Smart Buildings Can Help Europe Meet Energy Reduction Targets

Many countries in the European Union (EU) are struggling to meet the bloc’s ambitious energy reduction targets, a problem that can be partly alleviated by adopting more extensive Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS), according to U.K.-based research and consultancy company BSRIA.

BSRIA, owned by the Building Services Research and Information Association, has found that several EU countries, including Belgium, Ireland and Austria, are set to miss their energy reduction targets by more than 20%.

However, with buildings accounting for up to 40% of all energy consumed, BACS is an area with lots of potential for improvement, according to BSRIA. The European BACS market is forecasted to see a 3.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019 to 2024, resulting in a €2.67 billion (US$2.9 billion) market in 2024.

In HVAC&R, the new technology can be used to collect and analyze equipment performance data from many installations, and use the gathered information to predict trends, and prevent future problems with preventative maintenance, thus saving money.

Uncertain times

Like many things at the moment, these figures are subject to some uncertainty. “The COVID-19 virus is almost certain to have a negative economic impact in the short term,” said Henry Lawson, Senior Research Analyst at BSRIA, during a webinar on March 18. “Nonetheless, there are some underlying reasons why we believe that the medium- to long-term effects for building automation are more positive.”

One of the reasons is the ambitious EU climate targets; the other is what Lawson calls the “well-being” agenda. Research has proven that good air quality and ventilation resulting from BACS can measurably improve people’s work performance.

BACS supervisory software is becoming more sophisticated, and there is a trend towards “genuine” artificial intelligence (AI), he added.

Some of the companies driving this development are huge players like Amazon, Apple and Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Over the last decade they have been digging deep and buying a number of AI companies to widen their offerings.

Cloud-based software is, however, slow to take off, according to BSRIA data, with a current market share in Europe from 5% to 15%. Most of the systems still run on locally based servers, as end users, especially in Germany, are cautious about how much data to share with the cloud.

The situation is changing though, and a genuine Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging, with 60%-70% of all new AC units sold in Europe capable of easy Internet connection. Controllers are also becoming more flexible, with 74% of units sold in 2019 being freely programmable, and only 4% having fixed function. However, the move towards IoT does not come without challenges as increasing digitalization can create a new skills shortage, with more IT people but fewer engineers needed, Lawson said.

This article originally appeared in the April/May edition of Accelerate Magazine.

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