New technologies exist today that can be used when designing new spaces.
Smart devices and intelligent software are not only impacting our phones, computers and wrists anymore. They’re finding their way into the spaces we occupy including our homes, offices, hotels and more.
Buildings currently use approximately 40 percent of the world’s energy, with most of it used inefficiently. New technologies exist today that can be used when designing new spaces or updating existing ones to make them more energy efficient, ultimately helping to cut CO2 emissions, and also providing cost savings and convenience benefits. A variety of technologies are increasingly being used to accomplish these goals, including software, renewable generation systems, smart devices and sustainable construction materials. Government incentives also exist to help get these projects off the ground.
Software isn’t normally the first thing a builder thinks about as new construction is started or renovation is kicking off, but it’s one of the most important resources emerging in the last five years. Building energy-management systems collect, manage and maximize energy data to keep energy use at a minimum, reducing energy waste and keeping long-term costs down. Installing quality energy-management systems can cut energy costs by at least 20 percent and reduce water consumption by up to 40 percent, giving large buildings the potential to save thousands in energy costs each year.
Solar energy is making it more possible than ever for consumers and businesses to produce their own power. By leveraging solar technology and pairing with small, microgrid installations, energy costs can be reduced and excess energy can be sold back to the utility. It’s an investment that pays off and is helping some buildings become what’s known as net zero energy buildings.
For buildings looking to go the extra mile, electric vehicle charging stations – many of which are powered by solar energy – are installed to support a growing market. Places like retail locations and residential buildings also provide an opportunity to show customers a company’s environmental commitment.
As phones get smarter, so does everything else. Smart technology is becoming part of everything from refrigerators to lighting. Smart thermostats and smart meters are being installed and give users ways to monitor their energy in real time. Much like building energymanagement systems, smart thermostats provide similar information but on an individual scale.
Smart technology not only provides data, but also offers tips on how the users can change their behavior to reduce energy waste. For example, homeowners can receive notifications when it’s an optimal time to run appliances such as a dishwasher or washer/dryer because the energy rate is lower. In a hotel setting, schedules can be set to run the HVAC systems and lighting only when the room is being occupied by a guest.
Sustainable Construction Materials
New construction uses large amounts of resources so a huge trend is builders making the move toward sustainable and recycled materials. In addition to sustainable materials like paper insulation and sustainable concrete, companies are looking for ways to reuse things like recycled steel beams and telephone poles.
Biodegradable materials like natural paints are eliminating indoor pollution and can be disposed of easily without harming the soil.
While some homeowners and businesses may be hesitant to adopt green building technology and efforts due to cost concerns, state and federal government offer numerous funding opportunities to help offset initial costs.
A Bright Future
Thanks to new technology, government incentives and increased consumer concern over global warming, green building is on the upswing. In the United States, green building materials demand is forecast to increase to an $86.6 billion market in 2017.
Architects and building executives have a wealth of resources at their hands to build attractive, quality, sustainable structures with the potential to save money in the process.
CHRIS COLLINS, is vice president of the Buildings South Region of Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation with operations in more than 100 countries. Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in nonresidential and residential buildings. Read more at www.schneider-electric.com.