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Smart City Sentinel

Schneider Electric Studies How Retrofitting Buildings is a Strong Pathway to Decarbonization

By Alex Passett

It’s no secret that our planet needs our help. Though we can’t completely undo what’s led us to this boiling point, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can, in fact, make possible.

For instance (and since you’re reading this on Smart City Sentinel), the myriad benefits of smart building-oriented installations are, well, myriad. Smart buildings are better for the environment because they promote energy efficiency, resource management, and renewable energy integration. (Not to mention cutting down on carbon emissions and undue waste.)

Smart buildings that are initially built to be efficient, in these respects, can also feature everything from installations of specialized water systems to monitor usage, advanced power strips to reduce plug loads, appliances that can be programmed to power down when not in use, proactive maintenance and malfunction detection via smart sensors, and a ton more.

But what of existing buildings that haven’t been optimized to be “smarter” due to any number of reasons from budget constraints, construction dilemmas, or simply lack of interest by those in charge to turn things smarter and greener?

Schneider Electric commissioned a recent study on this very topic; retrofitting building operations using a digital-first approach and how that creates a pathway to successful decarbonization. (And, importantly, the data that backs up the need to action this for existing structures through smarter energy management, utilization of automation and AI, etc.)

According Schneider (and global design firm WSP, who helped carry out the research), buildings represent an estimated 37% of global carbon emissions. And by recognizing that approximately half of today’s buildings are still likely to be in use by 2050 (albeit a plethora of “ghost buildings” that aren’t repurposed or brought down will still likely be a huge issue), sectors committed to decarbonization through smart building projects must urgently reduce operational carbon emissions over the coming decades.

The findings from Schneider and WSP show that deploying digital building and smart power management solutions in existing buildings (like old offices or unused medical facilities) could reduce their carbon emissions by up to 42% (with a payback period of less than three years, the research notes). Moreover, if heating technologies currently powered by fossil fuels are replaced with electric-powered alternatives, all-electric, all-digital buildings will reportedly see an additional 28% reduction in operational carbon emissions. This results in a total reduction of up to 70%.

That, by no means, is inconsequential.

Mike Kazmierczak, Vice President of the Digital Energy Decarbonization Office (i.e. the team leading the science-based research and product innovation to accelerate energy transition within Schneider Electric’s Digital Energy division), had this to say on the matter:

“Tackling operational emissions should become the number-one lever to decarbonize existing buildings at scale, and to achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050. Reducing carbon emissions by up to 70% is feasible if we transform our existing building stock into energy-efficient, fully electrified, and smartly digitized assets.”

It’s a stellar goal to aim for. And, as Kazmierczak said, it’s feasible if the transformations begin now. But again, many building owners and operators may not consider this to be truly feasible, so the conversation must continue.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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