Viewpoint - 02/07/2019

Smarten up to the climate challenge

Welcome to our sustainability blog which coincides with London Climate Action Week. Let’s face it though, a climate emergency which Sadiq Khan has coined isn’t a London centric problem. It’s endemic everywhere!

Find out more

We will shine a light on the issues our industry faces and how best to address them. After all, we all want a better environment to live, work and thrive.

The UK Government agrees with us. They have pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This won’t be an easy feat but increasingly sustainability is a hot topic on most people’s lips. From electric cars to solving the plastic problem, everyone is seemingly alive to the chronic environmental issues we face.

Let’s start from the top. Energy usage from the built environment is one of the biggest causes of CO2 emissions. The UK Green Building Council estimates that 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint can be attributed to the built environment, half of which comes from energy used in buildings. Heating alone creates 10% of the country’s carbon footprint.

In effect, our industry is a significant contributor to the universal debate. Yet sustainability is still out of reach for many property owners and managers. Old buildings, small budgets, tenants’ varying needs – there are many factors that make it hard for a property manager to truly measure the sustainability of a building and to act upon any findings.


The Tech Revolution

Thankfully, technology is constantly evolving. Products are emerging at speed to make sustainability solutions accessible to all. One such product is 4D Monitoring, a cloud-based solution that we at LSH continue to roll out across a variety of managed properties.

A factor that makes 4D Monitoring more accessible than other technologies is that its sensors are independent from the building. Other products require monitoring hardware to be embedded into the fabric of the building, which adds a considerable cost. In contrast, 4D Monitoring is like a stethoscope, taking continuous readings that are updated every 10 minutes, in a very simple and slick way. This makes it cheaper and easier to implement.   


Making building efficiency affordable

While new build construction has come a long way in terms of improved insulation, by 2050 – when the government plans to reach zero emissions – more than 80% of buildings in the UK will have already been built, according to the UK Green Building Council. This means weaving in sustainability retrospectively becomes more costly and disruptive.   This isn’t the case with 4D Monitoring. With an installation fee of £2,000 and an annual running cost of £1,000, the financial return on investment will be seen within a year. Most importantly it will reduce CO2 emissions too. So it’s a win, win.

We’ve seen this in practice too. Our first 4D Monitoring trial was for one of the largest real estate investment managers in the world. The challenge - to reduce the energy intensity of its portfolio by 30% by 2020.

We installed 400 sensors across 27 buildings ranging in size from 600 sq m to 5,000 sq m, spanning older building stock - 1980s properties - to new build. Inside a year, this expanded to 800 sensors, which monitored temperature, pressure, flow rates, energy consumption and plant run times. An immediate finding was that one building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning was running 24/7, despite being scheduled to shut down outside office hours.


The results

In the first month, 4D Monitoring found 49 opportunities to optimise equipment run times and the recommended adjustments were made. Last year, the service achieved a 35% reduction in kWh compared to the previous 12 months, which translates into a 37% saving on utility bills and about 48 tonnes of CO2. Across the 27 buildings, energy consumption was reduced from 10-30%. We expect the same, or better results this year too.

While this trial took place over a sizeable portfolio, the technology can be installed into a single building of any size. Each sensor sits independently, which allows each contractor or building owner to decide what to measure. A user could install two sensors or 200; having some sensors is better than none at all.


The future for sustainability monitoring

As with all technology, smart building products are constantly evolving. Sensor-effectiveness is increasing while unit costs are coming down, and the software that can transform data into meaningful solutions is changing every day.

Automation is one aspect of 4D Monitoring that we are deep diving into. On the one hand, adopting this technology is about allowing managers to identify long-term savings and efficiencies, testing the systems of a building and making gradual enhancements after the first big wins are absorbed. On the other hand is a building’s ability to help itself. For example, air conditioning filters are normally replaced every six months as standard. By placing an airflow sensor either side of the filter, it can automatically send a message to the contractor to change the filter when it’s actually required. This creates a new and better model for building maintenance, moving the industry away from box ticking maintenance regimes to a place where we can really manage the performance of a building, and all benefit from the obvious gains.


A collaborative approach

Collaboration between all those associated with the building must happen for energy use to be truly optimised – the tenant, the facilities manager and the landlord. We are looking to factor profiling into the tool, which will pick up human interaction. Tenants will be able to see the data and, rather than make subjective changes to the perceived temperature of an office, for example, they could add science to the discussion.

So far, clients have been impressed with what 4D Monitoring can achieve. We have a long way to go, but today we have a product that can be deployed quickly and affordably. This is already light years ahead from where we were a few years ago. As more businesses get to grips with the government’s drive to reach zero carbon emissions, using this type of technology really is the smart solution.


Watch our short video about the 4D Monitoring project




Get the latest insight, event invites and commercial properties by email