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Can AI Make Real Estate and HVAC More Sustainable?

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AI for HVAC addresses that challenge, continuously making adjustments and reassessing their effectiveness to save energy.

There’s no doubt that commercial property owners, architects, engineers, and more, have embraced greener buildings in one form or another, with a growing number committing to environmentally sustainable practices. In fact, according to the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2018 SmartMarket Report:

The global average of respondents who expect to make the majority of their projects green is expected to increase from 27% to 47% between 2018 and 2021.

And while their efforts to be greener are worthwhile and have a positive impact, they often do fall short in creating truly greener buildings. Many real estate developers are still missing a huge opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint – and it’s often overlooked because it’s so unseen.

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Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is critical for any built environment. In most buildings, HVAC accounts for a big part of spending, on energy bills and maintenance. An HVAC system can truly make or break occupant comfort, which in turn can have an impact on employee productivity, wellness and even customer satisfaction. Actually, continuously optimized HVAC has the power to significantly transform a building’s environmental impact for the better.

How Better-Managed HVAC Can Help Fight Climate Change

By 2060, the world’s population will have reached 10 billion people and the number of buildings will have doubled. At the same time, the negative impact of climate change will become ever more evident. Sea levels will have risen an astounding 24 inches and the world’s average temperature will have risen 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s indisputable that we need to fight climate change now.

Given that real estate is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the decision-makers in the industry have a major opportunity to lead the charge. In the U.S. alone, buildings account for 41% of energy use and 38% of CO2 emissions.

And yet currently, nothing is being done to make HVAC systems truly sustainable and stop them from inefficiently draining energy from commercial buildings. In fact, these systems are a major part of how a building uses energy, often accounting for 50% of a building’s energy bill. Optimizing an HVAC system to be efficient has major potential for reducing a building’s carbon footprint.

AI Makes All the Difference

Think about your home and the decisions you make day-to-day to manage your energy effectively. Maybe you pull the blinds down to block the sun on a hot summer day. Or, perhaps you turn down the heat before a holiday party in anticipation of having a dozen guests in a small space.

In a commercial building, these kinds of decisions can save energy, too – but it’s much more difficult to manage manually. AI for HVAC addresses that challenge, continuously making adjustments and reassessing their effectiveness to save energy. It can ultimately evaluate the most optimal HVAC configuration for energy efficiency, saving money but also reducing the load on the power grid, keeping the building’s footprint low.

More specifically, AI makes continuous adjustments in real-time, so your HVAC system works smarter instead of harder.

An AI-driven HVAC system can allow a building to self-operate, proactively, without any human intervention – similar to how autonomous vehicles work. A system like this can ensure energy efficiency is always top-of-mind without compromising occupant comfort, even when humans don’t have time to think about it.

Doing this monitoring and decision-making manually is, of course, possible. However, the sheer quantity of calculations required to find optimal settings when you have so much equipment to manage is a major challenge.

Instead, imagine what can happen when using artificial intelligence.

To do what AI can do in just a few minutes, a large team of engineers would need to work 24/7, calculating optimal settings constantly. As just one example, engineers often must divide a building into zones to figure out habits and behaviors that affect how that area uses energy – a process that could take a few weeks. An AI system, on the other hand, could accomplish this task in two minutes while also considering changes in outside weather and movement of occupants within the building.

Any real estate leader looking to improve their sustainability efforts cannot afford to ignore AI. With its potential to save energy and reduce carbon emissions – all without the headache of manual management – AI for HVAC systems truly is a game-changer.

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