We all live on the same planet and breathe the same, relatively speaking, air yet climate initiatives and legislation worldwide are intricately tied into politics. President Donald Trump rolled back climate and environmental regulations during his four years in the United States’ most prominent office, leading many to call them the “lost years.” Now, with President Joe Biden as the U.S.’s 46th President, climate and the environment are back at top of the priority list.
And, it’s not happening a minute too soon. With the U.S. back in the Paris Climate Agreement, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order for the country to hit the Paris targets. Every building would need to be 50% more efficient—which is quite a feat. According to the EIA, if America’s buildings, which emit a total of 1.8 billion metrics tons of CO2 a year, were a country, they would be fourth in total emissions.
Biden’s original campaign for office had a focus on investing in America’s buildings. Biden’s website lists plans to upgrade four million buildings and incentivize building retrofits with cash rebates and low-cost financing. The promises include improving indoor air quality and overall indoor environmental health, making buildings immediately safer for today and for any future pandemics. But that’s not all—as part of Biden’s Build Back Better Plan, net-zero emissions will be a new standard for all new commercial buildings by 2030.
Many are calling these plans, which could see about one trillion dollars spent over eight years on climate-related projects, ambitious. As buildings account for 40% of energy use and about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., buildings are a major contributor to whether these targets are hit or not, so these plans may be ambitious but they’re also necessary. The increased focus on building energy usage is right on time.
How will Biden and America reduce the energy usage of buildings enough to hit their targets? There is, of course, more than one way but addressing the energy usage of current buildings is vital to success. Eighty percent of buildings standing in 2050 have already been built so just focusing on new construction and future buildings doesn’t do enough. Fortunately, concern for the environment and the overall health of the planet is continuing to gain favor and people want to know what they can do to help, including ways to modify their own behavior in buildings.
One way for buildings to be a part of the solution instead of the problem in hitting the U.S.’s bold new targets is to get occupants involved. One way to do this is to incentivize energy-saving practices through gamification which can involve individual occupants as well as teams, floors in a building, or entire companies. Another way is using submetering to understand where data is actually being consumed within a building and using that information to make operational changes. Yet another option is to utilize an intelligent BMS so that real time energy information is available and if conflicting processes, like adjacent zones concurrently running heat and air conditioning, are discovered, make instant changes to fix it.
The common theme in all of these roads to hit climate-related targets is, you guessed it, data. Without having data to understand an environment, those who own, operate and occupy buildings can only make guesses about how energy is being used and how to lessen usage. Data comes from many different places including user-generated on apps and access management systems, to operational and performance data in BMS, or individual sensors that monitor data about IAQ, occupancy, and so much more.
This pool of data has been one of the goals of IoT since it began. With accurate and precise data about what is happening within environments, the ability to control and optimize indoor places is finally within reach. Technology that brings together all sources of data, integrating it into a dashboard with relevant alerts and notifications to those that need to know is one of the greatest tools that buildings can have. An investment in technology that could reduce energy costs in the short and long term is a healthy investment.
Unfortunately, data is still largely isolated in siloed systems, resulting in separate dashboards and a lack of integration with other sources. This setup makes it difficult to track improvements and share reports with other departments curious about the building’s performance. Being able to bring data together from multiple sources should be one of the first steps buildings take as they go down the road to becoming a better participant in global climate health, whether in the U.S. or other countries.
It’s near impossible to fix what isn’t measured. At this point, there is so much data available but making it actionable is not as easy as collecting it. Envio can help, just contact us to see what we can do with the data you have and what we can add to your pool. The world needs us all to participate before it’s too late.