Six ways to make buildings more sustainable

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use roughly 40% of the nation’s energy and contribute 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. Making commercial buildings more energy efficient is critical to cutting carbon emissions and achieving today’s global sustainability goals.

sustainable buildings

I recently sat down with the editors of Smart Buildings Magazine to discuss ways that building stakeholders can cut energy usage and set the stage for a more sustainable future. Here are six key takeaways from my conversation.

1. Transition to renewable energy

Electricity use will soar in the coming years as new technologies like EVs come entirely online. At the same time, energy production will continue to transition from carbon-intensive fossil fuels toward renewable sources like solar and wind.

These converging trends make building electrification a significant opportunity to lower its carbon footprint. Buildings that update their infrastructure to take advantage of renewable energy sources will not only reduce CO2 emissions, but will increase efficiency and lower energy costs. In some cases, buildings could even sell excess energy back to the provider, which could help offset the costs of infrastructure updates.

2. Decarbonize your supply chain

Just as consumers demand more sustainably sourced products in their everyday lives, building owners demand sustainability across their supply chains. Our customers are no exception, with 60% reporting that they incorporate sustainability metrics when selecting partners to work with. Choosing partners that center on increased traceability and circularity will help reduce 3rd-party emissions and make buildings more sustainable.

Many suppliers now have initiatives like Schneider Electric’s Green Premium program, to provide transparency about material content, regulatory information, and environmental impact of products. Green Premium products ensure efficient use of energy and natural resources and minimize CO2 emissions. In turn, we require sustainability from our partners to support our building customers in meeting their sustainability goals, including green building certifications.

3. Install energy-efficient assets

Like in your home, a commercial building can easily reduce its use of energy and other resources by replacing basic fixtures with models designed to consume less energy. From smart thermostats to low-flow toilets, building stakeholders can find energy-efficient versions of assets needed for every building system. A prime example is replacing lighting with LED light bulbs that use 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting. LED lighting also generates far less heat than traditional lighting solutions, which helps reduce a building’s air conditioning energy usage and costs.

4. Retrofit

Today’s building owners are challenged to renovate or build new facilities that not only provide safe, secure, comfortable, and productive environments but reduce their carbon footprint and costs. Retrofits are an ideal opportunity to incorporate sustainable products and systems into the building design and take advantage of new technologies that may not have previously been available.

Engineers, architects, building owners, and other stakeholders can specify that building materials and systems that have a longer life are easier to operate, reduce maintenance requirements, and maximize efficiencies. Retrofitting a building also contributes to the circular economy by refurbishing, repairing, and recycling older building components to extend their functionality as long as possible.

5. Stay educated

Keeping up to speed on the latest technologies and exchanging ideas with others can lead to continued sustainability improvements in buildings and in the global environment. Schneider Electric offers training courses at over 90 centers worldwide and online to inform industry professionals about innovations and trends in the industry and new sustainable technologies. We also host Exchange, a program where building stakeholders can find partners who share their values to create, collaborate and test their products.

6. Get connected

Digitization and the IoT are reinventing the way we produce, distribute and use energy, especially when it comes to buildings. Smart connected building systems can automatically adjust heating, lighting, water, and other systems based on set parameters like the number of people present in a room, weather conditions, time of day, etc., to maximize energy efficiency. Digital tools collect and analyze building data to help stakeholders make real-time operating decisions that make buildings more energy-efficient. Employing solutions Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure, every part of a building’s infrastructure – mechanical, electrical, information and communications, technology, security, and services—can be used to tie the physical environment to specific sustainability outcomes.

Learn more

Learn more about how Schneider Electric is building digitized Partnerships of the Future to help building stakeholders grow their expertise, maximize efficiencies and differentiate through sustainability.

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