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September 05, 2017

Using Technology to Make a Dent in Climate Change Patterns

“We are running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe.” – Elon Musk

Climate change is a very real issue. It is here, in our faces, and shouting for our attention. In today’s times, it is even more apparent than ever for us to make changes to the behaviors exasperating the problem.  How significant is it for us to make actionable changes? On the air quality warning scale, we would say the valuation falls beyond “hazardous.”

Current regulations are becoming more barrier-like to environmental awareness. With the recent reversal of former President Obama’s climate and clean energy policies, we are bound to continue facing insurmountable difficulties; however, we do not have to allow the disinclination of those in power to halt our actions. We must make a solid difference in the way we impact the environment by what WE choose to do.

In this blog, we take a deeper look at climate change by evaluating:

Its toll on the planet,

The ever-growing threat,

The positive effects of energy efficiencies and intelligent buildings,

Universal energy monitoring systems; and,

Building energy consumption automation.

Ultimately, we want to demonstrate the significance of climate change. We also want to showcase how impressionable our planet is to man-made influences. Are you willing to make changes to your behaviors on the environment for the better?

Let’s learn about why you should, shall we?

**Climate Change, Global Warming and the Inevitable Toll on the Planet  **

**“Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.” – Bill Nye**  

Climate change is everywhere – across farmlands, plant and animal habitats, and in weather patterns – we are observing variations of dying wildlife and averages in weather temperature. Scientists have found that global warming is a human causation affecting every aspect of our lives. Here, we explore three perilous characteristics of an increasingly warmer planet:

ICE, WEATHER, OCEANS – Oh my.

The frozen water on Earth is melting.

Where there are warmer temperatures, there is the rapid melting of the planet’s glaciers and sea/freshwater ice. Melting glaciers and polar ice sheets contribute to extraordinary rising of sea levels. Melting sea ice exposes darker ocean waters, which absorb more sunlight than ice – heating the ocean more and triggering a relentless cycle of melting and heating.

Weather is getting more extreme. Heatwaves are more frequent worldwide. The increased evaporation of water is like fuel for storms, intensifying extreme weather events, such as hurricanes. Rising sea levels make storm surges capable of greater damage. In more naturally dry areas, droughts and wildfires intensify.

Oceans are expanding.

For the last 50 years, oceans have been getting hotter, expanding and becoming more acidic. They are getting warmer because they absorb 90 percent of the extra heat in the climate according to a 2015 article on climate.gov This shift causes the oceans to expand, contributing to higher sea levels, and removes corals of their vibrant colors. Meanwhile, nearly a third of carbon dioxide emissions end up in the oceans, activating a destabilization of solid methane deposits that make the water more acidic, dissolving the shells of sea creatures.

COMMUNITIES ARE ADVERSELY AFFECTED AS THE CLIMATE SHIFTSsco/Oxfam

Climate change is harmful to our health, economies, livelihoods, and infrastructure. Let’s take a moment to consider how exactly it affects those in both neighboring and distant communities.

There is a threat to agriculture.

Where, how and when communities grow food is vitally connected to our climate’s normal patterns. Farmers are struggling to keep up with shifting weather patterns and increasingly unpredictable water supplies worldwide. Farms are more likely to face attacks from weeds, diseases, and pests; therefore, reducing crop yield.

Health is affected by warm, polluted air. 

A warmer atmosphere increases the formation of ground-level ozone – also known as smog – in polluted regions. Smog irritates lungs and triggers asthma attacks. Smoke from wildfires further damages the air. Extreme summer heat means more deaths during heatwaves. Warmer freshwater makes it easier for disease-causing agents (such as bacteria) to grow and contaminate drinking water.

Infrastructure and transportation are at risk.

Hot weather, flooding and other extreme weather events damage infrastructure, put heavy burdens on electrical supplies and disrupt how we travel and commute. Across developing countries, this threat is even more fierce with homes and businesses at risk of being flooded out, year after year, due to water displacement.

Natural habitats become hostile to plants and animals.

Habitats on land and in the sea are changing, making them inhospitable for some species while letting others move in and take over. Some ecosystems are at risk of collapsing and the changes to the natural world are vast. Here are three well-documented examples:

  • As mentioned earlier, sea and fresh water are melting rapidly. This poses a problem because Arctic animals need ice. As sea ice disappears, ice-dependent mammals such as walruses and polar bears struggle to survive. In 2008, the polar bear became the first animal to be added to the Endangered Species Act list of threatened species due to global warming (2014 Assessment by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
  • Also mentioned earlier, coral and shellfish are suffering. Coral reefs are highly sensitive to small changes in ocean temperatures. The heat stresses the algae that nourish the corals and provide their vivid colors. The algae then leave, and the corals eventually starve. This event is known as bleaching. As coral reefs are homes to many other species, such as fish, their collapse would disrupt the entire ecosystem. Additionally, more acidic oceans affect the normal calcium balance, meaning creatures with calcified shells, such as shellfish and coral, may not have enough calcium to grow.
  • Forests are more prone to deadly infestations, milder winters and longer summers allow tree-killing insects to thrive and trees weakened by prolonged drought have lower defense mechanisms. This cycle of warmer weather, weak trees, and thriving insects is likely the culprit behind the massive die-off of 70,000 square miles of Rocky Mountain conifers.

Climate change takes an inevitable toll on the planet. Finding and implementing sound approaches of adjusting to the adverse effects of climate change is becoming an urgent priority.

Building Efficiency and Its Impact on Climate Change

It is left to us to provide education and alternative methods of energy consumption monitoring and reduction. A direct focus on building efficiency is one approach. According to the U.S. Building Council, the commercial and residential building sector accounts for 39 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States per year, more than any other sector. U.S. buildings alone are responsible for more CO2 emissions annually than those of any other country, except for China. Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels to provide heating, cooling and lighting, and to power appliances and electrical equipment. By transforming the built environment to be more energy-efficient and climate-friendly, the building sector can play a major role in reducing the threat of climate change.

**Intelligent Technologies Create Intelligent Buildings **

Energy efficiency is an increasingly critical issue for developers and designers, as they seek to create sustainable urban developments. Intelligent building technology has proven to be an effective way to lower energy usage and costs, while enhancing the building environment for occupants. While the use of intelligent building systems has become more prevalent, consumers new to energy concerns may be wondering, “What is intelligent building technology?”

Intelligent building technology is defined as integrated communication and control systems that provide a flexible, effective, comfortable and secure building environment for operators and occupants. Integrated communication increases building functionality by allowing operators to use a single interface to control an entire network of building automation systems. Intelligent building technology utilizes building automation systems to improve and control many operations, to include:

  • Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems management
  • Air quality control
  • Lighting control
  • Elevators and escalators
  • Access control/security systems
  • Fire and life safety systems/smoke evacuation
  • Critical environments
  • Power monitoring
  • Building condition monitoring

And let us not forget,

  • Energy management

Some financial advantages for building owners who use intelligent building technology include:

  • Higher value building and leasing potential from increased individual environmental control
  • Lower consumption costs from using time-of-day lighting and HVAC control; and,
  • The ability to track tenant after-hours system use for charge back purposes.

The goal of intelligent building technology is to improve building functionality and environment, while simultaneously lowering costs. HVAC systems alone account for 50 percent of an average building’s energy consumption. According to an Intel IoT Smart Buildings Briefing, integrating access control information with HVAC and lighting can reduce energy consumption up to 30 percent through managing occupied space with time-of-day zone control. While automated control of the HVAC system saves money, it also enriches the building environment through improved air quality and self-managed temperature.

Working Towards Universal Energy Monitoring Systems

Advancement in the field of global computing opens a wide range of possibilities for the design of energy efficient systems in intelligent buildings. Integrating sensors, actuators, and computing devices into our everyday environments have great potential to contribute energy efficiency in our everyday lives. Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important in the building industry, as well as in the residential sector. However, due to the complexity and diversity of computing devices, integrating energy efficiency into ubiquitous computing is still in its infancy. Adding each new device into the environment requires a great deal of work. After deciding which particular device to integrate, the smart building developer must determine how to configure it and interface with it. Then the device must be connected and physically integrated into the environment. Energy efficiency in buildings involves far more than connecting devices to the environment. The intelligent building environment makes use of a wireless sensor network platform to integrate numerous heterogeneous devices. These devices should cooperate with other devices independently to provide intelligent services for users in the building.

Also, information among the various heterogeneous devices must be shared and connected in order to build effective intelligent services. Manufacturers of computing devices use many different communication protocols. Therefore, the integration of equipment is not straightforward at any layer of the sensor network platform.

Due to the complexity of the systems, and apart from the technical difficulties of the integration, users are often unable to fully understand their systems. To fully take advantage of intelligent building technologies, any energy management system should transparently integrate all equipment and make available all important information to users, both for energy savings and user convenience. To this end, we propose an energy management system using Inibii sensor networks and an intelligent building gateway. This system uses a machine-learning algorithm that continually senses and updates electricity data based on real-time electricity consumption information. Users can remotely monitor and control systems to save energy.

An Energy Management Platform That Helps Automate Building Consumption

For facility managers, energy management platforms are the gifts that keep on giving.

Here are five reasons why an energy management platform should be at the top of operating wish lists for facility managers:

(1) Stay Better Connected –Cloud-based energy management platforms can integrate seamlessly with existing connected management devices, or serve as a strong starting point for adding intelligence to a commercial building. An energy platform can also leverage existing infrastructure, allow a building to be monitored by a team of outside experts, and are easily updated. The potential and ability to add future devices and services to create a highly responsive, fully connected and unified system are made easy with these platforms in place.

(2) Ease of Control Over Everyday Operations –Commercial buildings account for a  large percentage of the energy consumed in the United States, as we learned earlier. In the face of rising energy costs, facility managers are looking for ways to improve energy usage in order to stay within set budgets. One of the greatest benefits energy management systems provide to a facility manager, is the ease of control over everyday operations. With the right energy management platform, building managers are granted access to a comprehensive amount of data that allows them to better understand how energy is being consumed. Even better, it automatically acts upon this information to make continuous changes to building controls in order to optimize daily energy usage. With measurement and verification features, the software can even verify its value and return on investment through benchmark comparisons and quantified savings.

(3) Keep Occupants More Comfortable –An important aspect of commercial building management is occupant comfort. The challenge for facility managers is keeping conditions comfortable while reducing energy usage as costs continue to rise throughout the work day. Advanced energy management platforms do not just report, but rather predict energy usage in order to make real-time adjustments to building controls – without disrupting occupant comfort or productivity. To this end, management platforms build upon existing building management systems to learn operations as well as external conditions, utility signals, and occupant habits. This information is used to forecast conditions for savings and optimize consumption before the opportunities are lost.

(4) Easy Installation –Implementing an energy management system does not require time or cost-intensive retrofitting, and the platform can be functional in a matter of days. Additionally, since the software is automated, it will make changes without instruction, freeing up labor hours that can be allocated to other tasks and create added value. It is this same ease and adaptability that makes the software ideal to meet the needs of facility managers. Whether the goal is to cut costs and improve efficiency in one building or a portfolio of structures, this can be easily achieved with a unified platform.

(5) Improve Relationships with Utilities – An energy management system can go a long way in improving the relationship between your commercial building and the local utility. In an effort to reduce peak demand, utilities identify specific times of the day when consumption is most intensive and the grid most pressurized. Peak demand hours are most common during the hottest times of the day and result in energy prices being at their highest. In most cases, there will be a demand charge added to a commercial utility bill for using power during these times. Energy management platforms have the ability to respond and automatically reduce power consumption during these times, thus avoiding extra charges. If the local utility offers a demand response program, this technology opens the door to the utility paying the end user to reduce energy consumption during peak demand hours (which retail energy providers can assist in coordinating).

Energy management platforms are the ideal addition to any commercial building and are sure to provide numerous benefits for years to come. With these software solutions in place, a facility manager will gain a strong understanding of how energy is being consumed in their building. This knowledge provides a solid foundation for making energy-saving decisions and allows day-to-day operations to be managed with ease.

CONCLUSION

In the last few decades, dozens of scientists across the world have been piecing together an irrefutable case that climate change is an immediate threat. Along with carbon emissions, the destruction spells disaster for our environment and the ecosystems that inhabit it. Small changes implemented by us constitute a bigger impact. Whether through education of the effects of climate change or by use of an energy management platform, we all can do our part to make a difference. By now, we hope you are, at the very least, willing to do your part in making a difference.

Want to begin a discussion? Click here.

You’re incredibly interested in data. Want to learn about the benefits of data? We want to invite you to check out this blog:  Taking Data’s Lead So That We Do Things, Good Things

References:

Atkin, Emily. “Trump’s Infrastructure Plan is That Infrastructure Can Now Ignore Climate Change.”

Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2017/08/trump_revokes_obama_era_environmental_building_standards.html

Department of Energy. “Fossil”

Retrieved from https://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/fossil

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Summary for Policymakers.”

Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf

McMahon, Jeff. “Electric Utilities Ignoring Trump’s Changes To Climate Policy.”

Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2017/04/20/electric-utilities-ignoring-trumps-attack-on-climate-policy/#4054aaef4941

Patton, Vickie. “Smog: Why stricter rules are so important.”

Retrieved from https://www.edf.org/health/smog-why-stricter-rules-are-so-important

Probst, Dan. “Reduce Energy Costs and Carbon Footprint with Smart Building Management.”

Retrieved from https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/solution-briefs/iot-ecs-tatung-reduce-carbon-footprint-solution-brief.pdf

Reilly, Amanda. “In hit to Obama legacy, court rejects HFC phase-out effort.”

Retrieved from https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/stories/1060058529/print

United Nations Sustainable Development for All. “Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”

Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/7_Why-it-Matters_Goal-7_CleanEnergy_2p.pdf

United States Building Council. “Buildings and Climate Change.”

Retrieved from http://www.eesi.org/files/climate.pdf

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