The three pillars of zero-emissions buildings, according to the U.S. Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy has introduced a standardised, verifiable basis for defining a zero-emissions building. The first part of this definition, focusing on Operating Emissions, outlines three fundamental criteria that are crucial for a building to be considered a zero-emissions building:

1. Highly energy efficient: the building must be designed and operated to maximise energy efficiency, reducing energy demand and consumption.

2. Free of on-site emissions: the building must be free of any direct emissions from the on-site energy, ensuring a truly emissions-free operation.

3. Powered solely by clean energy: the building must be powered entirely by renewable or clean energy sources, eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

The three pillars of zero-emissions buildings

The takeaway here is that reaching the organisation's net-zero targets is driven by high energy efficiency. This means minimising energy waste, optimising the performance of existing systems, ensuring renewable energy sources are delivering as expected, and making sure any improvements or upgrades live up to the manufacturer's claims.

Monitoring your buildings and facilities allows you to take action where needed. The more action items you can cross off the list, the closer you get to reaching your targets.

The power of truly actionable insights

You don’t need digital twins or high-tech AI solutions to reach your targets. You need the right information, analysed in a way that makes sense—insightful, clear, transparent, and actionable. Whether it’s achieving financial gain, improving office space comfort, or reaching net-zero targets, the right information will help you see what steps must be taken to stay on track. 

With the right information, you can make easier, faster and more effective decisions about energy use. With as little as your utility bills and some basic building information, we can give you a first insight into your building performance, where you benchmark, and what you might want to aim for.

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How you can get big results with little data

Ever used or heard of Shazam? When you hear a song you like and get curious about the title, Shazam will take a small piece of information and analyse it to tell you exactly what music is playing around you, including the name of the songs, the lyrics, the artist - and more.

The genius of Shazam is that with only a few seconds of sound bite, a unique fingerprint can be created, and when compared to a bank of information, insight can be drawn. It's simplicity at its finest. 

Listening to the rhythm of your building

So why would monitoring the energy efficiency of our buildings be any different? Every building has an incredible amount of information to analyse without even installing any sensors. Think about utility data, electricity bills, the use of the space, the general occupancy, the square footage - and the list goes on and on.

By looking at a selection of key pieces of data, you can start to discover how to “fingerprint” a building's efficiency. When you combine these insights with other readily available information about the building, such as the climate and the location, you’ll have even more information to go on. Benchmark the building with how other buildings with similar characteristics perform, and you have even more information to work with. All of this…and that is before using any internal building data sources. 

The genius and simplicity behind the ISO52120 standard

This is exactly what can be achieved with the ISO52120 energy efficiency standard. It isn’t about retrieving every piece of data from a digital twin building: it can start as simply as discovering what hours a heating system runs and comparing that to occupied building hours, or checking what temperature the heating is generating and comparing it to outside weather conditions. 

It is all about how you operate your building systems. Think of your fridge at home. You can have an A-rated fridge, but it won't be efficient if you always leave the door open. A well-looked-after D-rated fridge can outperform an A-rated fridge when it is efficiently operated.

The right algorithms and analysis of your building allow you to use minimal data to discover the current efficiency levels, how you compare to other buildings, what steps need to be taken to improve efficiency and the initial amount of savings that could be achieved. Why make things more complicated than they have to be?

With the right information, you can make easier, faster and more effective decisions about how energy is being used. Make your first improvements within six months.

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Bridging the gap between those setting the sails and those steering the ship

Transparent, tangible information can be powerful in the hands of those with the responsibility and resources to implement change. The right information, paired with the right knowledge and expertise, becomes valuable insight. 

But you can’t assemble furniture if the instructions are in Chinese. Nor can you manage your sustainability goals if the performance data from your buildings comes in 1’s and 0’s. Sustainable operations can only be achieved by effectively bridging the gap between those responsible for reaching sustainability targets and those managing the buildings in the portfolio. 

Only when these two essential groups can work together to monitor their buildings, can net-zero carbon targets be reached.

Knowing what drives the results

One of the key aspects of the role of those responsible for reaching sustainability goals is setting targets and reporting on performance. And that’s a challenge. Most of the time, it is impossible to see what’s driving the results you see; which makes it near impossible to improve them when targets are missed.

Once we can measure the level of performance we should expect from our buildings, it becomes easier to hold responsible parties accountable for their results. To effectively monitor our buildings and reach our net-zero carbon targets, we don’t need all the data; we just need the right information.

The first step is to collect data from various sensors placed strategically throughout a building to see when and how much energy is being used. This allows us to identify not only peak usage hours, but also inefficient equipment that may be contributing to excessive energy consumption. 

The second step matters most: translating this complex data into actionable information that gives those responsible everything they need to discover important waste points that could influence occupant comfort, running costs, and even our ability to reach our net-zero targets.

Bridging the gap

The key to success lies in bridging the gap between those leading the way towards net-zero operations and those managing day-to-day building operations. By understanding the true drivers of building performance, we gain valuable insights that enable informed decision-making and drive improvements where necessary.

If we understand how our buildings work for us, we can establish effective communication between all stakeholders involved. Opening connections between those setting the sails and those steering the ship, making sure everyone is on the same page: working towards common goals.

Ready to get your first insights today? Calculate energy performance, compare to benchmarks and unlock potential savings.

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Do offsetting schemes lead to false carbon neutrality?

In an era where the threat of climate change looms over us like a dark cloud, we must take responsibility for our role in carbon emissions. However, the term "carbon-neutral" has become a buzzword that is often misused by companies looking to appear environmentally conscious without actually making significant reductions in their emissions. Some might call it a greenwashing tactic - but we wouldn’t dare be that bold.

The offsetting charade

Terms like "climate neutral" or "climate positive" have been thrown around carelessly, enabling businesses to claim sustainability by simply purchasing carbon offsets. These offsets are meant to compensate for an organisation's emissions by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gases elsewhere. Unfortunately, recent investigations have exposed many offsetting schemes as nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Take Verra, the world's largest carbon-offsetting certifier. In 2023, an investigation by The Guardian revealed that over 90% of the carbon credits sold by Verra did not lead to any emission reductions. This discovery shed light on the flaws within the system and demonstrated how easily companies can exploit these offsetting schemes without taking concrete steps to reduce their own carbon footprint.

A similar study conducted by the European Commission found that 85% of the offset projects used by the EU under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) failed to reduce emissions.

Paying our way out?

The problem with relying solely on offsetting as a solution to climate change is its fundamental flaw: it allows businesses to continue emitting greenhouse gases unchecked while paying others to clean up their mess. It's akin to hiring someone else to do your homework; you may receive good grades, but what are they truly worth?

To address this issue directly, the European Union (EU) has announced plans to ban terms such as "climate neutral" and "climate positive" that solely rely on offsetting by 2026. This crackdown on misleading environmental claims is a positive step forward, compelling businesses to be more transparent about their efforts to reduce emissions.

From monitoring our buildings to net-zero

While (credible) offsetting schemes may have a role in transitioning towards a sustainable future, they cannot be relied upon as the sole solution. So what should we do? We turn our attention to our buildings. Our buildings play a significant role in achieving net-zero carbon targets and provide us with essential information.

By effectively monitoring the performance of our buildings, we can identify areas of waste and inefficiency, enabling us to implement targeted measures for reducing consumption. Simple solutions like weather-compensated heating systems or advanced technologies like demand-controlled HVAC systems offer numerous ways to make a tangible impact on carbon emissions before considering investments in renewable resources.

The first step toward net-zero is as simple as looking at the information our buildings provide us. Leading the way to a future where carbon neutrality isn't just a catchy slogan - but an undeniable reality.

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Why having too much information is not efficient

We’ve all heard variations of the expression: “Too close to the wood to see the trees”. It’s where you’ve gotten so deep into the detail that you have lost sight of the bigger picture. Or to put it another way – you have so much information, that you have no idea what to do with it.

It can be very easy to find ourselves in that place with building performance data. There is so much a building can tell us, with all of the data that technology makes available. But the question you need to ask yourself is – which information do you really need?

When it comes to data, it’s about quality not quantity

Think about when you’re going on holiday. There is only so much room in your suitcase. As much as you would like to pack every item of clothing you own for your trip, you can’t. So you bring only what you need for the place you are travelling to. The same principle applies to your particular building sustainability journey. To determine which energy, systems and building data is vital, and what is an unnecessary luxury that will only weigh you down, you need to have a clear idea of where you’re

It’s time to get data-efficient

The outdated infrastructure of older buildings can make accessing their data complex and time-consuming, while the procurement models and processes in modern buildings have not kept pace with advances in technology. So what kind of sustainable building do you want? Where are you looking to maximise energy efficiency? Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as indoor comfort conditions or air quality will provide you with actionable insights into your building's sustainability performance. Why place dozens of new sensors around your building and replace boilers and chillers when it is not necessary?

It makes no sense wasting precious time and resources trying to solve design and data problems, when we should be focusing on reducing energy consumption and the decarbonisation of our buildings. By focusing on the data and the metrics, that truly matter, we can effectively monitor our buildings, make informed decisions on allocating resources, and reach our net-zero carbon targets faster.

It is for all these reasons, that we have developed a building management system that offers flexibility, accuracy, and efficiency to building managers for all types of buildings. It is a platform designed not to encumber with more data but to empower you with the right data.

With the right information, you can make easier, faster and more effective decisions about how energy is being used. Make your first improvements within six months.

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The Performance Gap: bridging the divide between building design and energy consumption

Imagine this scenario: You have just bought yourself the latest Tesla 208 Cd, which is built for speed, endurance, and range with its improved aerodynamics and wider chassis. 

You take it for a spin - assuming you’ll easily get 300 kilometres out of that first battery load. But after a mere 200 kilometres, you find yourself parked on the side of the highway, waiting for road assistance.

Caught in the gap: why our buildings aren't living up to expectations

What went wrong? The answer is easier than you might think. If you use the right driving technique, that Tesla 208 has no problem reaching 300 kilometres with one battery load. If you found yourself pushing it to its max, accelerating at low speeds and, as some say, dogging it - you won’t be able to reach the targetted efficiency levels. 

Adjusting your driving technique will.

The same goes for our buildings. Assumptions about how a building will be used and occupied may not accurately affect real-life scenarios, leading to the well-known Performance Gap. Most importantly, many buildings lack comprehensive monitoring systems that track energy usage on a day-to-day basis. Without this information, it becomes extremely difficult to see where things go wrong, and where the energy use deviates from the expected performance.

Harnessing data to close the Performance Gap

Collecting the most important data your building offers and analysing it against established benchmarks or standards, such as LEED or WELL Building Standard®, can give us valuable insights into how our buildings perform. This fact-driven approach allows for targeted interventions and improvements where necessary.

When we translate all this data into clear information, discover where energy is wasted and take action to improve, we can bridge the divide between predicted and actual energy consumption - closing the Performance Gap and contributing to a more sustainable future.

We believe in what we do...

...and we think that you should, too. But surely, we wouldn’t ask you to take our word for it. That’s why we’ve created a first set of analytics to give insight into your building or facility’s energy performance. With as little as your utility bills and some basic building information, we can show you how your building performs, where you benchmark, and what you might want to aim for.

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