The world has a building problem.
Think of almost any commercial building—hospital, school, airport, shopping mall, hotel, office tower or anything else essential to human life—and it’s likely that the building consumes a huge amount of energy. Worse, much of this energy consumption is unnecessary. In the U.S. for example, it’s estimated that as much as 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted while we spend 90% of our time inside a building !
The problem is not limited to one country. Energy consumption is a global problem, and it affects everyone. It increases expenses for businesses, tenants, and customers, and that alone makes it worth addressing. Factor in the growing threat of climate change, and the problem becomes an urgent crisis.
We humans simply can’t afford to keep doing business as usual when it comes to our buildings. So, what do we do about it?
I believe digital transformation is the key. Digital transformation is revolutionizing the way we manage energy consumption in buildings. Modernizing buildings can take many forms. It can include anything from installing energy-saving lighting, to implementing a fully-integrated building system with real-time controls and reporting, and advanced tools like analytics to improve management over time. Whatever the project, modernization can reduce cost and waste, improve the environment, and prepare for the future.
How do we get there?
There is a lot of attention being paid to new builds and Greenfield projects, and rightly so. But the biggest challenge to modernization is the large stock of legacy buildings in the world. There are thousands of commercial buildings in existence, many decades old. Some say the only way to modernize these buildings is by tearing them down and replacing them with new structures, but this is extreme. The fact is, legacy buildings often can be successfully modernized.
Of course, there are special challenges to modernizing an old structure. The building is inhabited, with people living and working there, and you also have the physical constraints of the existing structure. But there are ways to work around these challenges. For example, even in a hospital, it is possible to renovate one floor at a time, or upgrade one wing while the rest of the building is fully operational. It’s not easy, but it definitely can be done.
What about new structures? Most new buildings today include digital technologies to improve efficiency and building management. The challenge with new buildings is not about limitations, but rather about optimizing opportunities. How do you ensure the building is energy-efficient and intelligent today, while also future-proof and sustainable in the coming decades? How do you make sure your building is taking advantage of all the capabilities made possible by digital transformation, now and in the future?
Partnerships are the answer
Whether a building is old or new, modernizing is a significant challenge, and no single organization can go it alone. Every building project is a collaboration of many professionals and disciplines: architects, engineers, technology providers, installers, integrators, facility management companies, and the building owners themselves. This means that modernizing the world’s buildings will require partnerships around the globe.
Partnership, I am proud to say, is in Schneider Electric’s DNA, and it’s what drives our EcoXpert Partner Program. Partnerships create more value for the end customer by delivering products with the combined abilities of the business partner organizations. Rather than doing everything alone, or trying to outperform everyone else, partnership networks let us work as a team to use all of our expertise together. In fact, our EcoXpert partners are the enablers of Schneider Electric’s Buildings of the Future vision and strategy.
For a project like building renovation, this approach allows for the involvement of people who already know the building, such as the in-house facility management or maintenance company, who can be an invaluable resource to get these projects done. Small companies are agile and flexible compared to large corporations, while companies like Schneider Electric have the reach and resources that only a global organization can provide. When we work together, we can tackle any building project—large or small, global or local.
Modern buildings, whether renovated or newly constructed, demand a variety of skill sets. We who are in the business need to be able to talk about value creation, not just technical topics. We need the ability to communicate with end users, not just general contractors. No single organization can meet the challenge of building modernization, no matter how innovative or capable that organization may be. We need a collaborative effort of partnerships and a broad toolbox of solutions to achieve success.
The good news is, we’re on the right track with partner initiatives such as the EcoXpert program. We have a lot of work in front of us, but we can do it together. And it’s time to get started.
Schneider Electric is pleased to announce that Damien was recently named Vice President of the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, where he works with business and government leaders to create partnerships and develop strategies for building a greener world. In this blog, he offers his thoughts on the challenges of modernizing the world’s buildings.