In the effort to find easy ways consumers can have an impact on the environment, the carpenter’s motto, “Measure twice, cut once,” has taken hold. Measuring the benefits of individual changes can point up their value with solid numbers. Naturally, companies are eager to help.
And that doesn’t just mean hardware companies; technology companies focused on the soft side of the industry are showing interest in collaboration with the firms that are demonstrating ways to avoid the elements that contribute to climate change, mainly carbon emissions. For example, Acuity Brands has a goal to avoid 100 million metric tons of carbon emissions as a result of projected 2020-2030 sales of LED luminaires, lighting controls, and building management systems replacing older technologies in existing buildings.
By combining the power of Microsoft’s Cloud for Sustainability and Microsoft Azure IoT with Acuity Brands smart lighting, lighting controls, and building automation solutions, they will jointly enable end customers, operating many types of facilities and buildings, to forecast and calculate the environmental and financial impacts that these new lighting and building management technologies deliver.
How much does the lighting choices made by consumers—and builders—impact the environment? Building operations—energy used to light, heat, and cool buildings—account for an estimated 28% of global carbon emissions. To meet the challenge, builders, owners, and residents alike need to measure the benefits of making changes, based on the emissions involved in producing the product and the emission avoided by using the product.
Acuity Brands did research and issued a report that was focused on its carbon “handprint” instead of its “footprint.” Why handprint? Acuity explains, “While our corporate footprint assesses the environmental impact of our products and processes, our handprint assesses the net environmental impact of our products at the point of use, incorporating both the environmental costs of using our products and the environmental benefits of removing older, less-efficient technology. This replacement of more-consumptive technology with less-consumptive technology is an important opportunity for decarbonization that we share directly with our customers.”
A comparison can be drawn between the lighting industry and the transportation industry. When an electric vehicle results in the recycling of an internal combustion engine, then less greenhouse gas (GHG) is produced overall, and a beneficial handprint can be measured. The same result is commonly achieved in the lighting industry when legacy lighting and control systems are renovated with new products. When renovating lighting, more than 50% of the GHG that would have been produced is avoided for the lifetime of the new products.
However, the annual renovation rate is less than 5%. Consequently, a large population of outdated buildings exists in the United States. The next big decarbonization opportunities lie in this existing building stock, which consists of an estimated 5.9 million buildings covering 97 billion square feet. Of these, 75% were built before 2000, and the majority have not received a lighting upgrade, resulting in an estimated 3.5 billion interior luminaires and 133 million exterior luminaires suitable for replacement by more-efficient LED products with connected controls.
In this market, an investment of approximately $300 billion in lighting equipment solutions would produce a decarbonization effect equal to 10% of electricity production or 165 million metric tons of CO2, resulting from lighting being 20% of electricity consumption with an estimated available energy savings of 50%. In the existing buildings market, important factors driving demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls are energy cost savings, utility demand-side management programs, and product regulations.
In the past 30 years, lighting has undergone two major technological shifts, the first to more-efficient traditional technology and automatic control devices, and the second to LED lighting and connected control systems. More recently, LED delineated into standard and premium efficiency options, while networked control systems implemented at the building or campus level show significant reductions in energy consumption.
Improvements in energy efficiency have led to a reduction in emissions in the commercial and residential building sectors of 11.4% and 17.3%, respectively, since a 2005 peak, with lighting playing a strong role in these gains. LED lighting alone offers up to 75% energy savings while maintaining or improving lighting quality.
By reducing both wattage and operating time, advanced control systems offer additional energy savings up to 47%. Further potential benefits include savings from HVAC and plug load control, highly localized control, broad adoption of dimming, the potential for color tuning to support circadian-friendly lighting strategies, and data analytics and location-based services.
In the new construction and renovation market, important factors driving demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls are steadily strengthening energy codes and product regulations, with sustainability- and wellness- focused building standards playing a supporting role in fostering innovation. The latest lighting energy codes and standards overall require a 37% higher level of energy efficiency than 15 years ago.
Acuity Brands and Microsoft will collaborate to bring the Acuity Brands portfolio of applications to Azure, standardizing data ingestion and analysis via Azure Digital Twins and analysis of this data via Azure’s AI offering. Microsoft and Acuity Brands will also look to explore technology solutions that further evolve the way spaces can be evaluated, managed, and optimized in the future.
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