Kevin Lenton, ABB’s product marketing director for smart buildings, answers questions on how smart building technology can support building managers reduce their carbon footprint.

How can smart building technology drive decarbonisation in facilities management?

According to a recent World Green Building Council report, buildings are responsible of 40% of global carbon emissions - 75% of which is from heating, cooling, and lighting. Immediate action must be taken to reduce the part the building sector plays in climate change. As we approach COP-26, the EU intends to ensure that all new builds are nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEBs). These buildings of the future will have such high efficiency that they will require very little energy to run. The small amount of energy they do need will be sourced from renewables.

Smart systems have a critical role to play in NZEBs. Only through accurate and responsive energy management software can buildings pull the exact amount of energy they need from the grid, and no more, thus reducing emissions. Integrated power management functions can reduce energy demands even further.

What tech is available to smart buildings to drive this decarbonisation?

Web-based platforms, such as ABB Ability Energy and Asset Manager, are the future of smart systems. By seamlessly integrating all systems with one another, the platform gains a holistic overview across the entire facility allowing it to efficiently monitor and adjust all systems simultaneously. Facility managers can use the output data to avoid waste, cut emissions, and make savings.

Feeding into these, the latest generation of smart moulded case circuit breakers (MCCBs), such as ABB’s Tmax XT, can be supplied with intelligent control and communication modules, as well as accurate metering. These provide the ability to integrate remote monitoring and sub-metering into commercial and industrial buildings.

Power management is another advanced function the latest MCCBs can deliver. Traditionally, power management requires a dedicated load control device for each circuit, making it expensive and complex to engineer and maintain. New systems monitor the consumption and use an algorithm to switch off low priority loads automatically before consumption can exceed the half-hour threshold agreed with the utility supplier. The power manager will then bring the loads back on when spare capacity is available. Setting thresholds in this way can limit energy usage and lower emissions.

Can you give a real-life example of this in action?

ABB’s Lüdenscheid factory in Germany provides the perfect example of how tech-driven energy management can drive the transition to more sustainable buildings.

As part of its “Mission to Zero”, the facility acted as ABB’s first ever CO2-neutral factory. On sunny days, 110MWh photovoltaic panels can generate enough power to cover 100% of its energy requirements. A cogeneration plant teams with the solar panels to generate 14% more energy than is needed at the site. This additional energy can be fed back into the grid, making an energy positive building. During peak operational hours, additional energy is supplied by MVV Energie AG, which guarantees 100% carbon-neutral energy production. All in all, the site saves roughly 630 tonnes of CO2 a year.

The OPTIMAX, from the ABB Ability Energy Management Suite, is the energy management system at the heart of the facility. It constantly surveys energy production, consumption, and storage to calculate the optimum energy flow. The system interconnects with a 275kWh energy storage for balancing. ABB staff can even charge their electric vehicles there free of charge.

What must the sector do to become fully decarbonised?

Not only do smart systems themselves have to integrate and collaborate, but so too must contractors, partners, and suppliers. Collaboration is vital if we hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

Facility managers must also keep up to date with Energy Performance Certificates, HVAC inspections, and independently verified and accredited assets. By doing so, they will have a positive impact on business performance, strategy, and the environment.