Digital Buildings Vital for Achieving Net Zero

Schneider Electric
  • Schneider Electric's Innovation Summit shines spotlight on the urgency for green buildings in the race to net zero, as buildings contribute to 40 per cent of global emissions
  • Retail, healthcare, and real estate revealed as three sectors set to see drastic changes to the built environment
  • Planning for net zero buildings must start now to achieve net zero targets

As businesses around the world continue to focus on becoming more sustainable in the race to net zero carbon emissions, the way Australia designs, constructs, operates and maintains buildings must change rapidly to meet net zero targets.

Speaking recently at the Innovation Summit from Schneider Electric, a leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, Vice President, Digital Buildings, Louise Monger shared her insights on the future of buildings and how some of Australia's biggest industries plan to use building infrastructure to go green.

"Buildings are contributing to 40 per cent of global emissions, meaning they are a major contributor to the current climate crisis we are trying to tackle. We need to rethink the way we are designing and operating our buildings now if we have any hope of reaching our 2050 target for net zero.

"The switch to more sustainably efficient buildings won't happen overnight, but it has started. It's a dramatic change that will take many years to fully implement. However, it is a crucial step to take, particularly for businesses actively trying to achieve their own emissions goals," said Monger.

Speaking of the desire for smart buildings, Monger highlighted how global energy costs are a major factor as to why Australians, and others around the world, are pivoting towards green building infrastructure design – prioritising sustainability over functionality.

"Just like we saw with Covid-19 accelerating Australia's digital transformation, we are now seeing the issue with rising global energy costs having that same impact on sustainability," added Monger.

According to Monger, there are three main sectors set to see dramatic changes in the commercial building space including retail, healthcare, and real estate.

From smart buildings to smart portfolios

The real estate industry is seeing significant transformation as it moves from smart buildings to smart portfolios, with Monger saying: "Five years ago the real estate sector was focussed on making the smartest building with the latest technology, however without a consistent approach and architecture it becomes difficult to manage."

The real estate sector focuses on the aggregation of data so that they can effectively manage a relationship between building owner, manager and occupant. Breaking down these silos has been a large factor to the transition to smart portfolios that will drive these operations according to Monger.

The IoT retail opportunity

Monger says there is a great opportunity for operators of petrol stations, retail chains, and supermarkets to better understand their environmental footprint and energy usage, particularly with the high traffic these retail spaces have and how widely dispersed premises can be.

"Given the size of Australia and how far and widespread our retail is, retailers need to begin thinking how they can manage and control their assets remotely. Utilising IoT and connected devices has the power to drive efficiency across geographically dispersed portfolios," added Monger.

Speaking to why the sector has begun piloting these changes, Monger highlighted that cost has played a large part saying: "Five years ago, the cost of change was a large prohibitor for many companies. However, inflation is driving the need for greater operational efficiency and sustainability targets are creating the requirement for sustainability reporting, so the investment in this technology is becoming not just viable but an absolute necessity in Australia."

Substituting gas for all electric hospitals

In the healthcare space, Monger says that all-electric hospitals, supported by integrated digital systems will be the biggest enabler to help the industry in the race to net zero.

"We are already seeing a huge shift to sustainability across the healthcare industry, so much so that it is catching up to real estate and other areas that have been on this journey for a considerably longer period of time," added Monger.

In the next two years it is essential that healthcare facilities begin to develop strategies for electrification and digitalisation. Not only will this enable more flexibility and resilient services, but technology can be leveraged to improve patient experience as well as staff productivity and sustainability.

Electricity will become a much more reliable energy source in the long run, so it is important to make plans now in order to reap the benefits of transitioning away from gas. Investing in innovation will not only bring long-term gains in the healthcare industry but will contribute to the development of a greener future.

"If we are going to achieve net zero, these decisions need to be taken today. It will be challenging and there will be hurdles, however the removal of non-electric sources such as gas from Australian buildings is critical. It's complex, but the time to start envisioning a generation without dirty power is now," concluded Monger.


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