ContentPropertyCan Artificial Intelligence Help Commercial Landlords Comply With MEES Regulations?22 November 2022
As the expansion to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for commercial buildings draws ever nearer, are EPC assessments enough to truly measure energy efficiency?
Andrew Fitzpatrick, Director, Business Development UK at BrainBox AI, explains how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be an ally to owners and investors when navigating the changing regulatory environment in the UK.
Andrew Fitzpatrick directs all UK business development activities for BrainBox AI, including sales and management of key strategic partnerships. Prior to joining BrainBox AI, Andrew developed almost a decade of sales, engineering and commercialisation experience across Canada, the United States, and the UK, forging expertise in the implementation of real estate digital solutions. Some of his most prominent work to date spans a series of highly complex multimillion construction projects, including the Battersea Power station redevelopment project. Andrew has an MBA in Business Administration from Bayes Business School and a BA in Engineering from McGill University.
Changes to Energy Efficiency Compliance
The increased volatility of energy markets throughout 2022 has seen energy efficiency rise up facilities managers’ agendas. Added impetus has also arisen from legislative changes implemented before the war in Ukraine, including imminent changes to the legislative landscape resulting from the expansion of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) to cover the commercial building sector.
From 1 April 2023, MEES will apply to commercial landlords in addition to residential; barring them from granting, renewing or extending tenancies unless they achieve a required level of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of E, apart from certain exceptions. A recent government whitepaper and subsequent consultations envision an intention for future requirements to be elevated to an EPC rating of C by 2027 and B by 2030.
The EPC has for many years provided an at-a-glance guide to energy efficiency and therefore a reference to assess the cost of energy bills. Factors considered include the amount of energy used per m² and the level of carbon dioxide emissions.
"While EPC standards help to boost the inherent energy efficiency of buildings, the rating simply provides a corresponding snapshot at a given point in time. In order to optimise the usage of energy for cooling and heating commercial real estate, there is a need for more dynamic assessments."
Are EPCs Alone Enough?
The expansion of MEES to the commercial sector will help to improve energy efficiency standards but EPCs on their own are arguably flawed. The EPC assessment simply compares against a checklist-style approach and foregoes any assessments or measurements of the working conditions of a building’s functions.
Furthermore, MEES only addresses one side of the carbon footprint equation for commercial real estate. Buildings are currently responsible for 39 per cent of global energy related carbon emissions: of which 28 per cent are from operational emissions arising from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the remaining 11 per cent from materials and construction.
To achieve further emissions reductions, commercial building facilities managers will need to adopt big data solutions to maximise the operational energy efficiency of their buildings.
While EPC standards help to boost the inherent energy efficiency of buildings, the rating simply provides a corresponding snapshot at a given point in time. In order to optimise the usage of energy for cooling and heating commercial real estate, there is a need for more dynamic assessments. These evaluations can be provided through the analysis of data and the fine-tuning of HVAC systems depending on occupancy, sunlight exposure, ambient temperature and a host of other variables.
However, to conduct dynamic assessments and adjustments at scale in a commercial building would require far larger facilities management teams. Deploying that much highly-skilled labour would very likely mitigate any cost savings that owner and owner-operators might see from such work. This is why progressive facilities management teams are increasingly looking at technological solutions. These can take the data that’s available and make those adjustments in real-time throughout a building.
Where that technology is underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI) it can also help reduce the strain on a building’s HVAC systems, which can help to extend their operational lifespan.
Looking to the future, this type of facilities management technology could also help to maximise local energy usage either through load sharing or shifting and potentially by minimising carbon emissions further through aligning energy usage with energy supply. Potentially this could allow buildings to favour energy from renewable sources over fossil fuel production.
AI serves to advance improved energy efficiency through the real-time evaluations it offers to optimise energy usage. A more focused regulatory framework will compel landlords and building managers to apply the full capabilities AI in a tailored way. MEES does an excellent job of addressing the quality of the building fabric and equipment but does a less good job in the measurement of operational energy usage.
A great out-of-the-box standard already making headway in the UK is the new NABERS UK standard, a more detailed six-star energy efficiency ratings system. This model accounts for component services within the building that impact upon energy usage, including heating, cooling systems, lifts, lobby lighting and more.
NABERS provides a data-driven approach with a high degree of granularity that provides much more information to evaluate. In that respect, the data approach dovetails well with AI, which is rooted in data and real-time responses. Embedding a NABERS UK system deeper into building requirements will take time, but there are lessons that can be applied from the NABERS Australia experience.
AI will be vital to understanding building performance in a rapid and dynamic manner. IEA statistics show that in 2021 the operation of buildings accounted for 30 per cent of global final energy consumption and 27 per cent of total energy sector emissions, demonstrating the value of optimised building energy performance.
The technology is now in place to empower us to move away from the days of assessments done once every 6 months, 12 months, or 5 years. Live data is available and should be used to quickly identify underperforming assets or underperforming equipment and suggest changes.
The capabilities of AI can be taken one step further by allowing autonomous real-time action on recommendations to avoid wasted energy. After all, the cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use in the first place.
Picture: a photograph of Andrew Fitzpatrick speaking at a lectern. Image Credit: BrainBox AI
Article written by Andrew Fitzpatrick | Published 22 November 2022 Share Related Articles