Boosting efficiency: How smart buildings could play part in the government’s energy plans

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on August 7th 2021, 9:09am

To help the UK meet its ambitious goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the government and energy watchdog Ofgem have announced plans for smart technologies to help boost energy efficiency and slash bills for consumers by providing much needed flexibility to the energy system.

The government has said that the use of smart technology across the UK grid could create up to 24,000 UK jobs and boost exports, while reducing the cost of managing the energy system by up to £10 billon per year by 2050.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, commented: “We need to ensure our energy system can cope with the demands of the future. Smart technologies will help us to tackle climate change while making sure that the lights stay on, and bills stay low.

“The possibilities opened by a smart and flexible system are clear to see. They will not only allow households to take control of their energy use and save money but will ensure power is available when and where it’s needed while creating jobs and investment opportunities long into the future.”

While the government believes that smart technologies and innovations will allow the energy system to cope with increased demand from homes and workspaces in years to come, Onsite Technologies is focusing on making buildings themselves smart and more energy efficient, helping reduce the burden on the grid.

Indeed, buildings are responsible for up to 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Onsite Technologies believes that using measurable smart resources, a “smart city” comprised of many individual smart buildings could see those numbers fall and improve efficiency of energy within buildings and reduce carbon output.

With a clean grid powering a clean building, the possibilities are great. Indeed, the European Commission via Horizon 2020 has already called for and funded some smart city projects, such as Sharing Cities.

But how do smart buildings help the environment? Firstly, smart buildings themselves - which have been around in some form since the 1980s - come with an integrated infrastructure with automated processes that help control and operate different features of a building. This includes factors such as lighting, security, internet access and heating, to name but a few.

Sensors are used within the building to collect data which can then be analysed and automatically managed, which is where the “smart” term is applied. This smart infrastructure then enables building operators to enhance performance and improve energy efficiency, with the heating automatically turning off on a hot day for example.

According to Onsite Technologies, it seems that some sectors are already catching on. Health and education facilities as well as sports stadia can already be found equipped with smart features.

Furthermore, there is a great deal of flexibility around smart buildings because there are to date no universal standards dictating what a smart building is or should be. Instead, Onsite Technologies suggests that the central facet of all smart buildings is simply integration: the integration of data-driven and automated Internet of Things technology which can create a versatile ecosystem of hardware and software that can cut a building’s environmental impact.

To help raise awareness and educate clients on smart buildings, Onsite Technologies and partners HUB London have developed the Smart Building Toolkit. This interactive web application enables individuals to select and view various smart building features that they may be interested in, and explore how they work, their availability and the impact that each feature has on the building’s efficiency.

In tandem with the government's plans to revolutionise the energy system, introducing more smart buildings to use the grid's power more efficiently could form the perfect double pronged approach.

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
August 7th 2021, 9:09am

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