Commercial

Five ways clean tech can make commercial buildings energy efficient

As corporate commitments to net-zero carbon targets gain momentum, there is a growing focus on the energy efficiency of buildings – and the technology that can make a difference.

Monday, June 07th 2021

Developers and investors are increasingly aligning projects with energy-efficient building standards.

It’s predicted green buildings will be one of the largest global investment opportunities in the coming decade.

The New Zealand Green Building Council says green star rated commercial buildings have been shown to save money through reduced energy and water consumption and lower long-term operations and maintenance costs.

The energy savings alone typically exceed any cost premiums associated with their design and construction within a reasonable payback period.

As the workforce evolves, the values of younger generations to saving the planet are driving demand for sustainable buildings.

Additionally, there is a demonstrated link between the green characteristics of buildings and the ability of these buildings, in some markets, to more easily attract tenants and to command higher rents and sale prices.

“There’s a massive push for companies to comply with global sustainability commitments,” says Ramya Ravichandar, vice president, product management at JLL.

“Clean tech will play a big role, from providing insight into daily use of assets, to modelling demand cycles to lower consumption – and ultimately, to change how we source and use energy,” says Ravichandar.

There are hurdles to implementation, from greater government regulation needed for wider adoption to the costs of retrofitting older buildings. But the clean tech sector is developing around these demands.

“Investment in clean tech infrastructure makes financial sense – it reduces operational costs in the long-term for a commercial building owner.”

Here are five ways clean tech is helping make buildings more sustainable.

1. Energy storage

From large lithium-ion batteries to generating power with gravity, energy storage is becoming a vital feature of sustainable buildings.

Coupled with renewable energy generation, this not only helps stabilise electrical grids, but provides clean energy at lower costs.

The possibilities for energy storage are still emerging.

As electric vehicles gain traction, charging infrastructure could also be integrated into building energy systems, enabling parked vehicles to be used as battery storage.

Energy storage is a huge opportunity for building owners and investors to increase overall efficiency and the shift to renewable energy, while saving money on energy costs.

2. Smart sensors

With more people working remotely – or returning to offices in socially-distanced shifts – smart sensors detecting office occupancy can make a critical difference to energy efficiency by optimising lighting and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).

As hybrid work models become more prevalent in New Zealand, companies can’t often predict when people will come in.

Efficient energy management needs to be about live, intelligent and actionable monitoring.

Sensors in equipment are also helping maintenance teams by triggering alerts before issues require more resources to repair.

Facilities managers can track and adjust building systems remotely, ensuring that critical aspects don’t overuse energy, but still run sufficiently to meet compliance standards.

3. AI-powered windows

Energy-efficient building design often makes use of natural light – and smart glass in the windowpanes enables greater control over daylight, heat and glare.

For instance, internet-connected glass uses artificial intelligence to automatically tint glass for a more comfortable indoor environment while reducing reliance on lighting and air-conditioning.

Smart glass is similarly cloud-based, responding to user commands or the time of day to darken or lighten, maximising natural light.

4. Automation-driven HVAC

AI-based solutions for managing buildings fitted out with sensors can significantly improve one of the greatest potential sources of energy inefficiency – the HVAC system.

Companies are enabling remote monitoring to maintain indoor air quality while reducing energy consumption.

With more data and sophisticated algorithms, buildings are now becoming more dynamic in how they respond to real-time factors.

In buildings with multiple tenants who have different businesses and operations, smart systems that can interact effectively are vital for optimising energy consumption throughout the space.

This will be especially important in the post Covid-19 world where healthy buildings are core to creating comfortable environments.

5. Sensor-based motors

The motors that run systems such as air-conditioning, fridges, fans and elevators are responsible for large amounts of wasted energy, as well as higher costs.

Next generation motors could transform the vast numbers of machines that keep buildings running.

The internet-enabled motors contain sensors that monitor operations to ensure motors run efficiently, slashing energy usage to not only reduce costs but also emissions, contributing to a building’s shift to net-zero carbon.

Whether you can see it or not, the technology in buildings is transformative not just for the industry, but the planet as well.

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Five ways clean tech can make commercial buildings energy efficient

As corporate commitments to net-zero carbon targets gain momentum, there is a growing focus on the energy efficiency of buildings – and the technology that can make a difference.