Artificial Intelligence Steps In to Lower Carbon Footprint of Buildings
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Artificial Intelligence Steps In to Lower Carbon Footprint of Buildings

Property companies are increasingly offering AI energy software to help cut the greenhouse-gas emissions of buildings

Sun, Sep 3, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 3 min

Artificial intelligence is starting to help buildings go greener.

Keeping our buildings running contributed roughly 26% of global energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. For the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, the agency says the energy that these buildings consume per square meter (around 11 square feet) needs to decline by around 35% by 2030.

Developers and construction companies have pursued more-efficient energy use in buildings over the past couple of decades. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certifications are given to buildings that meet standards that conserve energy, water, waste and other environmental goals.

Governments are also introducing increasingly stringent energy codes for commercial spaces. Still, more than 80% of buildings don’t have smart systems to efficiently manage their energy use.

JLL, which manages billions of square feet of commercial real estate around the world, has been making a string of investments to bring AI systems to companies looking to cut their emissions. The business case: Eco-friendly buildings charge higher rents and are on the market for less time. JLL says it expects 56% of organisations to pay a premium for sustainable spaces by 2025.

“We want to make every building out there as smart as it can be,” said Ramya Ravichandar, JLL Technologies’s vice president, technology platforms—smart and sustainable buildings. “If you can’t measure what matters, you can’t make the change.”

JLL’s investments include in Turntide, a company based in Sunnyvale, Calif. that installs electric motors coupled with small computers which learn from patterns to more precisely control heating and cooling, and Envio Systems, a Berlin-based company that develops sensors to track a building’s use, occupancy and other factors to adjust lighting, cooling and similar energy-related activities.

“Do I need to keep the lights on? Do I need to turn off the air conditioning on floor three because the entire company is working from home this week?,” Ravichandar said. “If you have a system, it is relentless and constantly processing this information.”

Generally, AI building systems learn from historical patterns and the daily habits of occupants to predict and power things on and off. For instance, software and hardware that automatically manages lights, heating and cooling can help buildings cut 20% or more of their yearly energy use.

Nevertheless, hurdles remain to installing more AI systems, including gathering data from a wide range of sources in buildings, such as sensors, which often aren’t interconnected enough. “Retrofitting existing buildings with such sensors and infrastructure, as well as ensuring consistent data quality, can be resource intensive,” Ravichandar said.

Not enough data

AI has big potential to cut the emissions of buildings, but it is only as good as the data it learns from. Only 10% to 15% of buildings have the equipment or systems in place to gather the data needed to support AI, said Thomas Kiessling, chief technology officer of Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “AI in buildings works if you have the data,” he said. “Bad data means you can’t do any kind of schedules, rules or more sophisticated use cases around artificial intelligence. You have to have the data.”

Siemens uses AI to compare one building to a thousand similar buildings to predict what the energy savings could be after an upgrade to a smart-energy management system.

“Even if you just know the address of that commercial building, and maybe you have the energy bill, and maybe you have some high level information of what kind of HVAC brand the building uses, that is these days enough to compile a profile of the building with respect to what is likely you could reap,” Kiessling said.

Otherwise, lower-cost sensors, such as for lighting and cooling, can help save energy for companies that don’t have a sophisticated management system.

Venture-capital firm Fifth Wall’s $500 million fund is focused on decarbonising buildings and invests roughly a third of its money in startups with some kind of AI offering, both in software and hardware, the fund’s co-manager Greg Smithies said. A bigger focus is using more sustainable materials, such as concrete and steel made with renewable energy.

Smithies says AI can help with quickly and cheaply identifying where it makes economic sense to upgrade buildings, fill out permits that vary between countries, draw up mock-ups of designs and come up with chemistry for sustainable materials.

“The main message overall is we’re not going to save the planet with software, and AI is software,” Smithies said. “But AI is an interesting piece of the puzzle.”


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Amid a national housing crisis, these are the home building hot spots

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, May 28, 2024 2 min

Australia is in the midst of a housing crisis with supply challenges and demand pressures leading to a clogged pipeline of unfinished new home builds and approvals per capita languishing at decade-lows. There aren’t enough tradies to finish the homes under construction in normal timeframes. Meantime, construction costs have risen by 40 percent since late 2019 and contributed to dramatically higher insolvencies among building companies. High interest rates and lengthy approval processes have also prompted some developers to shelve plans for new projects altogether.

All of these challenges mean the National Housing Accord, with its ambition to build 1.2 million well-located homes over the next five years, will begin shortly amid very difficult conditions. However, the Federal and state and territory governments have agreed to the plan and plenty of money was allocated in the recent Federal Budget to get the program officially underway from 1 July.

Meanwhile, the Housing Industry Association (HIA) has published a report revealing the areas that are in line to receive the most new homes soonest, based on the value of approvals during FY23. The HIA has paired this data with population figures to identify the growth hot spots across Australia.

HIA economist Maurice Tapang said the top 20 hot spots for new approvals and above-average population growth were predominantly suburbs with greenfield developments. These developments require state governments to fund and build supporting infrastructure such as power lines, sewage and water pipes, roads and footpaths to service thousands of new residential lots.

“This is testament to the role that greenfield developments play in supporting the growth of our cities,” Mr Tapang said. “The drivers of housing demand are population and economic growth. Supporting population growth will require supplying adequate homes, which will entail providing the necessary infrastructure and land supply to grow our cities.

“As the high cost of the typical house and land package in some of our capital cities becomes out of reach to the typical income earner, it is important for policymakers to facilitate the supply needed to fill housing shortages. In order to build the Australian Government’s target of 1.2 million homes, there needs to be a healthy balance between greenfield and infill developments to support building well-located homes of all types.”


Australia’s top 6 home building and population hot spots


Box Hill – Nelson

In NSW, the top new home building hot spot is Box Hill – Nelson in Sydney’s Hills District, with $597 million in approvals and population growth of 26.5% in FY23.


Fraser Rise – Plumpton

Fraser Rise – Plumpton in Melbourne’s west was Victoria’s biggest growth hot spot, with $660.1 million in approvals along with 26.4% population growth.


Marsden Park – Shanes Park

 Located in Sydney’s Blacktown area in the western suburbs, Marsden Park – Shanes Park booked $370 million in approvals and 19.7% population growth.


Tarneit – North

 Located in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Tarneit – North recorded $384.3 million in new home building approvals and 18.9% population growth.


Rockbank – Mount Cottrell

Also in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Rockbank – Mount Cottrell had $593.4 million in approvals and 18.7% population growth.


Chambers Flat – Logan Reserve

Chambers Flat – Logan Reserve in the City of Logan, south of Brisbane, was Queensland’s biggest growth hot spot with $264.6 million in approvals and 18.4% population growth.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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