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Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com. 

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The World’s Smartest Buildings

As the cost of a disturbed climate becomes increasingly clear, a growing number of cities, states and countries have set ambitious targets to dramatically reduce or completely eliminate carbon emissions.

Many now view intelligent buildings as the key to transforming energy sectors of entire nations, and ultimately, the key to ushering in a low-carbon future.

Buildings consume a lot more energy than one would think. 

Whether you are talking about high-rise apartment blocks, massive commercial parks, large retail malls or single-unit family homes, buildings collectively have a huge and undeniable impact on the environment as a result of being the center of primary energy consumption. In North America for example, the nearly 115 million residential and commercial buildings consume an estimated 40% of the total U.S. energy output, about double the figure across Europe.

Rapid urbanization and climate change are closely intertwined, making decarbonization of the built environment a necessary step toward making the world inhabitable and sustainable for the nearly 10 billion people expected to populate Earth by 2050.

(Click to enlarge)

Source: GreenBiz

Smart Buildings

It’s not hard to see how lowering energy consumption by our buildings can have a significant impact on reducing carbon emission levels, and ultimately slow global warming. Intelligent or smart buildings have huge potential to play a pivotal role in combating climate change. Related: Why 2030 Isn’t The Magic Year For Electric Vehicles

Smart buildings employ IoT devices combined with advanced analytics to help augment key business processes and direct automation and controls, improve building maintenance, security, analytics and building management so as to ultimately optimize energy consumption, comfort, and experience. By using smart and energy-efficient technologies, intelligent buildings can save 50% or more energy than comparable standard buildings. By compounding these energy savings across cities, the energy savings can be huge. If fewer buildings require less energy, power plants don’t need to produce as much, which can lower dangerous emissions as well as the amount of natural resources burned for electricity generation.

Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, NC, is one of the smartest buildings in the United States. This 51-floor skyscraper (with 48 occupied stories) is the property of Wells Fargo and home to Duke Energy. Duke Energy Center boasts the highest green certification, LEED Platinum, and is able to reuse approximately 10 million gallons of harvested water each year--including rainwater, groundwater and HVAC condensation thus meeting roughly 80% of the cooling tower's water needs and 100% of its irrigation needs.

The building has a landscaped roof garden, which reduces stormwater run-off while the plants capture excess heat. It also features daylight harvesting blinds that move with the angle of the sun to reflect light deeper into the interior thus providing more natural light. The building’s exterior has been designed to look like a cut crystal that includes more than 45,000 LED lights that illuminate it at night, displaying a light show at the top of every hour. Related: Does Saudi Arabia Really Fear A Bernie Presidency?

The Crystal in London is one of the world’s greenest and most sustainable buildings. Designed by Siemens, the building is 100% electric with solar roof panels that generate about 20% of its power needs. The Crystal also monitors its energy usage extensively and has been able to attain about 70% less carbon emissions than comparable office buildings in the UK.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Capital Tower has been awarded the Green Mark Platinum Award for its imaginative design and construction along with its impressive energy and water efficiency. This 52-story office building features a number of intelligent energy efficiency systems built-in, including an energy recovery wheel system in its AC unit that allows cool air to be recovered to maintain the chillers’ efficiency. The building also has motion detectors installed in the lift lobby and toilets that conserve energy while double-glazed glass windows lower heat penetration and energy consumption.

The 68,000 square-foot building uses condensation from the air-handling unit so as to lower water usage and also uses special devices to monitor carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels in the air so as to ensure optimal air quality throughout the building.

Intelligent buildings are a rapidly growing trend, with a recent report by Market Research predicting that the smart building market is set to grow from $60.7 billion in 2019 to $105.8 billion by 2024, at 11.7% CAGR.

Europe Takes the Lead

Although there’s a long list of reasons to act urgently to stem greenhouse gas emissions, Washington appears to be sleeping at the wheel. It probably should borrow a leaf from its European brethren.

On Wednesday, European Commission unveiled the European Climate Law that will bind the bloc to eliminate its climate footprint by 2050. The EC also officially launched the policymaking process to enact a new carbon tax on products from countries that aren’t working to reduce their emissions.

In May, a coalition of eight European cities including Madrid, Leeds and Wroclaw pledged to completely decarbonize their existing building stocks by 2050 in a commitment dubbed Build Upon2. The project will see these cities collaboratively implement a built environment renovation and retrofitting framework that will dramatically reduce carbon emissions by buildings.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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