Smart Cities

“If We Re-use & Upgrade Existing Buildings, We Are Greener On Every Front”

Shiny new smart buildings are wonderful. They have energy efficiency built in to provide cost-saving and reduce environmental impact, they apply lighting and environmental controls to ensure all occupants are comfortable and productive, and they offer a wide variety of health, safety, and security benefits. These buildings offer a glimpse of our high-tech future with sensor-rich, data-driven, and intelligently-controlled indoor spaces designed for the occupant experience and the protection of the environment. New smart buildings only make up a tiny percentage of total building stock, however, less than 1% by some calculations, leaving the vast majority of buildings old, dumb, and highly energy inefficient. Buildings account for approximately 40% of total energy consumption, produce around 40% of total carbon emissions, and generate about 40% of our landfill waste. Smart buildings were supposed to be the solution for that staggering impact that buildings have on the environment, but even if every new building was smart it […]

Stay ahead of the pack

with the latest independent smart building research and thought leadership.

Have an account? Login

Subscribe Now for just $180 USD per year per user ( just $15 USD per month) for Access to Quality Independent Smart Building Analysis!

What Exactly Do you Get?

  • Read every article published in full and get unlimited access to our archive of over 1,400 articles.
  • 10% discount on ALL Memoori Research reports for Subscribers! So if you only buy ONE report you will get your subscription fee back!
  • Industry-leading Analysis Every Week, Direct to your Inbox.
  • AND Cancel at any time
Subscribe Now

Shiny new smart buildings are wonderful. They have energy efficiency built in to provide cost-saving and reduce environmental impact, they apply lighting and environmental controls to ensure all occupants are comfortable and productive, and they offer a wide variety of health, safety, and security benefits. These buildings offer a glimpse of our high-tech future with sensor-rich, data-driven, and intelligently-controlled indoor spaces designed for the occupant experience and the protection of the environment. New smart buildings only make up a tiny percentage of total building stock, however, less than 1% by some calculations, leaving the vast majority of buildings old, dumb, and highly energy inefficient.

Buildings account for approximately 40% of total energy consumption, produce around 40% of total carbon emissions, and generate about 40% of our landfill waste. Smart buildings were supposed to be the solution for that staggering impact that buildings have on the environment, but even if every new building was smart it would still take centuries to replace old inefficient buildings with shiny new greenfield constructions. Smart buildings are still the solution but new buildings are not. If we are to fully address the environmental issues posed by buildings we must focus on retrofitting existing building stock with energy efficiency technology, and that will also bring a host of occupant-centric benefits to our many legacy structures.

“Different buildings present different levels of opportunity to fine tune them. Generally speaking, when we talk about making an older building energy efficient, we think about the envelope: the windows, walls, door openings, etcetera,” says Rebecca Berry is the president of Finegold Alexander Architects. “We want to get away from electric resistance heat like electric radiators, which are not very efficient and very expensive to run, and use variable flow electric technology, like heat pumps. Heat pumps are great as long as you have a good building envelope.”

Older buildings were often designed to breathe, using porous materials like stone and concrete that allows heat to escape and fresher air to seep in, and with small windows to reduce solar radiation of indoor spaces. This was great in the old days but since the proliferation of air conditioning in buildings around the world, these porous materials have become an inefficiency problem. Newer buildings, on the other hand, often build their envelopes with less porous materials like glass and steel allowing for bigger windows that bring natural light and views to improve occupant wellbeing. These buildings completely depend on air conditioning to ensure occupant-friendly temperatures in sun-soaked offices, which comes with its own energy cost.

“Buildings built before the popularity of air conditioning had openable windows, ceiling fans, and passive strategies for cooling like porches. Thermal comfort is now dependent on high energy use,” says Tamar Warburg, director of sustainability at Sasaki. “Before you begin any building project, you have to consider the carbon embedded in the materials, as well as the operational carbon in things like heating systems. Consider the source of the energy, not just the amount. Don’t just look at the investment cost, look at the overall lifetime cost and determine: where’s the break-even point?”

Embedded carbon, or embodied energy, aims to find the sum total of the energy necessary for an entire product lifecycle, and for the buildings that includes raw material extraction, transport, manufacture, assembly, installation, deconstruction as well as secondary resources. Meaning, the building that stands ready for demolition carries that embodied energy and the process of demolition largely wastes that energy — unnecessarily in the eyes of sustainability. So, while shiny new smart buildings operate much more efficiently than our existing old building stock, the simple fact that these new buildings must be constructed, and often after the demolition of older buildings, means that new buildings are not as green as existing ones.

“A lot of thoughtful, sustainable building is happening today, especially along the coasts in California and the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest, Chicago and other places,” says Warburg in an article on Forbes, but “the most sustainable building is the one you don’t build. If we re-use and upgrade existing buildings, we are greener on every front.”

Global building stock will double in floor area by 2060, so it is essential that the buildings sector starts to work together to address the problem of inefficient existing building stock. There are no shortcuts to sustainability, property developers can no longer hide behind supply chain complexity nor new construction for the sake of monetary value or economic development. If the buildings industry is serious about tackling its own impact on climate change, then a new level of honesty is required within the community. We should face the need for mass-retrofitting head-on.

Most Popular Articles

Startup Acquisitions in Smart Building Technology
Smart Buildings,Uncategorized

Startup Acquisition Activity Remains Resilient in the Smart Buildings Space

Strategic acquisitions are enabling leading players across the smart buildings market to augment their technology offerings with bolt-on startup acquisitions in several areas and increase their focus on software solutions. This forms part of a 2 pronged strategy to mitigate the risk of market disruption, with leading players (and increasingly private equity firms) taking majority […]

Carrier Strategy Map Smart Buildings Building Automation
Energy

Mapping the Strategic Direction of Carrier in the Smart Buildings Space

This Research Note examines the emerging strategic priorities of Carrier Global Corporation in the smart commercial buildings space. We have mapped M&A, divestments, strategic partnerships and investment activity to ascertain the growth ambitions of the business, by categorizing the various business relationships by technology and investment type over a 3-year period. This article is intended as a non-exhaustive indicator of […]

The Long-Term Impacts of COVID on the Physical Security Market
Security,Uncategorized

Exploring the Long-Term Impacts of COVID on Physical Security

The world has changed. The once-in-a-century pandemic that we have been consumed with for the past 3-years has changed several aspects of the way we live and work. COVID has changed the way that industries operate and the way that businesses think. All this has had a transformative impact on real estate and the development […]

Subscribe to the Newsletter & get all our Articles & Research Delivered Straight to your Inbox.

Please enter a valid email

Please enter your name

Please enter company name

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy