As I swipe my access card at the office parking lot every morning, I sometimes imagine if only this could trigger the lights and computer to flicker on so that I will be ready to work as I sit down with my first cup of coffee. While I am on this flight of fancy, the mind sometimes does wander to think how reassuring it will be to know that this building will shield me from harm in the event of any calamity – say earthquake or fire.
These thoughts cease to be flights of fancy any longer with the technologies and advancements in controls & automation the world over. Today we see buildings with very sophisticated control systems that not only offer unprecedented user convenience and comfort but also make the facilities safe and secure. We have seen control systems that can ‘follow’ an intruder in the building and others that ‘remember’ a guest’s music preferences in a hotel in case he/she re checks in to the hotel to create a much personalized experience.
However, besides comfort and safety there is another and probably the most compelling motive for automation – energy efficiency. Buildings need to optimize the use of energy for their operations and automation may just be the way to do it. Buildings that are aware of their energy usage and continually fine tune their operations in favor of energy efficiency are the ‘Buildings with Brains’.
There is yet another aspect to energy efficiency in buildings and this comes forth by way of planning and design. These buildings can be benchmarked for their efficiency by their environmental ratings. Nonetheless focused designing and planning at every stage to construct buildings that are high energy performance facilities constitute the category of ‘Building with Brains’.
While our acceleration towards ‘Buildings with Brains’ is much evident and sought after, how and what are with doing towards ‘Building with Brains’?
"We will build roads, bridges, electric grids and digital lines. We will harness the sun, wind and soil to fuel our cars and run our factories". The new regime in one of the most powerful nations on the face of the Earth has declared war against energy in-efficiency with these remarks during the inaugural speech by Barack Obama.
Obama further added, "We will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy efficient". He wants to dramatically improve energy efficiency with the intent to reduce energy consumption within the US economy by 50 percent by 2030.
The US Green Building Council has detailed out a Green agenda to put forth before the Congress, covering a slew of measures that Obama vocally supported throughout his campaign. The key areas under consideration are carbon neutrality of federal buildings by 2025, all new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030, expansion of federal grants to assist states and municipalities to advocate LEED-certified public buildings and finally creating 'green-jobs'.
May seem like a tall order today, nonetheless the commitment for Green initiatives and a concerted effort to combat energy in-efficiency are the first steps in the right direction.
Similar sentiments towards Green are resonating in Malaysia as well where we have our own Green Building Rating Tool as part of our efforts to create more energy efficient buildings in the country. This is a tool to guide architects, designers, government bodies, building owners and developers towards constructing energy efficient and Green buildings. In addition to this, the Nation lays tremendous focus on technological development in construction industry and one of the trust areas is recognized as energy efficiency and the campaigning for Green.
Malaysia promotes adoption of Energy efficient designs among the construction projects to limit the non productive patters of energy consumption and to minimize the negative impact to the environment. Key initiatives include awareness campaigns, provision of incentives and publication of educative journals. Regulations such as inclusion of energy efficiency elements in the Uniform Building By-Laws and implementation of energy audits in government buildings supplement reinforcing the political willingness towards making the country a more environment friendly nation by way of building sensibly and with brains.