ABB’s Dr. Thorsten Muller on the role of smart buildings and cities in meeting net-zero ambitions


Climate action in cities is essential for achieving the ambitious net-zero emissions goals set out in the 2016 Paris Agreement. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 50% of the world’s population currently lives in cities. With that figure expected to increase to almost 70% by 2050, cities are set to experience a massive growth in demand for urban energy infrastructure in the coming decades. Cities already generate around 70% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and, as societies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 rates are rebounding rapidly. Therefore, decarbonising cities is a major global priority if we are to accelerate towards a net-zero future. The IEA report, “Empowering Cities for a Net Zero Future” states that moving towards smart city status or creating smart cities infrastructure represents an important opportunity to reduce energy consumption, while meeting service demand, improving grid stability and improving the quality of life for all. When we think of data intelligence, artificial intelligence (AI), the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), digitalisation, digital twins, and analytics, we tend to think of them in terms of their application in business systems. Yet these are the very technologies being deployed in smart buildings and smart cities all over the world. Given the types of technologies which are transforming our cities, it is only logical to turn to digital is essential if we are to turn back the tide of climate change solutions to help drive towards the optimisation and efficiency which is essential if we are to turn back the tide of climate change.

Encouraging interoperability – the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information – is an important step on the road towards net-zero emissions, helping to streamline services and decision-making to increase the chances of producing the most optimum results. As we explore what technologies are being employed, we can see how they are being used to find efficiencies, save energy, and make the world’s factories, offices, and schools, among other buildings, carbon neutral. Digital technologies for smart cities All business leaders need up-to-date, real-time information in order to make intelligent decisions. Property management is no different. Operational data helps businesses to highlight areas for improvement, optimise operations, find efficiencies and drive cost-savings.

Dr. Thorsten Muller

Data intelligence also helps create buildings that learn. By processing the vast amounts of data that integrated systems create, AI algorithms in smart buildings can make autonomous decisions about HVAC systems and lighting that benefit the owner, employees and the environment. Also, more effective and efficient use of power can save money, quickly repaying initial technology expenditure. HVAC and lighting alone can account for about 50% of energy use in an average commercial building. By incorporating smart automation, managers may see decreased energy costs of 30 to 50%. The first step is understanding Of course, the main reason why we should be moving towards smart buildings and smart cities is to reduce emissions. The first step in managing a building’s energy is to understand how much energy is consumed there, and where that energy is used. With this information, property managers can highlight areas of improvement which can help the building become more efficient. Metering services that connect with automation services can intelligently acquire, store and analyse information to drive efficiency over the long-term. Also, solutions have been developed that provide flexibility in energy distribution, as well as safety, reliability and scalability. These further increase efficiency in industrial facilities, shipping, renewable energy generation, buildings, data centres and shopping centres. For high achievements in all conditions, safe-to-use products and easier exchange of components are essential considerations to make. Predictive or remote maintenance can also be used in critical environments, such as hospitals, to optimise uptime. Enabling the IoT of medical devices also enables greater connectivity and enhances the quality of service that healthcare companies and facilities can offer to customers and patients. Creating the smart home Our homes can also be optimised and enhanced by new technology and data intelligence. Smart home products not only make our lives safer, more convenient and more fun; they can also help to save energy and money. Creating an integrated and connected smart home environment which optimises how and when it uses energy will have a positive influence on the environment, as well as the homeowners’ budget, with one central system which can be accessed anywhere via smartphone. Everyday comforts can be automated and controlled at the click of a button. Smart technology can dim the lights and, at the same time, open the slats of a blind to let the first rays of sunlight into a bedroom. Movement detectors can light the way around the home, and room thermostats can ensure a room is pleasantly warm. Additionally, personalised virtual assistants, such as smart speakers, can be utilised in homes for older adults to help improve their quality of life – maintaining schedules by keeping track of important times and dates, helping keep in touch with others, answering questions, and working as an extra pair of hands for menial tasks – all through voice activation software. Homes are also helping drive the energy transition by incorporating intelligent energy storage solutions for solar power generation systems, enabling prosumers to have greater control over their energy usage, and by incorporating electric vehicle charging points into building specifications. In conclusion In a month that the IPCC has issued a ‘code red’ about the human impact on climate change, it is essential that we grasp the opportunity to utilise digital intelligence and help drive down CO2 emissions in our cities. To fail to do so could have huge, lasting consequences for the future of our planet.


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