It’s one thing to say you’re going to go net-zero energy in your corporate portfolio—it’s another to understand the energy efficiency steps you’ll take in order to get there.
Last year, corporate real estate leaders united by CoreNet Global called for companies to strive for net zero energy in their facilities. And this year, CoreNet Global and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) followed-up with practical guidance on how to achieve the net zero energy goals they called for in principal last year.
How to Go Net-Zero in Your Global CRE Portfolio
A new whitepaper just released the CoreNet Global North American Summit provides next steps for corporate real estate teams on the path to net zero. As a contributor to the whitepaper, I was pleased to see that it gives ample attention to building systems and smart building technologies, areas that are particularly critical to next-generation building performance.
And buildings themselves are critical to our overall response to climate change. Buildings account for 40 percent of primary energy consumption in most countries and nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gases, according to the joint CoreNet Global-RMI whitepaper.
Nearly 60 percent of the Fortune 100 companies have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy usage or both, saving $1 billion annually. But of the Fortune 250 to Fortune 500, less than one-third have targets for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy usage or energy efficiency. Clearly, corporate real estate teams at these companies have a leadership opportunity.
You’ve probably taken some steps toward more sustainable facilities. To achieve “next-generation” building energy efficiency, I recommend looking closely at all 11 strategies detailed in the CoreNet Global-RMI whitepaper. Quite a few of these strategies require leveraging real estate data and analytics, further underscoring the extent to which strategic use of data is becoming a core corporate real estate capability.
Data Drives Decisions to Reduce Building Energy Use
One data-centric strategy is to invest in smart building management, which involves using the reams of data generated by “smart” computer-controlled building systems to continuously adjust, or “commission,” building performance. A smart building management system enables remote monitoring and control of building equipment; automates diagnosis and repair; automates adjustments to optimize performance; and sends alerts to facilities management staff when human intervention is required. Combined with a team of facilities data analysts and on-the-ground facilities staff, a smart building management system can improve energy efficiency by 15 to 20 percent.
Smart building management systems have become increasingly affordable because of the dramatic drop in the cost of wireless sensors used to gather building equipment data and the availability of cloud computing infrastructure. Investment in smart building technologies pays off not only in reduced energy costs, but also in overall building performance, occupant comfort and streamlined corporate sustainability reporting.
If your company is like most, the larger buildings in your portfolio have “Frankenstein” control systems, with various digital controls for the central plant of the building and pneumatic controls elsewhere. Smaller buildings in your portfolio may not even have a comprehensive control system. Fortunately, buildings controls have advanced—through the advent of wireless technology and “plug and play” equipment—to the point at which it is becoming affordable to introduce digital controls throughout both large and small buildings. These controls generate rich data that a smart building management system can use to reduce energy use far beyond what human management alone could do.
Going Net-Zero? Go Data-Crazy.
Tremendous value can be derived from these advances. In addition to the cost savings and performance improvements, the rich data streams generated by smart building systems provide insight into occupancy patterns and space utilization that can prompt adoption of workplace strategies that reduce resource usage while boosting productivity.
Significant opportunity remains for leading companies to reduce their energy use. Corporate real estate teams can help their companies reach the next level of sustainability by seeking opportunities for energy efficiency, power load flexibility and onsite renewable power investment. Next-generation energy efficiency? It’s your next step.
Dan Probst is Global Chairman, Energy and Sustainability Services, JLL.