The summer of 2022 has been incredibly hot. In fact, it registered the eighth warmest summer average maximum temperature on record. And yet, somehow, we’ve managed to beat the heat and keep on going without changing our habits and our surroundings.
In fact, a large part of our buildings, where we spend most of the day, is still the same, not really energy-efficient. This problem is aggravated by the urban heat island effect, which means that temperatures in cities are higher than in their rural surroundings. And the situation will probably get worse as global temperatures are projected to warm by about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050 and 2-4 degrees Celsius (3.6-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
More importantly, the cooling energy demand is supposed to increase by 72% worldwide by 2100. Given that the buildings and buildings construction sectors combined are responsible for almost one-third of total global final energy consumption and nearly 15% of direct CO2 emissions, taking effective action is quite urgent.
In France, some cities are starting to paint roofs white to minimize the heating effect. Other cities are implementing green roofs. However, a recent study says green roofs have almost no effect in reducing overheating in buildings.
In this scenario, what can we do to create comfortable living conditions inside the dwelling while maximizing efficiency in the use of resources and thus fighting climate change?
Some say it all comes down to improving insulation, using energy-efficient lighting, which means replacing incandescent light bulbs, and updating the heating or cooling equipment to save 20 to 40% of energy costs. Some recommend planning a strategic design, with windows facing the sun for natural heating; using solar panels, and implementing cogeneration systems to recover energy from waste heat. Others say that green building materials (like bamboo) are also helpful as they can reduce carbon emissions by up to 25%.
Overall, even minor changes can make a difference in a building’s energy efficiency. But when talking about more convenience and safety together with sustainable energy consumption, intelligent control and monitoring of the elements involved in the equation are necessary. And this is where automation and IoT come in.
At IOTSWC22, Eric Fossum Faerevaag, Founder of Disruptive Technologies, made it clear that the world’s smallest sensor can provide substantial changes. This eliminates doing manual checks twice a day to minimize the risk of stagnant water that could cause legionella and also regulates special lighting to preserve the ceiling in a singular building like the Royal Opera House in London.
Moreover, Salvador Bohigas, CEO at MSI Studio, emphasized the advantages of running simulations using Digital Twins, which are dynamic virtual copies of a physical asset. He said they can help question standards and procedures to make more informed decisions: “A Digital Twin needs to make it easier to understand the past and present of a building,” he stated.
The horizon provided by IoT and other advanced technologies is one of hope, but the road is still complicated. Heinz Lux, CEO at KNX, highlighted that the solution to make commercial buildings safer and more responsive is giving them a “common IP-based structure.”
However, the value proposition is challenging. It implies cost savings, more flexibility in building operations, and ease in everyday maintenance activities, but a lack of knowledge in the industry is hindering its development. For the moment, smart buildings make up only a tiny percentage of the total building stock: less than 1% by some calculations.
However, this trend is slowly changing. According to Deloitte, the potential growth in worldwide IoT sensor deployment for Commercial Real Estate (CRE) was up 78.8% from 2015 to 2020.
IoT and digital transformation can make energy consumption for commercial buildings enter a new era. Of course, ROI is always a consideration. Experts say that IoT energy consumption is to be taken into account too. But it’s certainly a better investment to bring existing buildings up to speed than to tear them down and start over.
At IOTSWC23, to be held in Barcelona from 31 January to 2nd February 2023, we will discuss how to accelerate this process while meeting the sustainability expectations of government agencies, companies, and citizens.
Article written by: Anna Solana.