intelligent building solutions—will be the backbone of this future-ready building.

The climate crisis demands urgent action. Intelligent building solutions can become the bridge between advocates focused on decarbonisation and executives eyeing the bottom line. The transformation of a commercial facility or housing development into digital, flexible, and low carbon buildings will deliver benefits to all stakeholders.

Updated 4 mar 2020

By Casey Talon | Navigant Research

Originally published by EURACTIV.COM

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