It’s been widely reported that buildings represent nearly 40% of global carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Given that half of today’s buildings are likely still to be in use in 2050, retrofitting existing structures using a digital-first approach is the best pathway to decarbonization, according to new research from Schneider Electric, a leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation.
The research findings suggest existing office buildings could reduce their operational carbon emissions by up to 42% with a payback period of less than three years when deploying the company’s digital building and power management solutions. All-electric, all-digital buildings can realize an additional 28% reduction in operational carbon emissions resulting in a total reduction of up to 70% if fossil fuel-powered heating technologies are replaced with electric-powered alternatives, and a microgrid with local renewable energy sources is installed, the report noted.
Mike Kazmierczak, vice president of the Digital Energy Decarbonization Office within Schneider Electric’s Digital Energy division, noted:
“Tackling operational emissions is the number-one lever to decarbonize existing buildings at scale and achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050. This breakthrough research reveals that reducing carbon emissions by up to 70% is feasible if we transform our existing building stock into energy-efficient, fully-electrified and digitized assets.”
The research was conducted in partnership with global design firm WSP and is based on modeling the energy performance and carbon emissions of a large office building built in the early 2000s across various U.S. climate zones. The study demonstrated that renovating with digital technologies is not only less disruptive to daily operations, but also more effective from a lifecycle carbon perspective and applies to all building types and climates. Failure to rapidly decarbonize buildings could also result in stranded assets that lose value and are unattractive to both investors and tenants.
Additional research from the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability and the Schneider Electric Sustainability Research Institute estimates that there is a sizable potential to create new jobs through the transition to low-carbon buildings.
Learn more about the findings of Schneider’s research and three-step process (strategize, digitize, decarbonize) to accelerate the path to net-zero buildings.