The vital role of smart buildings in the evolution of sustainable smart cities

The vital role of smart buildings in the evolution of sustainable smart cities Oliver Iltisberger is division president at ABB Smart Buildings.

2021 looks to be a pivotal year in the fight against climate change. With many global economies setting mid-century net zero carbon reduction targets, the pressure is on to develop strategies to bring down emissions in our cities, save energy, and speed up the transition to renewable energy.

Against this backdrop, demand for urban space will continue to grow – according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), 55 percent of the world’s population live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050.

So, how can this demand be met, without compromising on sustainability?

With cities and their buildings currently accounting for 65 percent of global energy demand, the growth of smart cities is seen as a crucial way to tackle the climate challenge. A modern city demands intelligent combinations of data, people and technology to create inclusive and sustainable solutions.

As such, smart buildings are increasingly taking a leadership role in the development of smart cities and are widely recognised as essential tools in meeting the many challenges that we face today and in the future, including achieving net zero targets, security and demand for greater interoperability.

The convergence of AI and IoT technology will be crucial to enabling connected buildings systems to keep people safer and more secure, while supporting the aim to be more energy efficient and protective of our communities.

Therefore, the buildings constructed today are essential for smart city evolution – cities that are truly sustainable, that have cleaner transportation, optimise resources including water and energy, with more intelligent buildings and infrastructures that serve essential human needs such as security, comfort and connectivity. Ultimately, by building smart structures we make our cities more liveable, workable and sustainable.

Building towards a smart and sustainable future

Smart building technology is already ensuring buildings and homes consume energy more efficiently. Buildings are complex systems, involving the circulation of air, water and electricity, so the use of smart sensors and IoT-based technologies helps to ensure these resources are delivered cleanly and efficiently.

However, it is not just about using new technologies – smart thinking and the optimisation of existing buildings are key factors when it comes to accelerating the sustainable development of smart cities globally.

By upgrading older buildings to smarter, more intelligent buildings, Smart Quarters within a city can emerge, which in turn promote smart communities and eventually smart cities. Therefore, smart buildings really are the foundational building blocks when it comes to scaling your smart city vision from the ground up.

Connectivity and interoperability key to reducing emissions

Using AI and IoT to connect buildings, transport and infrastructure, we can create a new ecosystem that can rely more on renewable energy, minimise energy waste, and slash carbon emissions.

For example, buildings use 30 percent of the world’s energy and contribute 40 percent of global carbon emissions. Thanks to the convergence of IoT – with sensors, smart data, and cloud computing – and AI, we now have buildings that talk to us, the cloud and to each other, to protect us and make us comfortable, while saving energy and cutting emissions.

For example, in cities like Hanoi, which are densely populated and rapidly growing, smarter buildings are of vital importance. The Viettel building in Hanoi used technology from ABB to save up to 20 percent in energy costs while ensuring a comfortable and secure work environment.

The future of cities is smart

Intelligent buildings that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago are now a reality and will be crucial to the development and success of sustainable smart cities.

From home and office to transport and utilities, 2021 is the year that smart cities will begin to take shape, as advances in IoT and AI bring together smart buildings, smart power grids, and EV charging to form a new smart society ecosystem that is increasingly interconnected and efficient.

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