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Schneider: Shaping Buildings of the Future
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November 2, 2021 News

 

Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Journalist, AOPG.

Buildings are evolving, and their latest iterations will see them going green—green as in environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and sustainable. This is the consensus among the building technology experts who shared their thoughts and expertise in the Schneider Electric virtual panel discussion titled “Shaping Buildings of the Future,” held last week.

Central to this green revolution in buildings are industry stakeholders, like Schneider Electric, whose key role in transforming the buildings of the future was highlighted by Denver Ng, Business Vice President, Digital Energy Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei at Schneider Electric, in his opening keynote.

“As developers, owners, operators and tenants we contribute to and are responsible for the impact our buildings have on people and on the environment,” said Ng in formally opening the panel discussion. “For decades, buildings’ lifecycle has been cited for its inefficiency in all phases across the design, build, operate and maintenance stages for both new and retrofit buildings.”

Exacerbating the situation, according to Ng, has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says has put pressure on building owners to adapt to both the changing times and the challenges posed by this global health crisis, like low occupancy for hotels and commercial properties. The solution, in this case, is relatively simple: To build better buildings.

Building better buildings is ultimately the biggest challenge for industry stakeholders, and they are well-positioned to do just that if they make it a point to leverage two critical infrastructure trends: Digitisation and electrification. Both of these innovation-driven trends are transformative and can give buildings the structure they need to overcome any and all challenges of the modern, post-pandemic world.

Specifically, the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can completely digitise and connect all the systems inside a building, thereby allowing building administrators and engineers to get the data necessary “to build a smarter and more desirable future.” Electrification, on the other hand, is paving the way for a gradual shift from coal-based energy to renewable energy, in turn reducing one of the biggest drivers of global warming.

With digitisation and electrification guiding the planning and construction of new buildings and the retrofitting of existing ones, expect buildings of the future to be:

  • Sustainable. Equipped with flexible energy assets and various electrical sources.
  • Resilient. Can recover quickly and bounce back.
  • Hyperefficient. Seamlessly controlled by an end-to-end digital platform.
  • Peoplecentric. Designed to be responsive to people.

“Before the pandemic, the trend was more towards smart systems, like controlling the building systems, lighting and air-conditioning and monitoring and analysing the building systems themselves,” noted Yao Chau Fong, Vice President at the Institution of Engineers Malaysia. “When we talk about anticipating the endemic [post-pandemic times], the building design and landscape will move towards a more health-conscious approach [people-centric] . . . and connectivity and digitalisation will play an important role when we move towards this new normal.”

Resiliency is also crucial for the buildings of the future, especially as the world moves to its post-pandemic phase. To this end, Kok Yen Kwan, Vice President at The Electrical and Electronics Association of Malaysia, highlights the need for the 3Rs if buildings are to be resilient moving forward. These 3Rs are:

  • React. Operators and engineers must be able to identify and react to risks, whether external or internal, immediately and proactively.
  • Reliability. Stakeholders need to make sure that the building is designed to operate well, in a cost-efficient way and has backup systems in place.
  • Realigning. Administrators, engineers and everyone involved must go beyond traditional approaches to building design and maintenance and adopt modern, technology-centric ones.

Fortunately, the technologies for buildings to be resilient, people-centric, hyper-efficient and sustainable—IoT, AI, machine-learning, data analytics and so on—are widely available today according to Soo Pow Leong, Digital Energy Vice President at East Asia Japan Schneider Electric. Leong admits, though, that the costs of leveraging these innovations can be a hindrance but not if companies actually commit to effecting positive change for people and the environment.

The good news, according to Leong, is that more and more companies are making this commitment, alongside national and local governments. This development only bodes well for the future of buildings old and new, of Mother Earth and of people.

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