Energy Management In Construction Industry: A Net Zero Perspective

--By Rajesh Shetty, Managing Director, Real Estate Management Services (India) and Imran Khan, Associate Director, Real Estate Management Services (Pune) at Colliers.

With a heavy thrust on infrastructure development in the recent past, India has witnessed tremendous growth in the construction industry. Due to the growing demands of production and infrastructure also comes to a high energy demand to be met up to run the various machinery and equipment and utilities to ensure the production of quality goods and at the same time good quality services in case of infrastructure management.

The construction industry has developed a large portion of land into usable infrastructure, and the same is actively available for commercial and residential purposes. Energy is a critical and crucial aspect of ensuring the infrastructure is running to cater to the designed amenities and demands of the infrastructure business requirements.

Energy has always been valuable to human beings to ensure our livelihood and cater to the necessities of life. With the advent of fossil fuels and colossal industrialization, “energy production, supply, and distribution” has also become an industry in itself. With the fast depletion of fossil fuels and the increased greenhouse effect, it is more than essential to look for alternative fuel and energy options. From the origin of generation to the point of utilization, only roughly 50% of energy on average is utilized as an active power or usable energy. Hence, for every unit of energy to use, two units are to be generated at the point of generation.

Fossil fuels have played a significant role in energy generation and meeting the demands of consumers. However, now it Is time to restrict our usage of fossil fuels and transform the same to adequate non-fossil fuel or green mode of power and energy usage. With the mission net-zero coming into play and overwhelming response by all industries, the energy segment is majorly dependent upon the renewable energy source and alternates like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal power, etc., our global carbon footprint is limited.

The rising global temperature levels and greenhouse gas effects have now not left any option but to think and drive ourselves to depend more on renewable energy sources. Solar and wind power have played very crucial roles in replacing fossil fuels and lowering the cost. With growing policies and schemes from central and state governments, the implementation of renewable energy and investment into the same would become more economical for infrastructure developers.

IGBC initiated the net-zero mission in India to ensure the active participation of its members and associates in industrial and other segments of energy management and conservation. The net-zero energy rating system for buildings in this foray would significantly improve the facilities and infrastructure certified for the said ratings. This rating system is also majorly contributing and participating in the national solar mission and national enhanced energy efficiency missions.

The net-zero energy buildings and their adaptation and certification are a significant step and contribution to the mission. The net-zero buildings are designed to generate energy through renewable energy sources and ensure it surpasses or equals the consumption demands. This would become the future of our operations and design of buildings from an energy management perspective.

Fundamentally, there are three components to attaining and maintaining net-zero usage: energy efficiency, on-site renewable production, and renewable energy purchased from the grid. Without intelligent steps toward efficiency and energy conservation, it will be difficult or practically impossible for a building to achieve and maintain net-zero. The facilities manager can play the largest, if not a dominant, role.

Efficiency is perhaps the highest priority and most cost-effective measure for projects seeking to be net-zero. The first step for a facilities manager is to understand how their building uses energy and its current operational and occupant requirements. The second step is to evaluate how efficiently we meet those needs and curb waste of energy. The third step is then to assess options, update, and improve to reduce energy use.

Below listed are some critical areas to improve upon to increase efficiency and reduce the energy performance index.

1. Load reduction, Demand control, and management.

2. Use technology software and dashboards to monitor and track energy consumption to infer key focus areas for efficiency improvements.

3. Install occupancy/motion and dimming ballast sensors for lighting.

4. Install shading devices: permanent overhangs on south-facing windows and shades on east and west-facing windows are incredibly effective.

5. Maximize opportunities for daylight spaces.

6. Explore possibilities for natural ventilation.

7. Maximize envelope performance to reduce HVAC system demands.

8. Ensure that systems such as lighting and HVAC remain optimally sized and utilized.

9. Monitor and maintain the power factors and compensate for reactive powers.

10. Use the most efficient equipment and appliances

11. Lower domestic hot water temperatures for electrical heating and encourage solar heating

12. Promote behavioral change: engage occupants and all concerned stakeholders through campaigns, signage, email reminders, etc.

It is high time that all the buildings, operating agencies, and clients look at a broader perspective. We must combine our efforts to contribute more towards energy savings, conservation, increased energy efficiency, and improved performance of machinery and equipment to contribute towards the net-zero mission while contributing towards its energy side.

If taken and considered at the management level through the process, the following factors can help achieve the net-zero mission targets for 2050. If implemented in the right spirit, the standards would also reap the results on the human comfort side, thereby improving employee retention, performance, and productivity alike.

• Energy savings and conservation.

• The energy efficiency of primary, critical, and high energy-consuming machinery and equipment.

• Use of green energy products and services.

• Utilize renewable energy sources and transform the current fossil fuel-based energy usage to a renewable source of Solar, Wind, and other available sources.

• Dependence on natural lighting than artificial lighting.

• Encourage BEE star-rated products.

• Use of CFC and HCFC-free products and refrigerants in HVAC systems.

Further to this, the advancement of technology also plays a significant role in this mission by ensuring asset management at the service level using technology like CAFM (Computer-Aided Facility Management) software available in the market and the ever-evolving energy management tools. The latest available technology built on artificial intelligence and digital cloud-based systems would enable us to monitor and track the energy systems in real-time scenarios. We must upgrade energy monitoring and engineering asset maintenance to a more predictive maintenance approach through condition-based monitoring rather than an age-old preventive maintenance-based process.