Hi guys! Did you know that 35 percent of the European buildings are over 50 years old? This means that a notable part of the existing building stock is not performing well and in increasing need of maintenance and renovation. Actually 40 percent of the European energy is consumed in buildings and in the US the number is also just above 40 percent. These are huge numbers meaning that building owners are losing lots of money and value every day.
Retrofitting our cities for better performance and less use of resources is a rising global megatrend – we call this “the renovation renaissance”. For example EU has taken the objective to triple the renovation rate of the existing building stock by year 2020 to ensure an 80 percent reduction of the energy demand of the existing buildings by year 2050. In New York City the Mayor has started the Built-To-Last–initiative, where the aim is to increase the energy efficiency in the buildings and respectively decrease (from 2005 levels) the greenhouse effects from the energy use of the buildings by 80 percent by the year 2050. These are some massive movements craving for feasible methods to map and enhance the performance and state of the buildings not performing optimally or at risk.
A recent study by the professors and researchers of the MIT civil and environmental engineering department suggests that retrofitting a small portion of the worst performing buildings would have big impact on cities’ energy efficiency and carbon emissions. They found out with their data driven study conducted in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that just utilizing few data points for selecting only 16 percent of the buildings with certain characteristics to be retrofitted, would be enough to eliminate 40 percent of the city’s natural gas usage.
Perhaps surprisingly, the research team also found that residents’ choices about the temperature settings of their individual thermostats was not a major factor in the selection, and that useful information could be gleaned from the data without such building-specific information. This would suggest that just by applying consumer-oriented and trending IoT-solutions such as applications like Nest for optimizing residents’ home temperatures would not have that much effect in real life. They also compared their findings to most current energy-retrofit incentives, such as tax incentives that are offered to anyone who meets basic criteria, regardless of the specific conditions of their buildings. Compared to their findings, the effects of these common incentives were concluded to be essentially random.
So if we reflect the findings of this MIT study to e.g. the objectives of the mentioned New York’s Built-To-Last initiative, what can we learn? How can you map the buildings with certain characteristics to be retrofitted from hundreds of thousands of buildings? Beyond that, how do you suggest optimal retrofit-solutions just for these certain individual characteristics of some random building? Sure, for some buildings this information is already documented and available as traditional surveys and building consultancy is carried out all the time as we speak. What about the rest of the buildings? Needless to say, gathering the relevant information is very expensive: The data, normally in form of documentation, if available, is scattered and impossible to utilize and most importantly, in most cases, the data available is not giving the building owner enough insight to make the needed decisions to retrofit the building and save money and value. So just by drilling holes in the walls for survey-purposes or manual roof-checks this problem can never be solved.
Perhaps distributed building automation to the rescue? As we know, there’s an increasing amount of buildings these days equipped with automation, sensors and meters to track the performance of the building and even the areas in general. These solutions, often referenced in context with the debated smart city concept, can also be interpreted as IoT or IoB (Internet of Buildings). With the data acquired through real-time metering one can gain true real-time insight on building, but often the data covers just few parameters (normally related to energy consumption & performance) in the building thus is lacking to give the comprehensive view on the state of the building. Beyond this and as a bigger defect, the IoT-sensor-meter-related data on buildings is still so rare, that in any city level, only a handful of buildings are covered, and lots of additional insight is still needed in these connected buildings… And of course in all of the other buildings as well.
“…So just by drilling holes in the walls for survey-purposes or manual roof-checks this problem can never be solved.”
So how can you make reliable health checks for thousands of buildings simultaneously and map the ones in a need for retrofitting and combine them with optimal solutions addressing the characteristics of the building and the site? We’ve found out that with the approach we’re working on, with some similarities with the MIT approach, we can give comprehensive yet detailed insight on any building anywhere in the world. Our approach combining various data sources with real-time data (when available) has already been validated in various parts of Europe and the results have been on point. Now we’re working on integrating our platform (video below) to improve the utilization of real-time data for better insight and predictive analytics on building performance and life-cycle management. The exciting thing here is, that when the data is not available, as it is normally not, we can still reliably fill in the blanks in the buildings with our proven data analytics and deliver the insight needed.
So to sum this up… Our buildings are consuming an ever-increasing part of the energy we produce. With sensors, IoT and everything related, we can optimize that consumption and some other areas of building performance as well. However, most of the buildings don’t have sensors or automation yet and in general building owners are having poor recognition on the state of their property thus they’re losing lots of value and money. We are proud to say that we can already map the buildings which can benefit most of the repairs and retrofitting in any area, any city, anywhere in the world. Now we’ve started to work with cities, building component industry, energy system providers and building owners to make this renovation renaissance actually happen and we’re doing it step by step as we speak.
…more on this soon enough…