Smart, Simple, Sustainable: Focus on Carbon & Leverage Technology

In essence, any new and useful green building rating system must have three key characteristics, described in this and the next blog post and in detail in my new book, Reinventing Green Building.

1.     Smart—it readily incorporates new technologies and new approaches for building design and operations.

2.     Simple (but not simplistic)—it does not get enmeshed in overly refining measures such as energy efficiency or trying to incorporate every sustainability nuance (such as urban heat island effect or urban habitat creation), but keeps its focus on reducing direct and indirect carbon emissions.

3.     Sustainable—it deals with key sustainability issues, including energy use, water use and waste diversion, along with Scope 3 carbon emissions and ecological purchasing practices.

The key to any green building rating system that is likely to be widely adopted is that is has to mesh with the ongoing revolution in smart buildings. The first key is to understand what it means to be a “smart” or “intelligent” building.

Intelligent buildings combine and leverage 5 key aspects of building management.

Intelligent buildings combine and leverage 5 key aspects of building management.

Intelligent Buildings

The term “intelligent buildings” incorporates the possibility that all buildings can be remotely managed using low-cost, cloud-based technologies. According to one expert, “Intelligent buildings are those that leverage information technology (IT) to lower the costs of and speed the attainment of existing business goals.” 

In other words, intelligent buildings don’t exist for their own sake, they are part and parcel of how a business develops a strategy, goes to market and seeks to make a profit, including conserving energy, managing operational efficiency, meeting sustainability goals, ensuring occupant comfort and generating a financial return.

In this understanding, “Visibility, control and policy are the functional foundations of intelligent,” and dashboards are a key element in the tactical mix. Dashboards represent a clear view into how a building’s core systems such as HVAC, lighting, plug loads, etc., are performing, which in turn allows us to better control these systems and make operational improvements.

We know that cloud-based data collection, analysis, visualization, fault detection and diagnostics and comparisons among buildings in a portfolio are now readily and cheaply available for all buildings with IP-addressable building meters and automation systems.

Such systems can also easily be fitted even to existing buildings with analog-based building management systems. In addition, cloud-based systems can also address most buildings’ requirements (even those that don’t have sophisticated building management systems, but that nonetheless need to manage energy, water use, waste generation and recycling activity).

Next-generation green building rating systems should START with the idea that all data required for making them work are already available or can easily and cheaply be made available from the building operator, via vendors for energy, water, waste, and key purchases. Data that are not readily available AND supremely relevant to building management as Key Performance Indicators, should NOT be included in new rating systems. (This includes most credit categories now in LEED-EBOM and Green Globes for Existing Buildings.)