Four ways that digital services can enhance building sustainability by Schneider Electric

Damien Dhellemmes

To meet global sustainability goals, the buildings sector must play its part and significantly improve its environmental performance.


Climate change impacts are evident in our increasingly chaotic and intense weather, more frequent droughts, and rising sea levels. Most organizations already understand why decarbonization is essential, and that sustainability is no longer a recommendation; it is a business imperative.


Buildings consume 30% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions. Achieving a net-zero emissions scenario by the middle of this century requires 85% of the existing building stock to be retrofitted over the next three decades, along with all new buildings to be zero-carbon from 2030 onwards.


As a global community, if we plan to meet our sustainability goals, the built environment sector must play its part and significantly improve its environmental performance.


Stakeholders must first understand the roadblocks and the opportunities to improve. The key to helping building portfolio managers, owners, rand facility managers understand how to move from ambition to action is where we come in.


The pathway to a low-carbon future


Energy efficiency will play a significant role in the overall decarbonization of the building stock. In fact, the International Energy Agency estimates that overall building energy demand could be 35% lower than today by 2050, despite the significant growth of the stock.


The pathway to energy-efficient buildings is driven by the maturation of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data analytics, and visualization, all built on the backbone of connected industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform. These digital solutions are vital to acceleration building decarbonization.


While each building is unique, its core network infrastructure and communications components are primarily consistent, encompassing wired broadband, wireless broadband, and IoT connectivity.


These three communication layers should operate in highly converged, robust, and secure intelligent architectures in smart buildings. Besides improvements on existing networks, smart buildings also need to support several IoT devices. By integrating wireless IoT data with legacy automation networks and enterprise systems, new building efficiency and sustainability levels, alongside tenants’ comfort and experience, can be achieved.


But these technologies that make building data available to facility managers and owners, valuable though it is, do not supply the complete solution. While it can constantly monitor performance and turn that data and analysis into actionable business insights that deliver actual value, is also requires expertise in all facets of a building’s performance allied with deep domain expertise that comes with decades of optimizing building performance.


This trio of options, building data, real-time monitoring, and access to expertise form the backbone of Schneider Electric’s digital services.


The data coming from the digital backbone cloud-based solutions, like EcoStruxure Building Advisor, delivers data and real-time monitoring, and the expert analysis from our remote specialists are delivered through a suite of models including EcoStruxure Power Advisor, Asset Advisor, and Microgrid Advisor.


The four pillars of energy management with digital services


Our digital services aim to:


  1. Reduce energy use

  2. Enable load balancing and shifting

  3. Support demand response

  4. Reduce emissions


Our EcoStruxure Energy Advisor digital service has been a significant change for property enterprises. Its integrated, science-based, target-setting, and analytics-driven performance tracking makes the difference in pinpointing and prioritizing the continuous energy improvements needed to meet and exceed sustainability goals.


Before optimizing a building’s performance, managers need to understand the current performance, set targets, and have an operational plan on how to achieve them with recommendations.


To achieve this often requires the outside help of experts, and this is where our consulting services can be of assistance. Our detailed audits identify precisely where and how to improve. A complete system design further ensures you operate with the latest technology efficiently and are compliant with all the latest legislation.


The starting point for most companies is reducing wasted energy and lowering overall energy consumption. Here machine learning can play a crucial role with real-time monitoring and advanced data analytics.


When it comes to load balancing, AI-based energy models can automatically enable onsite-generated power when grid power is most expensive, reducing energy costs. It is the first step for a microgrid that can disconnect a building from the grid for a given period, thanks to local generation. To meet aggressive climate change goals, buildings can use AI to monitor emissions continuously and optimize energy settings to reduce them.


This solution is equally effective in legacy and new builds. And while existing buildings have not been designed around net-zero ambition, they still have on average 30% efficiency potential with rapid return on investment and immediate impact on decarbonization.


Reducing energy costs with digital services


One of our customers that achieved remarkable results immediately was Swire Properties.


The Hong Kong and China building portfolio manager recognized the need to radically enhance how it managed and maintained its buildings to drive substantial decarbonization to deliver on a commitment to science-based targets.


EcoStruxure Energy Advisor has deployed across five of Swire Properties’ Hong Kong and Chinese mainland property portfolio. The service allows the system to be monitored remotely by our experts, allowing the building owners and managers to concentrate on their business.


Part of this solution is digital twins that enable our experts to run multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to ensure an optimal solution is delivered. The five premises were monitored via a single, easy-to-manage cloud-based platform in real-time, identifying new opportunities and achieving energy savings while reducing the carbon footprint. The cloud-based platform can reduce annual energy costs by up to 20%, with digital retrofits seeing an average payback in just 1-3 years.


Addressing the legacy-building challenge


The existing stock needs to be upgraded for the building sector to meet the 2050 targets. With the comprehensive range of digital services solutions and the remote expertise that supports them, the optimal pathway to upgrade can be delivered. The example above is only one of many successful projects we have been involved in, ranging from hotels to office buildings. You are not just meeting the regulatory requirements by upgrading a legacy-building to a smart, low-carbon facility. Still, you will be saving on operating costs while making it more attractive to existing and future tenants.


Start your sustainability path today, learn more about EcoStruxure Building solutions, our digital services and download our eBook, Build it for Zero Carbon: A roadmap to realizing decarbonization of buildings.