Viewpoint - 17/09/2020

COVID-19 and the grassroots sustainability revolution

How can we, as custodians of the built environment, maintain the positive effects of lockdown in reversing climate change?

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In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold and populations were confined to their homes in a drastic attempt to halt the spread of the virus, something remarkable happened. In just a few short weeks, the widespread reduction in transport usage and energy consumption achieved something global political leaders have desperately tried (and failed) to do for many years.

UNINTENDED BENEFITS

Satellite imagery collected by the European Space Agency (ESA) showed a dramatic improvement in air quality across Europe and China, Venice’s famously contaminated waterways ran clear, wild animals were spotted in urban centres and Earth Overshoot Day, the date upon which humanity has used up the natural resources that the Earth can regenerate each year, was pushed back by three weeks as a result.

However, as quickly as they came about, the positive effects of lockdown began to diminish. As restrictions eased and economic activity resumed, air pollution levels across a number of leading European cities began to rise once again. Having highlighted the sheer scale of the impact of our everyday lives on the environment, COVID-19 was now showing us the consequences of not sustaining it.

But, while it is completely inconceivable that the world should come to a grinding halt in order for us to reverse climate change, is has brought about a renewed emphasis for action around the everyday measures within our control.

SMART BUILDING TECHNOLOGY

As a leading Property Management firm, one of the ways we can effect change is through the operation of our managed buildings.

Over the past year we have made great strides in assisting our clients in reducing their energy consumption and achieving their sustainability targets through the implementation of a relatively simple and low cost initiative involving the introduction of smart sensors. The benefits of which were compounded during lockdown.

While a recent study by energy performance consultants Carbon Intelligence found that commercial buildings were still typically using 97% of their normal energy consumption in the three-month period from April to July, in stark contrast, analysis of a selection of our managed buildings which feature smart sensors showed a reduction in energy usage of up to 28% without the need for fully decommissioning.

CHANGING WORKING HABITS

Combined with automatic meter readers, the smart building sensors enable us to see how buildings are operating without the need to have staff on site. This means we can ensure that building monitoring systems are adjusted to reflect changes in occupational patterns in real time; something that will be critical in the months ahead as social distancing measures restricting the number of employees in a workplace at any given time give rise sporadic working patterns.

So successful has our smart building sensor project been that we have now installed it in nearly 40 properties across the UK, and have seen energy savings of up to 30%.

Example of energy savings achieved

Property type Multi-let office building Multi-let office building Business park 
Location Redhill South London Cambridge
Installation date March 2017
December 2017 September 2017
Energy saved since installation 145.32 CO2 tonnes 153.24 CO2 tonnes 260.19 CO2 tonnes

 

In addition to the energy saving benefits of the smart building sensors, in many of the buildings we have also installed internal environment sensors which monitor factors such as temperature, humidity, CO2 and PM 2.5. Having this information to hand means we can provide more reassurance to tenants looking to reoccupy their buildings, and also to help them manage the reoccupation process by giving them access to the data.

For more information about our smart building solution technology or our Sustainability services, visit our web page or get in touch.

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