Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The Bridge Project is underway in Nijmegen, built by BAM and Weber Beamix is debated by Davide Sher. It could have well been a proper infrastructural operation for any country of the MENA region, were it not for all socio-economical factors. In effect, this Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge could be the answer to a multitude of requirements.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge begins to take form

March 30, 2021

The world’s longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge, co-commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management), is being built in Dukenburg in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, and printed in Eindhoven, where the 3D printing facility of BAM and Weber Beamix is located. Summum Engineering was responsible for the parametric modeling, in order to elaborate and rationalize the freeform geometry, designed by Michiel van der Kley.

This project, also dubbed “The Bridge Project”, is an initiative of Rijkswaterstaat, Michiel van der Kley in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), and an effort to innovate, apply new techniques in the building environment, specifically the 3D printing of concrete, and to find new ways to collaborate.

While looking for a location, Nijmegen seemed an ideal place, following the city’s position as Green Capital of Europe in 2018, and their wish to have an eye-catching and iconic memento of that year. Rijkswaterstaat believes it is not only building a bridge but building the future as well, turning 3D concrete printing from innovation to proven technology.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The longest 3D printed bridge in the world, soon be installed in Nijmegen, is now in full swing and four more bridges for North Holland are in the pipeline at Weber Beamix. Sometimes it may seem that 3D printing is used only mainly for aesthetic display projects but the truth that is increasingly emerging is that printed objects have been finding their way to more practical applications, and a very large market is rapidly developing, all over the world, with huge projects now underway all over Europe, in the US, in Africa, in the Middle East, in China and in Australia.

Digital design and construction are expected to lead to new concepts for building, with lower risks and better conditions. 3D printing technology has the potential for more affordable, faster, durable and freeform methods of construction. Rijkswaterstaat and Michiel van der Kley were intent on exploring designs that are almost impossible to make with traditional techniques involving formworks, to find out whether or not 3D printing allows for much greater design freedom, and other benefits as well. A first test bridge was produced by TU/e, and the final bridge will be printed and assembled by BAM, using the joint printing facility set up with Weber Beamix.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The possibilities of freeform construction with 3D printing also lead to new challenges, such as the approach to structural safety, the method of analysis for such shapes, and determining the input for the 3D printer. In order to elaborate and rationalize the freeform design, Summum Engineering was commissioned by the structural engineers, Witteveen+Bos, to create a parametric model.

This model took the initial shape, conformed it to structural constraints set by the engineers, segmented it based on printing specifications from TU/e, and then generated the bridge’s internal geometry. Three types of outputs were determined: first, exterior surfaces of the segmented bridge as input to the Revit-model and 2D drawings by Witteveen+Bos; second, meshes, including of the internal geometry, as input to their finite element calculations in DIANA; and, third, printing paths for the 3D printers of TU/e, and later BAM and Weber Beamix, based on their printing specifications.

Photo of Davide Sher

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects

Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects

ArchDaily‘s Green dealt with Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects. It is well informed regarding today’s main concerns of green building and is by Camilla Ghisleni and translated by Tarsila Duduch.

The picture above is of ArchDaily’s previous article on the Middle East: The Latest Architecture and News. Its caption is GOLD: Eco-Techno Park: Green building showcase and enterprise hub. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation.

This article is sponsored by Saint-Gobain

Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects

Passive Thermal Comfort Strategies in Residential Projects, The House of Silence / Natura Futura Arquitectura © Lorena Darquea
The House of Silence / Natura Futura Arquitectura © Lorena Darquea

There was a time when people appreciated self-contained architecture, in which the building envelope would not function as a moderator between the climate outside and the interior environment but rather as an inert and independent barrier. Countless mechanical devices and electrical ventilation, heating, and cooling equipment. A real machine.

Today, architects are increasingly concerned with the interaction between architecture and the environment in which it is inserted, thus assuming responsibility for the thermal comfort of interior spaces, using design strategies for natural climate control.

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As a result, the design process involves more and more strategies called passive systems, which are mechanisms to naturally moderate temperature, to achieve harmony between the natural and the built environment, taking into consideration the particularities of each space, such as local micro-climate and its natural resources.

Although these strategies may vary considerably depending on the location of the project, there are a few basic principles that should always be followed to ensure the achievement of passive systems. In addition to the indispensable role of natural ventilation and lighting, passive measures also include the use of appropriate materials that can contribute to thermal mass, as well as specific design elements, such as indoor greenery and reflecting pools, among others.

To better understand the main passive design strategies for thermal comfort, here are some residential projects that demonstrate their application.

Natural ventilation is one of the most common passive design solutions and is used to move fresh air through the interior spaces thanks to air pressure variations. In cross ventilation, for example, by placing the openings on opposite sides of the room, the pressure difference promotes airflow, as is the case of the Lee House, designed by Marcio Kogan and Eduardo Glycerio, in which large sliding doors lower the temperature of the main living area, or in the FVB House with its red wooden lattices, allowing air to circulate throughout the residence.

FVB House / Claudia Haguiara Arquitetura © Christian Maldonado
FVB House / Claudia Haguiara Arquitetura © Christian Maldonado

Still on the subject of ventilation, one can also take advantage of the stack effect in which the warmer and denser air rises and the cooler air descends. In this case, double-height ceilings are used to favor this air exchange, as seen in the Sloth’s House in Guarujá, São Paulo, which also features a combination of great lighting, cross-ventilation, and requires no air conditioning.

Sloth's House / Nautilo Arquitetura & Gerenciamento © Alessandro Guimarães
Sloth’s House / Nautilo Arquitetura & Gerenciamento © Alessandro Guimarães

Furthermore, the use of interior courtyards is a century-old design strategy that contributes towards the passive cooling of buildings, such as the Infiltrated Patio House, built in the hot climate of Mérida, Mexico, or the House of Silence and the House Among Trees, both in Ecuador, one featuring a partially covered courtyard with little vegetation, the other a fully open courtyard with large plants.

House Among Trees / El Sindicato Arquitectura © Andrés Villota
House Among Trees / El Sindicato Arquitectura © Andrés Villota

When it comes to natural lighting, it is important to also pay attention to shading, aside from the basic principle of large sunlit surfaces for cold climates. A well-designed sunscreen should control solar gain in the hottest seasons without blocking it during the winter or interfering with the entrance of natural daylight. For this purpose, many design elements can be employed, the most popular of which is the brise-soleil, as used in the Boipeba House, made of wooden slats, or in the Soul Garden House, with metal perforated panels.

Boipeba House / daarchitectes © Michel Rey Photographe
Boipeba House / daarchitectes © Michel Rey Photographe

The Cobogós, as seen in the Lima House or the L106 House, two projects that are an ocean apart but in very similar climates, are a genuine Brazilian invention used very often because they allow airflow while preventing solar radiation.

L106 House / Pereira Miguel Arquitectos © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
L106 House / Pereira Miguel Arquitectos © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Moreover, in the history of Brazilian buildings, we can also see the remarkable use of verandas and large eaves, illustrated here by an architectural classic, Lina Bo Bardi‘s Valéria Cirell House, enclosed by a cozy veranda originally covered with straw.

AD Classics: Valéria Cirell House / Lina Bo Bardi (2010). Image © Pedro Vannucchi
AD Classics: Valéria Cirell House / Lina Bo Bardi (2010). Image © Pedro Vannucchi

Building materials are also fundamental when it comes to thermal comfort through passive strategies. For buildings located in very hot climates, some materials can help in the house’s “transpiration” and also serve as a thermal barrier that prevents solar gains. As for buildings in colder climates, they can increase thermal inertia by retaining heat and releasing it during the night. Some materials that have high thermal capacity are concrete, brick, solid clay, and stone, found in various projects such as the Half Buried House, which uses the soil to create appropriate thermal inertia for the local climate, and the Family House in La Pereda, both in Spain.

Half Buried House / eneseis arquitectura. © Andrés Flasjzer
Half Buried House / eneseis arquitectura. © Andrés Flasjzer

Water is one of the oldest and most efficient methods of passively cooling a building, especially in dry climates. Evaporative cooling is a process of removing heat from the environment or material through water evaporation. An example of this is the Nivaldo Borges Residence, by Lelé, another emblematic work of Brazilian architecture, where gardens and a striking reflecting pool permeate the private living area and study room, and a more contemporary example is the Bacopari House, by UNA Arquitetos, in São Paulo.

AD Classics: Nivaldo Borges Residence / João Filgueiras Lima. © Joana França
AD Classics: Nivaldo Borges Residence / João Filgueiras Lima. © Joana França

Finally, we must not overlook the impact of vegetation, both indoors and outdoors, as it plays an important role in reducing solar radiation and achieving a microclimate that provides better thermal comfort conditions. Among many examples that use vegetation as a design strategy, we have here the MM Tropical House, which, as the name implies, is situated in a tropical environment in Southeast Asia, and therefore uses vegetation as a tool to minimize solar gain.

MM Tropical Suburb Town House / MM++ architects. © Hiroyuki Oki
MM Tropical Suburb Town House / MM++ architects. © Hiroyuki Oki

Some projects also feature vegetation on the rooftop which provides greater thermal comfort inside the building, thus reducing energy consumption for heating or cooling the environments. The LLP House, in Spain, is an interesting example because, to maximize the environmental and thermal performances, following the clients’ request to create a passive house, the construction features not only a roof garden but also a compact built environment, solar capturing and protection, thermal resistance, and cross ventilation.

House LLP / Alventosa Morell Arquitectes © Adrià Goula
House LLP / Alventosa Morell Arquitectes © Adrià Goula

The search for a building with high levels of thermal comfort through passive design requires architectural creativity and ingenuity, often thinking of new ways to apply different materials or revisiting vernacular techniques. However, to correctly execute these design strategies, it is imperative to be familiar with the particularities of the building site, understanding the orientation of the sun and the direction of the winds. Moreover, successful projects usually combine different strategies to achieve the best thermal comfort conditions.

Related articles
How to Design for Optimal Thermal Comfort (And Why it Matters)
Cross Ventilation, the Chimney Effect and Other Concepts of Natural Ventilation

3 Reasons Construction Companies Need to Digitally Transform Now

3 Reasons Construction Companies Need to Digitally Transform Now

FORConstructionPROS explains how 3 Reasons Construction Companies Need to Digitally Transform Now.

As the pandemic continues to change the way businesses run, construction companies have begun to realize the importance of going digital. It is by Tom Stemm of Ryvit.

The need for digitization in construction has been made clear by the pandemic and by other industries that have successfully overcome their operational challenges through the introduction of digital products and services.

Digital transformation has been a key area of investment for businesses over the past decade and is expected to only continue. Even with the pandemic wreaking havoc on business spending worldwide, overall digital transformation spending was still forecasted to increase by 10% in 2020.

The construction industry has lagged behind other industries in this respect, being notoriously reliant on outdated technology and operating in deeply entrenched business silos. Despite this, there is still progress. The pandemic forced companies to innovate, and construction businesses that introduced safety and communication technologies are highly likely to keep them once the pandemic is over. It’s clear technology will continue to play a major role in transforming safety, communications and operations. 

Covid 19 Changes Here To Stay ProcoreProcore

How the Pandemic Increased the Need for Efficiency

Prior to COVID-19, construction companies were experiencing high demand and increasing revenues, despite their slow adoption of new technologies and a lack of digital maturity. Once the pandemic hit, this changed rapidly. The construction industry lost a total of $60.9 billion in GDP in the U.S. alone, with an estimated reduction to 6.5 million jobs, down from 7.64 million since February 2020. 

Furthermore, inefficient on-site workflows that relied on paper trails and outdated communication methods became even more difficult to work with once social distancing measures were implemented. As a result, businesses have been forced to look for digital solutions that can unlock new operational efficiencies and enable service delivery with reduced manpower. 

Why are Construction Companies Struggling to Innovate?

The need for digitization in construction has been made clear by the pandemic and by other industries that have successfully overcome their operational challenges through the introduction of digital products and services. Construction companies, however, often work on projects with extremely different requirements. The processes and systems that are in place for one project have to be coordinated with a variety of contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and business divisions. These projects are often one-offs and are rarely replicated. Consequently, business leaders who might be enthusiastic about digital transformation might be unsure how to go about achieving it. 

3 Reasons Construction Companies Need to Digitally Transform Now

The gap between field and office workers is growing 

Construction operations have always been broken down into individually operating business divisions, and slower collaboration between divisions has caused a significant increase in lead time. The enforced necessity of remote work has only made communication between teams a greater challenge. 

Between offices, remote workers, contractors and suppliers, any on-site observations made regarding material quality, for instance, have to go through several communication channels before new materials can be procured. This communication chain can cause great confusion, delay delivery time and create animosity between contractors and employees. 

The introduction of a unified communication channel allows construction teams to increase collaboration, aligning the different stakeholders on the requirements and schedules of each project. A digital solution also allows communication to occur in real time. Many on-site employees still use physical paper forms to take notes while inspecting the site and communicating the information on the form can take time. An integrated communications platform keeps everyone up to date and reduces the time it takes for key information to cross business divisions.

Productivity and effectiveness are key to delivering results

Construction businesses tend to be entrenched in outdated processes that limit productivity. McKinsey reported that productivity growth in the construction industry has increased a mere 1% a year over the last 20 years. This lags behind counterparts in other industries, who are increasing productivity at almost three times the rate. This inefficiency is estimated to cost the global economy $1.6 trillion a year. 

Construction Productivity Costs Mckinley

With the demand for construction services increasing rapidly and the construction workforce aging to a large extent, efficiency and improved productivity can be the difference between an overwhelmed workforce and a satisfied clientele. McKinsey found that firms that introduced digital systems for procurement, supply-chain management, better on-site operations and increased automation had improved productivity 50% over firms that relied on analog solutions. 

Through the use of technologies such as AI, IoT and VR, construction businesses can modernize each stage of their operations from planning to execution. This reduces the amount of time spent revising designs, seeking approvals and calculating the resources needed for any changes in the project. 

There is an increased focus on health and safety

The pandemic has caused many people to pay more attention to health and safety standards in all types of workplaces. For construction businesses, this focus on safety and health is not new. Despite its efforts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry has one of the highest fatality rates, with 9.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. Construction companies are under pressure to minimize construction accidents by improving on-site safety and protection guidelines, and provide improved support to workers who need it. 

The introduction of technologies such as exoskeletons, AR glasses and wearable monitoring devices has made achieving higher safety standards possible. When technology works in tandem with production, it can increase on-site safety standards by reducing human error and improving response in case of an adverse event. When this technology is integrated, business leaders also have a holistic view of their operation and can identify potential safety problems early. 

Businesses and industries that transformed themselves early have displayed the benefits of adopting modern applications and systems. Technology has made improving safety standards, appealing to a new generation of workers and increasing operational efficiency, more achievable than ever before. Construction companies must transform and now is the time. 

Relying on High-Tech Networks in a Warmer World

Relying on High-Tech Networks in a Warmer World

Or as originally titled as The perils of relying on high-tech networks in a warmer world (commentary) by Simon Pollock in this Article published by Willie Shubert in Mongabay. We all know that Smart cities, e-governance help urban resilience but would it be the case in these circumstances of a warmer world.

The picture above is for illustration purpose and is of Smart Cities World.

The perils of relying on high-tech networks in a warmer world

25 February 2021

  • Wild snowstorms paralyzed electricity infrastructure in Texas, a state in the country with the world’s largest economy.
  • Just imagine what climate change fueled extreme weather will do to our cities as infrastructure and ICT systems become increasingly interconnected.
  • Many see high-tech “smart cities” as a climate solution, but just how smart are they?
  • This article is a commentary and the views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Smart cities are held up as beacons of hope in meeting the climate crisis. This is because they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by paring back energy use and urban waste. But is it possible the high-tech complexity of smart cities actually leaves urban dwellers more exposed to future climate disaster? Smart cities’ dependence on the information and communications technology (ICT) systems that help generate these emission reductions may actually be opening up new climate vulnerabilities when we consider what happens if these systems fail. There is a danger that we fall into the trap of assuming that a reliance on increasingly high-tech solutions is our “get out of jail free” card for everything.

We need to think more about whether our increasing reliance on interconnected information-based technology includes adequate fails safes to protect against systematic collapse if cities are hit by outside stresses – including climate-induced shocks. A number of experts working in the field of urban climate adaptation believe this issue is not receiving adequate attention.

Considering that about 55 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities, and this figure is projected to rise to seven out of 10 people by 2050, we ignore this issue at our possible peril.

The definition of what actually makes a smart city is not clear cut. There is general agreement though that they share an ability to combine real time data and digital technology to improve people’s decisions on when to use energy and when to move around, while also contributing to more efficient long-term city planning.  Sensors and people’s ubiquitous use of smartphones, for instance, encourage urban residents to use public transit during off-peak hours to avoid large crowds and to access energy and water services at different times of the day to lessen demand surges.

Smart emission reduction

Smart cities reduce carbon footprints by utilizing interconnected ICT systems to create greater efficiencies. These can come in the form of more energy efficient buildings and street lighting, better waste management, smart energy meters that allow consumers to tap cheaper off-peak power, and electrified public transport links that best conform with people flows. Largely absent from positive depictions of smart cities’ ability to reduce emissions though are considerations of how robust the ICT systems are that make them smart.

In his book published last year, “Apocalypse How”, former UK politician Oliver Letwin issues an arresting warning about whether we are adequately assessing the way our growing reliance on technological connectivity opens our societies to vulnerabilities. Letwin provides a detailed portrayal of how the physical and human infrastructure of UK society would break down quickly if there was a systematic failure of the internet and associated services, including banking and satellite-based communication and navigation. He predicts this would lead quickly to a large number of deaths (in his synopsis due to the failure of indoor heating) and, ultimately, a breakdown of law and order.

The title of Letwin’s book is a misnomer (possibly with a suggested nod by the publisher to the current popularity of dystopian literature and TV) as the ICT breakdown he posits –associated with internet-busting solar flares – is rectified in a few days. While Letwin does not address climate change, his book does provide a useful thought experiment in highlighting the way our fragile modern society is increasingly dependent on the ICT systems that connect us and our machines. Isn’t it possible that the increasingly extreme effects of climate change – such as floods, hurricanes and extended droughts – could, ironically, threaten the integrity of the smart city ICT networks designed to help mitigate global heating?

Relying on High-Tech Networks in a Warmer World
An overreliance on interconnected ICT urban networks also raises the possibility of devastating systematic collapse – including through rapid climate-induced disasters. Image by j_lloa (Pixabay).

Enmeshed in the ICT era

Humanity’s increasing reliance on technology is by no means new. It began with the use of simple tools and fire, leading to gradually more sophisticated irrigation and animal husbandry. During the past few decades, the use technology has carved out a central part of our lives – accelerating rapidly with the invention of steam power (which, along with the myriad benefits of fossil fuel-powered modernity, began the current trajectory to the climate crisis we now face). The extent to which we now use technology-based communication and interconnectivity though is unprecedented. Today’s generation is deeply enmeshed in the ICT era, equally as it is within the Anthropocene era.

Richard Dawson, an urban climate expert based at the UK’s Newcastle University, warns of a “cascading failure” if single ICT components fail. Dawson says we need to upgrade our thinking about urban infrastructure connections beyond a traditional focus on electricity, road, rail and sewage systems. “The increasing reliance on data and ICT in urban planning is a double-edged sword,” he said. “It allows for incredible flexibility – to create new communication lines we don’t have to dig up a road.  We could live without being able to talk across continents if telecommunications fail, but we would struggle if this breakdown led to a mass system failure.”

A loss of ICT interconnectivity has implications far beyond the failure of systems employed to create urban efficiencies and, therefore, reduce emissions. The rapid speed at which ICT systems operate could actually work against us if they fail, as the negative effects would be sharp and sudden. Dawson points out the loss of electronic banking could quickly lead to social problems. This would be particularly worrisome if this occurs as the result of a climate disaster when a ready access to personal finance is so important.

Relying on High-Tech Networks in a Warmer World
The way megacities are emerging now in developing countries may well determine whether we are able to overcome the climate challenge. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay

Strange conspiracy theories

The US Government found that many of the social problems following Hurricane Katrina’s destructive descent on New Orleans in 2005 arose from “information gaps”. While accounts  of rioting and other lawlessness at the time were later described as exaggerated, numerous reports do indicate communication breakdowns did severely impact social cohesion. Professor Ayyoob Sharifi, from Japan’s Hiroshima University, warns the ICT systems that control smart cities are not just prone to disruption from uncontrolled disaster, but also from intentional human-created harm.

The curation of social media misinformation by individuals or organizations, including overseas governments, could overcome local officials’ attempts to prevent the outbreak of havoc when disaster strikes, said Sharifi, who studies urban climate measures. This could include the dissemination of purposefully incorrect information about where to take shelter during flooding. Purported attempts by the Russian Government to use social media to sway election results in the US and Europe shows that anonymous attempts to sway public perceptions can be effective.

The ability of strange conspiracy theories, especially if abetted by unscrupulous populist politicians such as former US President Donald Trump, to cut through the daily online traffic and garner widespread support shows that social media is not always the best medium to convey factual information. Social media, usually accessed by smart phones, is an important part of the two-way communication interface of smart cities, as it is with many forms of climate early warning systems.

How do we ensure then that the commendable work of climate proofing cities does not lead us down cul de sacs of urban planning where an overreliance on ICT connections actually increases the potential for climate disruption? One way is to take a holistic approach that incorporates different approaches to urban dynamics.

Relying on High-Tech Networks in a Warmer World
A informal neighborhood in Caracas. In view of climate-induced disasters, it’s important that all urban dwellers be included in the decisions that shape their cities, smart or not. Image by Wilfredor via Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0).

Future megacities

Future Earth’s Urban Knowledge-Action Network – a global group of researchers and other policy, business and civil society innovators – is striving to make cities more sustainable and equitable by highlighting the human element in democratizing data and including underrepresented voices in city planning.

Local Governments for Sustainability, known as ICLEI, is another global network – comprising local and regional governments in over 100 countries – that advocates cities that weather rapid urbanization and climate change by combining sustainable and equitable solutions.

Nazmul Huq, ICLEI’s head of resilient development, says people need to be placed at the centre of all urban management – especially in developing countries, many of which are now entering intense urbanization. Rapid interconnectivity in the new urban hot spots of growth in India, China and Nigeria is creating advantage and potential disadvantage at a rapid pace.

“The emergence of ICT, especially mobile phones, represents a revolution for poorer people in developing countries as it provides them with greater control over their lives,” Huq said. “But at the same time, an overreliance on interconnected ICT urban networks also raises the possibility of devastating systematic collapse – including through rapid climate-induced disasters such as heat waves. This could disconnect people, while knocking out internet connections and electricity generation.”

Huq said the most important factor in making cities livable – whether they are smart or not – is to include all urban citizens, including disadvantaged groups, in the decisions that shape their urban spaces. “We must ensure the voices of the poor and marginalized are heard to avoid injustice and unequal distribution of the benefits of city life,” he added.

The way megacities are emerging now in developing countries may well determine whether we are able to overcome the climate challenge – especially considering that 70 percent of greenhouse gases come from today’s cities. Under current trends, it seems likely the lives of those rich and poor will become increasingly urbanized and interconnected by smart city ICT systems.

The sheer enormity of the climate challenge means we need to consider all options, including seeking out technological solutions. We should, however, balance our desire to be smart and interconnected with urban planning that at least considers the fragility of our city systems and what happens when they don’t work. We must not allow our thirst for technology to overcome our human need to consider nature.

Banner image caption: City of London skyline by Colin via Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0).

Simon Pollock is an Australian-British writer and climate change communicator based in South Korea. Before leaving the Australian Government in 2016, he was a member of the startup team that launched Al Jazeera English Television from its Asia HQ in Kuala Lumpur. Simon’s interest in development and environmental issues stemmed from observation of how the two don’t always mix during six years in Beijing as a Kyodo News reporter.

Reducing building operating emissions at scale with data analytics

Reducing building operating emissions at scale with data analytics

GreenBiz came up with these six tips for deploying data-driven energy management to drive meaningful emission reductions through reducing building operating emissions at scale with data analytics. So here is a much down to earth way to a certain decarbonisation strategy.

Reducing building operating emissions at scale with data analytics

By David Solsky

February 25, 2021

This article is sponsored by Envizi.

After a low-carbon target has been setGHG accounting baselines have been calculated and financial-grade GHG reporting has been established, the next chapter of decarbonization comes to the fore. What emission reduction strategies will be needed to reach your company’s target, and how should your team prioritize its efforts to plot the fastest, most cost-effective pathway for your business? 

Nearly 40 percent of global CO2 emissions come from the built environment — with 28 percent resulting from buildings in operation. Whether your organization owns, operates or occupies a building, data-driven energy management is key to reducing its GHG footprint and Scope 1 and 2 emissions.  

In the past, organizations have struggled to scale building operational energy improvement efforts for a variety of reasons. The most-cited reasons include organizational structures that fracture ownership of energy performance across disparate stakeholders, a lack of goal alignment and collaboration between landlords and occupiers, and the preponderance of legacy systems that make interoperability and data consolidation challenging.  

According to United Nations projections, carbon emissions from buildings are expected to double by 2050 if action at scale doesn’t occur. With more companies pledging to decarbonize their business, and investors increasingly scrutinizing ESG data, scalable energy management will be a critical step in the transition to a low-carbon economy.  

Today, we share six tips for deploying data-driven energy management at scale to drive meaningful emission reductions from your business. 

Reducing building operating emissions at scale with data analytics
Portfolio energy management software. Source: Envizi.

Collect meter-level energy consumption data where possible  

Identifying GHG reduction opportunities should be a data-driven, systematic process. Start by examining building-level energy meter profiles and understanding how usage patterns relate to changing occupancy and weather conditions. Meters, which typically generate one datapoint every 15 to 30 minutes, as opposed to one datapoint every month or quarter on a utility bill, provide rich data to better inform your organization’s decarbonization strategy. 

Tip: Leverage meter data, which provides real-time transparency of when and where energy is being used, to identify unexpected usage patterns and unlock higher-resolution benchmarking and analysis opportunities.  

Benchmark the energy intensity of your building portfolio 

Building-level energy management is powerful, but it never pays to operate in a vacuum. Understanding how a building performs compared to others provides context and can help your organization identify where to focus first. The approach to benchmarking depends on the type of buildings in your portfolio. 

For example, typical portfolios of small to medium buildings (buildings of 4,000 to 20,000 square feet or so) often include many buildings dispersed across a geography (such as convenience stores, bank branches and fast-food stores), while large shopping centers, hospitals and universities manage larger, but fewer, centralized complex buildings. 

Portfolios with larger commercial buildings can leverage third-party frameworks, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Energy Star and NABERS, which compare energy intensity against an industry benchmark.

For portfolios of small to medium buildings that are dispersed, external benchmarks are harder to find. In this case, Envizi recommends internal benchmarking using meter data to make meaningful performance comparisons. Advanced normalization techniques can be applied to identify the poorest performers in the portfolio, which helps to inform a highly targeted strategy for improving efficiency and reducing emissions.  

Tip: Undertake energy benchmarking before making investment decisions — don’t make the mistake of focusing on areas where there are no material savings. Envizi’s software can combine meter data with other contextual data (floor area, weather, operating schedules, and production units) to enable performance comparisons on a normalized basis. 

Tune operational and behavioral efficiency 

Buildings can be complex, but not as complex as building operations: the interaction between a building, its operators and occupants, and flow-on effects to energy performance. 

Building services such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), which often account for almost 30 percent of annual emissions, are subject to continuous change and are often responsible for considerable “energy drift” over time due to poor operational practices. For this reason, technology that proactively informs and educates building operators is necessary to support time-poor operations teams to maintain optimum performance. 

Tip: Systems go out of tune when people manipulate equipment for comfort, which typically worsens over time. Sophisticated technology continuously automates and monitors the HVAC performance to flag human adjustment that renders systems wasteful and inefficient. 

Often, manual audits will not detect the inefficiencies, but Envizi’s software uses a combination of continuous equipment monitoring, building management systems data, equipment nameplate data, weather data and other metrics to provide transparency to HVAC system performance and uncover operational issues that are otherwise difficult to detect.  

Consider plant and equipment upgrades 

Investing in equipment to deliver emissions reductions is dependent on an organization’s scale, scope and asset type and may be relevant only to building owners. 

The appetite for plant and equipment upgrades may depend on how long the asset owner intends to hold the asset, the age of the building and the age of the equipment. Envizi recommends that building owners and operators engage their engineering consultants and specialist contractors to determine the feasibility of plant and equipment upgrades. 

Tip: Technology can assist in the pre- and post-analysis of reduction projects to measure effectiveness and return on investment (ROI). Envizi’s software uses the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol to ensure calculations will withstand audit and validation. 

Consider on-site and off-site renewables 

After implementing solutions for operational, behavioral and system efficiencies, many organizations seek renewable energy as a proactive solution to get ahead on the decarbonization journey. Decisions on whether to procure on-site or off-site renewables are complex, and Envizi recommends coordinating with your organization’s engineering consultant or specialist contractor to assess its options. 

Tip: Software platforms such as the one offered by Envizi can assist with monitoring the performance of solar assets, comparing the actual performance to promised performance and integrating the accounting of the renewable energy certificates to facilitate the most traceable reporting and auditing process.  

Engage stakeholders

Energy management is rarely the remit of one team, but rather involves multiple stakeholders across an organization. The success of any emissions-reduction effort will be affected by the organization’s ability to effectively engage a cross-collaborative stakeholder group.   

Typically, organizations with a strong culture of governance and executive ownership of the energy agenda can make the most impactful positive change. Often, inspirational leaders can make the difference with robust internal communication, empowerment through clear roles and responsibilities, and incentives for employees to take ownership of the energy reduction goals.  

Tip: Find a senior executive-level champion to shepherd the decarbonization journey while supporting the pursuit of their business goals, whether ROI, risk mitigation or otherwise. Leverage a single system of record to track emissions and energy management opportunities to better enable cross-functional collaboration between stakeholder groups.  

Conclusion

The transition to a low-carbon economy will require organizations to drastically increase the energy efficiency of buildings in operation. The following data-driven tactics can help your organization identify and achieve meaningful emission reductions: 

  • Collect meter data where possible to understand granular energy consumption.
  • Benchmark the energy performance of the buildings by size/cohort in your organization’s portfolio to identify poor performers. 
  • Use technology to monitor how HVAC systems are configured, to detect energy waste and optimization opportunities. 
  • Before implementing equipment retrofits, solar photovoltaics or energy projects, engage a specialist to understand your organization’s options, and use data to establish a baseline against which to measure improvements.
  • Nominate a senior executive to champion your organization’s emissions-reduction program. A single system of record for emissions and energy can help enable cross-functional collaboration. 

If you’d like to learn more about using data and technology to streamline and accelerate decarbonization, read “Pathway to Low-Carbon Guide.”