Decarbonising building operations: Data as a driving force in reducing greenhouse gas emissions

To coincide with Cities and the Built Environment Day at COP26, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) have published a report on using data and smart technology to reduce emissions from buildings.

The report makes the case for standardisation and increased sharing of information relating to how buildings are used by their owners and occupants.

Facilitating the ability to use digital technologies, such as those associated with smart sensors, Digital Twins and Cyber-Physical Systems will support the better management and use of energy.

Better data reporting and analysis can also identify spaces that can be used when a building is not occupied or is under occupied and therefore facilitate other uses for such spaces.

The key to all this is the role of information. The intention is that this information is used to inform the development and implementation of robust design guidelines focussed on the core issue of greenhouse gas emission reductions and based on properly sourced and understood data.

The role of the government is clear: facilitating the development of data and information protocols or in bringing together the relevant partners in support of change and development.

The report makes the following recommendations:

1. The Government should collaborate with industry to define the specific information required when reporting on building energy emissions and subsequently create a common set of information requirements to support informed decision making on the reduction of carbon emissions within the built environment.

2. The Government should introduce a requirement for building owners or operators to report regularly and publicly, in a standard format, on energy usage and GHG emissions.

3. The Government and engineering institutions should collaborate with public and private sector organisations to produce operational guidelines and common data set requirements for the adoption of data-driven technologies, such as Digital Twins, IoT and Smart Grids with respect to the built environment.

4. The Government should continue to develop and support centres of knowledge and businesses in adopting data-driven technology within both new-build and refurbished residential and commercial building stock.

5. The Government should support the development of an open-source platform for the exchange of information regarding the use of indoor and outdoor spaces outside conventional operating hours.


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