As you might know, green regulations and agreements that are adopted to mitigate global warming, like the Paris Climate Agreement, are changing the way we construct and retrofit existing buildings. But what specific impact does the Paris Climate Agreement have on buildings?

How the Paris Climate Agreement impacts buildings

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It deals specifically with CO2 emission mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Each country determines, plans, and reports on its mitigation of global warming, as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The Paris Agreement doesn’t have any enforcement mechanisms.

The goal of the agreement is to keep the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

By 2019, the agreement had been ratified by 195 countries, even if the US is withdrawing from the agreement.

Does the Paris Agreement have an impact on buildings?

Buildings and construction are together responsible for 39% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Emissions from buildings could double by the year 2050 if nothing is done about the way buildings are constructed and maintained.

It’s clear that the building sector is at the core of reducing global emissions.

However, only 136 parties have referenced action required by the building and/or construction sector in their NDCs. If these actions are fully implemented, they will only cover about 60% of building-related CO2 emissions. Few of the actions include targets to move to carbon-neutral or net-zero energy building performance.

This means that the current scope and ambition of the building sector’s commitments are insufficient to reach Paris Agreement goals.

The indirect impact of the Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement, as an international agreement, lacks teeth. However, getting so many countries to agree on the need for reducing global CO2 emissions is no small feat.

Even if there are no enforcement mechanisms for the Paris Climate Agreement, there seems to be an uptick in local green regulations. From 1994 to 2018, the number of countries with mandatory or voluntary guidelines for building-related energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions increased from 38 to 88.

And apart from existing green regulations, most countries and regions have already launched or are currently discussing more comprehensive regulations and policy papers. These include the EU’s Green Deal and the US Green New Deal.

How can building stakeholders use technology to ensure compliance with Paris Climate Agreement commitments?

Part of the solution to achieving buildings that comply with the Paris Climate Agreement goals is through building design and planning, as well as retrofits. Part of it, again, is technology.

In fact, the Paris Climate Agreement Article 10 explicitly refers to the importance of technology as a solution to mitigate climate change.

After all, retrofits can be difficult, especially when it comes to older buildings. That’s where innovative technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, and sensors can help manage buildings in a greener way.

Smart devices offer a lot of benefits for buildings

According to a Johnson Controls survey, 70% of respondents said they believe that the ability to predict and diagnose problems and provide or propose solutions in buildings would be a game-changer. Large sites can use IoT solutions to reduce the cost of energy, spatial management, and building maintenance by up to 30%.

These tools can be used to understand and predict how buildings behave and that way, optimize how resources are used and allocated. This includes real-time and detailed monitoring of devices that use energy in buildings, allowing power utilities to enhance the efficiency of energy distribution and conservation, using sensors to optimize waste management, and helping buildings to identify water shortages and better plan for overall water conservation.

Take a concrete example: Sensors can be used to measure building occupancy levels at any time. If these sensors can communicate with building management systems, energy use, waste management, and more can automatically be directed to that part of the building instead of wasting resources in unoccupied areas.

Naturally, these benefits don’t just ensure compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement. They also ensure buildings that perform optimally, use fewer resources and save costs, as well as increase building occupant satisfaction levels.

Why smart devices can’t be used effectively (and how to fix this)

Building data is at the core of using smart devices successfully. However, as of right now, there’s no effective way to utilize that data. The reason for this is that there’s no standard shared definition for the data.

That’s why a Common Data Model is needed so that building data can be harmonized.

You see, your building data is often analog or locked in siloes. As there aren’t proper systems available, this data is hard to access or compare with other data. Oftentimes it’s outdated.

The result is that there isn’t an effective way for building stakeholders to use data for building management and operations. Subsequently, digital solutions in the building sector can’t be used to their full potential.

Now, to solve this, systems and processes are needed that are capable of handling huge amounts of data and transforming these data points into actionable insights.

This is where a Common Data Model comes in. To put it simply, this is a way for your system to read and interpret the data according to a common definition. That’s what enables technology systems to communicate with each other and unlocks the potential for buildings to be truly smart.

Together with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, a Common Data Model will in this way help you manage and operate your building to optimize for profitability and to minimize building CO2 emissions. In the end, this means environmentally-friendly buildings that operate in accordance with the requirements outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

How the Paris Climate Agreement will continue to impact the building sector

Now you know how the Paris Climate Agreement affects buildings. While the Paris Agreement doesn’t stipulate any mandatory requirements for signatory states, it can be argued that it plays a part in a wider shift to take action on minimizing CO2 emissions.

In the building sector, technology will be a big part of this shift and a way for building stakeholders to take positive action to lower buildings’ carbon footprint and create more cost-effective and better-performing buildings.