A smart building is one which uses communication technology and the Internet of Things (‘IoT’) to control all elements within a building and particularly to flexibly produce, store and use energy efficiently. Currently in the UK, the excessive use of energy by commercial buildings and households has become a focal point. Almost 40% of the UK’s total consumption can be attributed to the electricity and gas used in buildings.
To address this, as of April 1st 2018, it will become illegal for a building to have less than an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) E rating. The certificate explains how resourcefully a building is using energy, as well as the cost of heating and lighting. Each property will be inspected using an A-G rating scale, with A being the most efficient grade.
Currently, nearly 75,000 commercial buildings have EPC ratings of F or G in the UK (19 per cent of all units with certifications). A not-so-modest 65,000 have barely made it to the E rating. Only around 7 per cent of buildings have an EPC rating of A, according to the joint government-industry group, The Green Construction Board.
With numbers like these, this new policy will bring about a much-needed change. Both households and commercial properties will need an EPC rating when they are constructed, sold, or let. Public buildings must also display their rating to the community.
So, what does this mean for property owners? An opportunity to lower bills and significantly reduce their carbon footprint by utilising the latest developments in energy-saving technology. With the UK having a 10% share of a global market that is already worth £280m and expected to grow to £1tn by 2020, there is no shortage of solutions to choose from.
It might seem burdensome to have to dedicate time to explore the wide array of these innovations and then also deal with the implementation process. But the reality is that there are many hassle-free and cost-effective ways to help owners adhere to the new standards.
EnModus for example, specialises in the monitoring, control, and internet connectivity of any device that is mains powered. Its patented technology, Wattwave, is able to turn any building, large or small, into a smart building simply by connecting all devices to the IoT via the existing power line. The majority of the competing technologies are either wireless and therefore restricted in terms of range, complexity and scalability, or require new wiring. Fitting new wiring is fairly straightforward for new builds, but for the vast majority of legacy buildings, this is a significant challenge.
Other end-to-end solutions take the form of partnerships between large utility and technology companies, such as the one between Utilitywise and Dell announced last year. But start-ups are certainly leading the way – there are 32,000 companies providing smart city solutions, many of these in building energy management, according to a report by the Future Cities Catapult.
Several countries in Europe have already implemented enabling policies such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. And there are several front-runner projects that stand as shining examples of what the future could look like. The Edge, a smart building in the Netherlands, has 28,000 sensors that can record information about movement, light, and temperatures in a room. The building can ‘sense’ when rooms are not being used and adjust inputs and outputs accordingly.
Although no EU country is fully prepared as yet to take advantage of the benefits that smart building technologies are able to bring, this new regulation is a strong incentive to open up the market to demand response, as well as lay the foundations for the wider deployment of smart infrastructure. It will most definitely help the UK to slide further along on the energy efficiency progress scale and to become a promising contender for the leadership position.