Sustainable Transition Green Opportunity 2020

Nature’s all novel transition, is forcing new thinking patterns, enabling newer visions and sensing new opportunities, to utilize its emerging potential. As visible, a probable offshoot of pandemic is ‘green opportunity’. Good things are happening, pollution levels dropping; ozone layer over Antarctica recovers, global air currents shifting back to normal.

The green opportunity time is a positive gift of pandemic, to enable us shape a healthier future for all. Through this delicate time, U.S. Green Building Council announced its new vision, “healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy,” which outlines actions and priorities that support the global recovery effort.  And, while we shift focus on green buildings, they provide reduced operating costs, reduced energy consumption, healthy environment and improved indoor air quality. The perspective lies in deploying IoT technology and processes to optimize indoor environment, occupants’ comfort and well-being with sustainable design to increase operational efficiencies.

Green Intelligent Smart building

Green building term points to environmental sustainability. Improving, intelligence and integration, make buildings greener to achieve good air quality. The ‘Intelligent’ points towards technical solutions involving building automation, allowing centralized control of a building’s energy systems, improving indoor air quality, heating, air conditioning, lighting and also thermal comfort of those within the building. The term ‘Smart’ points towards improving services and is an expansion upon building automation systems focusing on innovative users -friendly technologies to control systems remotely through smart phone. Wigginton and Harris research mentions, more than 30 separate definitions of the term ‘intelligence’ exist, relative to buildings. The Intelligent Building Institute of United States, defines IB as that provides productive and cost-effective environment through optimization of four basic elements: structures, systems, services, and management and the interrelationships between them. European Intelligent Building Group describes IB as, which creates an environment maximising effectiveness of building’s occupants, and enabling efficient management of resources. A good working definition maybe: An intelligent building uses the latest technology and processes, to operate safely and efficiently.

Markets forecast positive trend

On technology front, intelligent building automation technologies monitor and control the building facility environment. In 2019, the global Intelligent Building Automation Technologies market size was USD 64.76 billion. With a CAGR of 7.2% during 2021-2026 it is expected to reach USD 105.92 bn by 2026 end. For energy efficiency and environmental design, intelligent building uses interconnected systems to assist BMS automation. Allied Market Research reports, global intelligent building market size valued at USD 12.37 bn in 2017 and growing at CAGR 19.6% from 2018  to 2024 is projected to reach USD 42.65 bn by 2024. The rise in need for energy efficient infrastructure, increased market for building automation and control system, penetration of IoT in BMS are some of the major factors to propel the growth of market.

Leed Usgbc
New LEED guidance from USGBC Credits integrate public health and social equity with sustainability planning.

ASHRAE standard and virtual conference

Result has shown that post-occupancy evaluation (POE) and the environmental measurements comply with ASHRAE 55 standard and TC 7.5 is concerned with the impact and interactions of smart building systems on the total building performance; methods for achieving intelligent control and operation of building processes.  The building activity, changes in codes, design and new energy efficiency strategies were just some of the topic discussed among buildings professionals at a conference wherein, Sheila Hayter, P.E. ASHRAE’s Past President, and senior engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory remarked, the Winter Conference and AHR Expo provides an excellent setting for buildings professionals to collaborate on new ideas and share knowledge. As we explore ways to incorporate renewable energy technologies into integrated building concepts, ASHRAE will take an even greater leadership role in defining the relationship between buildings and the power sector. Hayter highlighted, society updates and initiatives related to the theme ‘Building Our New Energy Future’ and also, how ASHRAE is preparing buildings professionals for the challenges and opportunities of designing efficient and grid-responsive buildings within the changing energy sector.

Additionally, the fourth ASHRAE International virtual Conference at Beirut to be held November 5-6, 2020, with focus on ‘Efficient Building Design’ will deliberate upon novel building technologies that enhance environmental quality in buildings; and the impact of energy reforms on both – the demand and the environmental quality, with goal of saving costs, providing the needed thermal and air quality environment for better performance and improved health.

Sheila Hayter Ashrae
Sheila Hayter

IAQ and thermal performance of buildings

Increasing ventilation, air filtration and physical distancing of occupants are few measures needed in COVID-19 times. We know that poor indoor air quality and thermal comfort condition in the workspace affect occupants’ health and work productivity. The challenges, addressing health of the built environment are – lack of adequate ventilation of indoor spaces, causing poor air quality, inadequate thermal performance of existing buildings and ‘just ventilation’ strategies. The IoT and Industry 4.0 is making new breakthroughs in the standards and functioning of IAQ solutions equipment.  Building teams should ensure IAQ systems operating as designed, and determine ventilation that minimizes spread of COVID-19 through the air. Technavio predicts global indoor air quality solutions market to post a CAGR of close to 6% by 2022. According to KD Market Insights report, global indoor air quality monitoring device market is expected at a CAGR of 7.8% during the period 2018-2023. IAQ monitoring device market is driven by factors such as technological advancements and rising adoption of green building and smart home technologies.

New LEED Guidance for pandemic planning

Pandemic has reasoned challenges, in how we interact with buildings. USGBC is exploring how to address these challenges in the near term, with tools like the LEED Safety First pilot credits and Arc Re-Entry. The Safety First pilot credits are part of USGBC’s economic recovery strategy introduced in May 2020 that centers around on new post-pandemic vision the ‘economy ‘strategy. The two new Safety First pilot credits as part of the LEED for Cities and Communities rating system are designed to help local governments and development authorities, to better prepare for and respond to future pandemic events. The Safety First: Pandemic Planning credit is intended to help cities and communities prepare for, control and mitigate the spread of disease during a pandemic that poses a high risk to people. The Safety First: Social Equity in Pandemic Planning credit systematically considers equity implications across all phases of the pandemic preparedness, planning and response process.

Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC, says, “The key to a better future lies in our ability to create places that support human and environmental health. LEED-certified cities and communities are already moving in that direction and they understand that effective planning is critical to tracking performance and making improvements. The current pandemic is revealing new lessons every day and LEED’s Safety First pilot credits provide a roadmap for taking action and bringing a more integrated and inclusive approach to rebuilding a healthier economy.”

The new LEED pilot credits outline sustainable best practices that align with public health and industry guidelines related to cleaning and disinfecting, workplace re-occupancy, HVAC and plumbing operations. The credits can be used by LEED projects that are certified or are undergoing certification.

Mahesh Ramanujam Usgbc
Mahesh Ramanujam

Trends in 2020 and beyond

Zero net energy home construction is a new trend, as climate crisis is a driving force towards more energy-efficient homes with safer IAQ, using green material. In the era of digital transformation and climate change, economics of building ownership are changing. Building-to-Grid (B2G) is an emerging platform that supports digitalisation and homes that are ready for the future, optimizing energy consumption, and comfort.

Glancing up, other three major industry trends for intelligent buildings stand to change market development scenario. Firstly, in 2020, investments are becoming a resource. The message is shifting from climate change to climate emergency, a new focus in action. Second trend includes energy efficiency for the reason to optimize major energy consuming systems in the buildings and deliver efficiencies. The transformation is contingent on the convergence of IT and OT. The biggest challenge is not technical, but human capital. Thirdly, the venture capital community has made PropTech as one of the largest targets for funding with estimates of near $20 billion in 2020. PropTech is the category of digital technologies designed to buy, sell and manage real estate. The three predictions mentioned by Casey Talon, Research Director at Navigant Research in a post, are complementary, driving growth. They hold good for 2020 and beyond, and highlight opportunities for intelligent building solutions providers to bolster their financial well-being.

The year 2020 and beyond will see a paradigm shift, in bringing business improvement and tackling climate change.  We must take advantage and utilise green opportunity times, provided by pandemic. As visible, during this time of uncertainty and isolation, only digital opportunities do connect, share, and engage all living beings.

High-performing buildings

Gerald D Hines
Gerald D Hines

Hines built more than 100 million sq.ft., of LEED-certified space and most of it at the Gold or Platinum level.

USGBC’s Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Growth, reflects on one of the green building industry’s biggest advocates, Hines role in spearheading the green building phenomena globally that remains largely under-reported. He uniquely shaped today’s cutting-edge standards for the highest performing buildings in the world and inspired others to follow his lead.  In 2013 when accepting USGBC’s prestigious President’s Award,  Gerald D. Hines said ,“We decided early on it was important to have the most energy-efficient buildings possible. We always thought the clients would appreciate low operating costs and better conditions for their employees … tenants today say I won’t be in anything but a (LEED) Gold building or Platinum.” This kind of market transformation doesn’t happen without leaders like Hines.

Roger Platt Usgbc
Roger Platt

Climate sustainability

We can continue to create a climate – fit for life. The abundance of carbon dioxide in atmosphere measures climate change’s impact on human health. Reducing embodied carbon is the most urgent opportunity, as it stands today, with the manufacture of building materials making up 11% of total GHG emissions. Earth has natural carbon sinks: oceans, plants and soil, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away. Businesses must take a cue from nature, and find ways to use and store carbon to reverse global warming, working in greater harmony with nature. Obviously, sustainability rests in our thinking.

Resilience to transition

The gene in human beings, carry attributes to transition with remarkable resilience. COVID Pandemic shadowed us, as if climate change pandemic was not enough. We were caught unprepared, inspite of warning signs of potential danger entering the world, endangering humanity. Globally, management of environmental health issues concerns all in 2020. World has transformed into virtual, networking, data creation, online education as routine now; while technology webbing in man’s well-being and health-friendly environment. Cloud-based technology and BMS are evolutionary step in green intelligent buildings, adaptable to human needs to enjoy comfort and environment. We must analyse data, twittering from digital technologies to trace the demands of occupants. Buildings of future must connect the various digital tools in an integrated, dynamic and functional way, even better, if integrating future pandemics into analytics.

Conclusively, we are the architect of our own green-built prospects. The good option is to germinate new thinking and fathom comprehensive potential of what the future holds for green intelligent technology. Human creativity and skills developed during such times of green opportunity, and endowed upon us by pandemic default, will bloom potential in human beings, for the rest of year 2020 and beyond. Hence, institutions focused on ‘green’ must design strategy to invigorate effective renewal of digital technologies in handling climate, comfort and healthy built-environment to transition into new normal future.

To say at the end, a holistic vision of environmental issues will assure sustainable solutions: for sustainability is the choice for future into ‘new normal’ transitioning.