The anatomy of a decarbonised building

ABB Australia Pty Ltd
By Ian Richardson, Building Solutions Technical Specialist, Electrification, ABB Australia
Friday, 01 July, 2022


Digital technologies and energy management solutions that sense, monitor, control and optimise the built environment while it interacts with individuals are at the core of decarbonising hospitals and healthcare facilities. And they play an important role in reducing energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency and the adoption of renewables.

There are five key steps to achieving carbon neutral hospitals and healthcare facilities and buildings:

  1. The first step is to deploy digital solutions and energy management such as monitoring, control and optimisation, which is at the core of decarbonising buildings.
  2. Next is to increase energy efficiency by utilising building management systems and installing new, highly efficient motors and drives for example.
  3. Expanding electrification is also important. For example, heat-pumps and having an electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.
  4. The installation of distributed renewable energy solutions should also feature in a low-carbon strategy — from photovoltaic technology and wind turbines, through to battery energy storage systems and thermal energy storage.
  5. The final step is to procure renewable energy from the grid and offset any remaining emissions.

The technology blueprint

It is important to point out here that achieving carbon neutrality in a new building is easier to achieve ‘by design’ than in older building stock that requires retrofitting. In the absence of a ‘one size fits all’ blueprint, our customers understand that their projects are unique, and feature a combination of existing systems and equipment built over time. This is why open-source technology and the interoperability between systems is so important. In order to meet Net Zero building targets, we must be able to retrofit a large percentage of existing buildings. And solutions need to be easy to install, with impact and return on investment clearly defined.

Whilst not all technology blueprints for a smart, carbon neutral site are exactly the same, a typical customer smart building will use interconnected technologies to improve comfort and performance across energy management, water use, air conditioning, access, automation, lighting, remote monitoring, and communication networks.

Thanks to ABB’s solution areas within the ABB Ability™ Building Ecosystem, for example, hospital and building operators and facility managers can have digital control of all these elements, and smart buildings will capture the transformative opportunities to become more environmentally friendly — from substantially contributing towards carbon reduction targets through efficiency gains in heating and cooling equipment and in the building itself.

The ABB digital solutions enable constant surveillance and optimum control of energy production, consumption and storage. Largely autonomous, this learning system calculates the optimum energy flow based on predictive data and compensates for deviations in real time. In a carbon neutral site, these technologies are combined for a holistic approach that can be easily scaled according to the requirements of the building.

The digitalisation of buildings through connected technologies and building automation also has a key role to play in helping to manage grid resilience and reliability as well as reducing energy costs and increasing energy efficiency. Moreover, it is an important step towards the energy transition. It enables the building to provide value-adding services towards the modern energy grid and thus supports the shift from “consumer” to “prosumer” — facilitating concepts such as virtual power plants and maximising the value of distributed energy resources (e.g. photovoltaic, batteries) on a broader scale.

Within that context, our carbon reduction programs strongly leverage the ABB Ability™ Energy and Asset Manager*, for monitoring, optimising and maintenance prediction using big data and artificial intelligence.

In short, the typical solution scope for a carbon neutral building project includes distributed energy resources — such as on-site photo voltaic technology, EV-chargers, energy storage, motors & drives, power supply & protection — as well as digital solutions for energy management including monitoring, control and multi-purpose optimisation. Also, building automation & heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) controls such as digital integration platforms, building automation & control, HVAC control & optimisation, space management and wellness & productivity.

The solutions are here to power the decarbonisation of the built environment. More and more digital technologies are coming together and demonstrating new possibilities in the generation, use and production of energy for work, transportation and domestically.

Download ABB’s comprehensive Health Solutions e-book that reviews the technology needed to support smarter, sustainable operations via the QR code or visit new.abb.com/buildings/healthcare.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Monkey Business

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