The built environment is the centre of human life on earth – responsible for an estimated 40% of global GDP, and where we spend the majority of our work and leisure time. However, the built environment has a significant impact on the planet, and we urgently need to cut emissions if we are to respond to the challenges facing our world.
At Arloid, we know smart technology lies at the heart of a sustainable built environment. Through implementing our AI solution to HVAC optimisation, businesses and building managers have cut emissions and energy use by up to 40% – with zero upfront costs!
In this article, we explore the challenges facing the built environment, and the sustainable solutions.
The built environment has numerous challenges to tackle as planners, architects, and business owners seek to improve our buildings with the planet, our communities, and our wellbeing in mind. Representing 40% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of final global energy use, and consuming half of total global raw material, the built environment has a lot to answer for (source).
Growing populations and developing economies are putting an increased demand on space, as increasing urbanisation threatens global biodiversity. As well as this, the climate crisis is making weather conditions more dramatic and variable, putting further strain on building management as energy-intensive systems attempt to provide the optimum internal conditions for occupants.
With resource scarcity, climate emergency, and excessive pollution and waste impacting all our lives, the challenges of today may seem insurmountable. The good news is that innovative thinkers across the globe are developing new ways to achieve a better built environment for all – a smart and sustainable one.
When we talk about a smart built environment, we’re talking about the incorporation of more and more AI and smart technology into our buildings.
We are currently undergoing the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – and many see AI as holding the key to transforming the built environment with the future in mind. The increased development of smart technology has the potential to raise income levels across the world, boost quality of life, and help us take control of our energy management.
As more and more of this technology makes its way into our homes, public spaces, and workplaces, it seems clear that a smart built environment is the answer to our global energy crisis. From design through to construction and commissioning to occupation, operation, and day-to-day use, AI offers a host of potential.
A sustainable built environment is one that minimises its impact on the planet. It considers the environment at every stage of its creation, from energy efficient design to green construction to sustainable ongoing use to recoverable disassembly and demolition.
Typically, a sustainable build environment will be created using low-carbon materials that may have been reclaimed or will be reused in future. It may also be powered by renewable or clean energy, facilitate sustainable use of resources like water, and safeguard the health and wellbeing of the people who live and work in it.
A sustainable built environment will incorporate an array of green spaces to support local biodiversity and manage the heat island effect in urban areas. It will also use passive methods of heating and cooling and manage any unavoidable HVAC use in the most energy efficient way possible.
20% of all greenhouse gas emissions originating in the built environment are generated by construction and refurbishment. Looking to the future, current estimates suggest embodied carbon emissions might reach 50% by 2035.
When creating the sustainable urban environments our planet and communities require, it’s clear that construction methods and embodied carbon should be at the forefront of the conversation. We need to improve the building stock we already have by retrofitting better insulation, utilising low-carbon materials when we build, and considering end of life.
The built environment is responsible for nearly 30% of global biodiversity loss. Naturally, like any other creature, we choose to live near natural resources, rich in biodiversity – but we seldom stay where we are. As urban areas expand and sprawl, the flora and fauna surrounding our cities come under increasing pressure. In the first 12 years of the 21st century, the built environment has increased in area by 66%. And combatting this trend is not easy.
With 60% of all urban space is sparsely populated, we need to compact our cities and move towards nature-first infrastructure design, incorporating nature and wildlife where we can through living roofs, walls, green spaces, and wild areas. We also need to combat indirect impact through minimising energy waste, emissions, waste, and pollution. The good news is that one can contribute to the other; leveraging nature in our urban environments can improve air quality, reduce heat loss and gain, and protect our wellbeing.
As discussed, the built environment consumes 30% of global energy, and this figure is only set to grow as our cities expand and populations increase. And, with soaring energy costs making all building managers take stock of their consumption, cultivating better energy efficiency has become a financial imperative – not just an environmental one.
Many of our buildings are not fit for purpose when it comes to energy efficiency. Improving insulation, upgrading to low-energy equipment, and considering efficiency when we design and build is integral to the creation of a sustainable built environment. From daylighting to passive, climate-responsive design to better HVAC control – there are many ways we can make a difference.
A smart and sustainable built environment harnesses the power of pioneering AI technology – changing the way we build, operate, and experience our buildings with the planet in mind. Already, smart technology is changing the way we live and work, and, in the future, construction and building management will only become more dependent on it.
To reduce the impact of our buildings and infrastructure, we can use smart energy modelling to understand how a proposed design will perform and optimise it accordingly. When constructed, we can incorporate smart energy management and HVAC systems to enhance temperature control, system visibility, and minimise emissions. By simply incorporating our AI into your energy management strategy, you could minimise HVAC emissions by up to 40%!
Finally, green design is vital if we are to achieve a smart and sustainable built environment. Historically, our cities have not been designed with the local and global environment in mind, and it’s time for this to change.
Installing solar shades, increasing planting outside a building, putting up blinds and shutters, improving insulation, and providing natural methods ventilation – these are just some of the ways the design of a building can limit its energy use, and boost occupant comfort. We should also design our spaces to be flexible and dynamic. That way, they can respond to increasingly unpredictable climactic conditions, support our changing needs, and are less likely to need rebuilding.
Better energy management starts with AI. By working with Arloid, you can enhance occupant comfort, cut HVAC emissions and consumption, and gain total system visibility. If you’re ready to get started, talk to a member of our friendly team today!