Sebastian Peck, managing partner at KOMPAS VC, looks at automated building management.
The European Commission predicts the energy crisis will persist beyond winter 2023. This will result in sustained high costs for building managers. In the pursuit of savings, many are asking how data and connected building technology can be used to pinpoint where energy is wasted and operational inefficiencies to be obtained.
In the UK, the government has actively pursued energy efficiency measures to reduce carbon emissions and meet climate policy targets. Regulations have been put in place, which require building managers to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. One key measure is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) requirement, which rates the energy efficiency of buildings and provides recommendations for improvement. Owners of buildings with low ratings are required to implement measures to enhance energy efficiency.
Automated building management systems are an innovative solution to improve energy efficiency and keep operational complexity in check while addressing regulatory challenges. These systems draw on data from smart sensors and existing heating and cooling installations as well as external data sources such as present weather conditions to optimise energy usage and create an indoor climate that is just right. There are several innovative companies like Myrspoven, Aisti and Brainbox AI as well as established vendors like Schneider and Siemens using data collection and analysis, as well as machine-learning algorithms to automate the energy and indoor climate management of a building and deliver impressive operational cost savings.
Regulatory challenges and the role of automated building management
Voluntary and mandatory energy reduction targets set by governments are pushingbusinesses to look for innovative solutions. For example, in the UK, all non-domestic rented properties will need to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of E or above, due to a tightening of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. Failure to comply with these regulatory requirements can result in a hefty fine for businesses. However, regulation is not the only factor increasing the pressure on building owners – tenants, too, prefer energy-efficient buildings in times of steeply rising energy costs. An inefficient building is becoming much harder to rent out because of the higher operating costs.
Automated building management systems offer a comprehensive and centralised approach to managing various building systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, security and more. These systems leverage advanced technologies such as smart sensors, data analytics and intelligent control systems.
By integrating these systems, building managers can gather and analyse the data on energy usage, emissions and other performance metrics, allowing them to monitor and optimise energy consumption in real time and remain compliant. Together with more conventional measures of retrofitting buildings, building owners can achieve impressive efficiency gains which result in a more marketable, and therefore valuable asset due to the significantly lower operating costs.
Driving cost savings through automation
Inefficient heating, cooling and lighting systems contribute to substantial energy losses and operational costs. According to research from Green Alliance, commercial properties in the UK lose around £60 million a year in wasted energy. The real cost is likely to be significantly higher, especially if benchmarked against technological improvements that are within the grasp of every building owner today.
Automated building management systems frequently demonstrate remarkable results in improving energy performance. Building management systems adjust temperature settings based on actual demand, ensuring that energy is not wasted when spaces are unoccupied or when external conditions allow for natural heating or cooling. A report by McKinsey estimates that these systems can reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings by up to 15%. This reduction translates to substantial cost savings for building owners and operators. By eliminating energy waste, building managers can reduce costs and enhance overall operational efficiency, allowing them to maintain a competitive edge in the market.
Tackling climate change in the industry
Beyond cost savings and regulatory compliance, embracing smart building solutions presents an opportunity for businesses to align their operations with the ESG targets of increasingly environmentally conscious customers, investors and partners, as well as their own corporate sustainability goals.
While progress has been made in decarbonising sectors like transportation and energy production, the role of buildings in contributing to global carbon emissions has only more recently shifted into focus as a result of increasing scrutiny by policy makers and regulators. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the building sector accounts for approximately 30% of global energy consumption and nearly 28% of global CO2 emissions, some studies cite this figure as high as 40%. Adopting automated building management systems can provide building managers with actionable insight into energy consumption patterns and implement changes to reduce their carbon footprint.
To drive decarbonisation efforts effectively, it is crucial for the industry and stakeholders to recognise the potential of automated systems and be open to adopting new technologies. The industry must also recognise that it has become much more difficult to simply pass the buck to their tenants, who traditionally bore the cost of heating and cooling a building. With energy prices rapidly rising and CO2 levies on the horizon, tenants have become much more conscious that the energy performance of a building really matters when making long-term commitments.
Policymakers are increasingly becoming aware that the incentives of owners and tenants to improve the performance of a building need to be aligned, and with further regulation expected, it is becoming more difficult for building owners to evade their responsibility to continuously improve the energy performance of a building. For example, in the EU, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), aims to improve the energy performance of buildings across the member states, through energy certification schemes, and regular inspections of heating and air conditioning systems.
The future of building operations
Automated building management systems have emerged as a game-changer, providing building managers with data-driven insight into energy usage, allowing them to make informed decisions and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. They are usually also straightforward to implement. Installing a smart building management system is not contingent on other retrofit measures, although ideally building owners use every lever available to them to improve a building.
By embracing technological innovation, businesses can not only reduce operational costs but also contribute to a greener future. As economic and regulatory landscapes continue to shift, those that adopt technology like automated building management systems will be in a much better position to effectively manage building operations.