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Green buildings are key to reducing energy consumption

Green buildings are key to reducing energy consumption


Zeina Hage, MEA Real Estate & Healthcare Solution Architect, Schneider Electric explains that the sustainable future depends on reducing the energy consumption by building more green buildings.

Construction, as the key sector to address global housing and modern infrastructure needs, shows few signs of slowing down. The sector is also at the forefront of economic recovery plans as it has the double advantage of being labour-intensive and having a knock-on effect on many industry sectors in its supply chain.

As a consequence, the construction industry worldwide is facing growing challenges in conserving material and energy resources, as well as reducing its CO2 emissions. Buildings presently account for approximately 40% of the world’s energy consumption, and that figure is on the rise. Beyond energy use, buildings also are responsible for nearly half of all greenhouse gasses, specifically carbon dioxide. At this time, investing in greener and more efficient buildings will enhance the construction industry in particular and the economy in general.

In the UAE, there are clearly specified targets that support sustainable development including the reduction of energy and water consumption in Dubai by 30% and increase the share of solar in the energy mix to 25% – both by 2030. Dubai also has a Clean Energy Strategy to achieve 75% clean energy by 2050. Across the UAE, green targets include 50% clean energy in the total energy mix by 2050, and treatment of 75% waste by 2021.

With such clear guidelines in place, the UAE’s real estate industry has increased its focus on sustainable buildings to comply with the current green building regulations in the UAE such as Abu Dhabi’s Estidama Pearl Rating System and the Dubai Green Building Regulations.

The main developers have placed a concerted focus on the energy performance of their buildings through energy benchmarking of their properties, identifying best practices and developing strategies to increase efficiency of the built environment.

There are two separate but complementary approaches to reducing building energy consumption:

1. Implementing energy efficiency measures
2. Integrating renewable energy sources

To achieve optimal results and optimize investment, building energy efficiency measures should be considered first. This is especially true for existing buildings, where investments usually are made progressively over time.

For new buildings, the net-zero energy consumption requirement is specified in the early stages of the project. With such a goal clearly in mind, a building can be designed from the beginning to be net zero, ensuring that the building can incorporate renewable energy sources and will support active energy management systems and effective building operation.

Boosting energy efficiency
Energy efficiency measures also fall into two categories, passive and active. Passive energy efficiency measures simply avoid the unnecessary use of energy. One example of a passive energy efficient measure is switching from conventional light bulbs to energy-saving lighting such as halogen incandescent, compact fluorescents (CFL), and LED lightbulbs, which produce the same amount of light but use less energy.

Active energy efficiency is about taking the control of the energy use. This type of energy efficiency measure typically requires continuous monitoring—using power measurement devices and cloud-based or on-premises power monitoring software—and active management, including an action plan and following up on results.

Incorporating renewable energy
To become neutral or positive with regard to energy, it is essential to integrate clean, local energy sources. Several renewable technologies that are commercially available today can completely cover the consumption needs of buildings.

Consisting primarily of photovoltaic (PV) and wind turbine systems, these renewable technologies are, however, variable, intermittent energy producers. To achieve the overall objective of mastering and optimizing energy use while also becoming more independent of the electrical grid, these energy resources can be coupled with storage or other more stable electricity generation technologies, such as combined heat and power generation (CHP).

Another important element of designing, constructing and managing green buildings is using control and optimization solutions that play an important role in improving the way energy is produced, consumed and stored.

A first layer of control, called the Energy Management System (EMS), is key. Usually cloud based, these systems are able to forecast and optimize energy usage, leveraging on-site distributed energy resources to reduce energy bills and better integrate renewables. In addition to an EMS, a Power Management System can be used to operate the system on-site.

Finally, building owners and facility managers are facing increasing pressures to reduce their energy consumption as national and local governments adopt more stringent sustainable energy policies. Regulations in some countries will even require by 2025—and in some cases by 2020—that all new buildings are neutral or even positive with regard to energy—which means that the building will have to produce at least as much as energy as it consumes.

The aforementioned solutions are part of a larger green building ecosystem that provides some of the most effective means to achieving a range of global goals, such as addressing climate change, creating sustainable and thriving communities, and driving economic growth.

SNS Mideast

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