Smart building technology necessary for economic and environmental change

Innovation News Network speaks to Vivian Dorizas from BPIE about smart buildings, addressing how and why they are necessary for environmental and economic change.

The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) defines a smart building as a building which is: ‘highly efficient and [which] covers its very low energy demand by on-site or district-system-driven renewable energy sources. Smart building technology stabilises and drives a faster decarbonisation of the energy system through energy storage and demand-side flexibility; empowers its users and occupants with control over the energy flows; recognises and reacts to user and occupant needs in terms of comfort, health, indoor air quality, safety, as well as operational requirements’.

With this in mind, Innovation News Network speaks to Vivian Dorizas from BPIE about smart building technology, illuminating how it can be used across Europe to improve infrastructure and standards of living during a time of strong environmental changes towards a decarbonised world.

What are the benefits of connecting European buildings by using more technology within the infrastructures and the running/maintenance of a building?

The European building stock is entering a transitional phase and becoming an active player in the energy system – controlling, producing, storing and consuming energy. The explosion of smart technologies – the Internet of Things – enabling a more efficient use of energy in buildings will inevitably redesign the built environment and the linked energy flows.

The available smart building technology can range from smart household appliances, (meters, connected appliances such as fridge, heating system, washing machines) to electric cars and advanced controls for ventilation. Considering the statistic that heating systems are responsible for around 80% of the energy consumption of buildings, replacing old and inefficient heating systems whilst guiding building owners towards renewable choices will increase the market for smart and low-carbon technologies while moving towards decarbonisation. An optimal combination of renewable energy sources, high-efficiency technologies and district heating and cooling should be considered when building or renovating buildings.

Connectivity through smart building technology enables and ensures a healthy and comfortable living and working environment for the occupants; smart buildings are better aligned with occupants’ preferences, this can be through connected, interactive and self-learning control systems. Additionally, they are more suited to ensure higher indoor comfort, through monitoring and verification which can be done at a lower cost for the occupant and by optimising energy usages.

Smart building technology should encompass additional functions in terms of flexibility, automation, renewable energy production and user-friendly control. Leading on from this, using technology within the infrastructure of a building can benefit the environment through lower energy consumption and a greater capacity for more renewable energy usage. It can benefit the greater society, with better health, comfort and well-being whilst encouraging a thriving economy, as they are more cost-effective and allow the user to regulate and optimise energy use.

How can the use of smart building technology help to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions created by everyday living?

The transition to a smarter and more efficient building stock will help mitigate the fluctuating stress put on the energy system and bring positive environmental effects through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, social benefits due to reduced energy bills, as well as better living conditions and economic effects through smarter and more dynamic energy use.

In the energy system, flexibility will be needed for both supply and demand sides. Increased integration of distributed energy sources and resources, renewables and storage and the growing peak demand for electricity will drive the need for more flexibility, demand response capabilities and empowerment of the consumer to further develop an affordable, reliable and decarbonised energy system. Smart building technology has the potential to drive the flexibility of the energy system, through energy production and control, storage, demand response, as well as through interconnectivity with electric vehicles.

Has the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive helped to support, shape and develop a structure whereby houses are better equipped for or with smart building technology?

The recently revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) involves the development of a voluntary scheme for rating buildings’ readiness for smart building technology – the so-called ‘Smart Readiness Indicator’ (SRI). For the SRI to be effective, it should be understandable for consumers, investors and market participants whilst aiming to serve building owners, tenants and smart service providers in making the added value of building smartness more tangible. The SRI should contribute to the integration of the buildings sector into the electricity systems and markets, enhance energy efficiency, comfort and well-being in buildings and lead to an increase of smart energy-efficient technologies, whilst boosting the need to accelerate renovation investments in buildings across Europe. Capturing and promoting the benefits of smart buildings for users and occupants, the energy system, the economy, and society as a whole must be the underlying purpose of introducing a smart readiness indicator.

The introduction of this optional common EU scheme should be established by the end of 2019 and should be based on the capabilities of a building to adapt its operation to the needs of the occupant and the grid, as well as improve its energy efficiency (enhanced energy savings) and performance.

Are there any downsides to adopting a smarter system within the construction and operation of our buildings?

Smart technologies and buildings should recognise and automatically adapt according to the occupants’ behaviour and preferences, and thereby optimise comfort, security, energy use and well-being. However, downsides of smart building technology do exist. These are linked to increased costs of the relevant equipment, their installation and maintenance.

Inevitably, as with all connected environments involving a large number of data, implementing more technology can result in security and data privacy risks. Therefore, a key requirement should be to keep data secured in terms of financial as well as reputational damage. There is also a risk of interoperability; smart technologies should be able to communicate and co-ordinate their operations and processes to the grid and with each other in a common language.

What does the future landscape look like for the performance of Europe’s buildings and can using smart building technology have great economic benefits in the long run?

Smart building technology enables occupants to optimise comfort inside the building in a favourable way. The occupants save energy and money whilst having a healthier and more comfortable living and working environment. Demand response is considered as a key enabler for the security of energy supply, renewable integration, improved market competition and consumer empowerment; demand response in buildings can generate a more efficient energy system and allow energy consumers to save money on their energy bills.

Vivian Dorizas

Project Manager

Marine Faber

Senior Communications Manager

BPIE, the Buildings Performance Institute Europe

+32 2 789 30 00

Tweet @BPIE_eu

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