Tech Towards Net Zero: How technology is being used to advance net zero strategies
Updated: Jul 1
A conversation with the SPACE+ IMPACT Tribe, exploring how technology is being used to achieve sustainability goals, led by Irena Badelska, Senior Executive in Measurabl’s Business Development Europe team.
Badelska introduces the topic by asking the sustainability leaders how technology is being used to achieve goals related to operational and embodied carbon.
Louise Ellison, Group Head of Sustainability, Hammerson, says that in terms of operations, Hammerson uses technology in various ways across their portfolio to meet and understand demand, noting that the industry has come a long way in the effective use of technology to understand how buildings operate, with a lot being driven by reporting.
Hammerson uses Smart metering across the portfolio, including sub-metering for landlords and tenants.
“We have to have a very strong dialogue with the tenants, in order to make sure we’re reducing emissions from those spaces…all of that is done through technology.”
“Between 60 and 70% of the emissions from our portfolio come from the tenanted areas, which we don’t have control of,” expands Ellison. “We have to have a very strong dialogue with the tenants, in order to make sure we’re reducing emissions from those spaces as well… all of that is done through technology.”
This allows Hammerson to carefully monitor energy usage, while AI monitoring provides data for daily recommendations on energy usage based on a number of factors.
Ellison stresses not being over-reliant on tech to solve all our problems, explaining “Tech can give you data, and data is incredibly helpful, but it is not necessarily information, and it’s that transition from data into information (that) makes the difference.”
“Tech can give you data, and data is incredibly helpful, but it is not necessarily information, and it’s that transition from data into information (that) makes the difference.”
Ellison adds that software is providing excellent information on building components during the design phase, enabling sensitivity tests to be done to find ways of reducing embodied carbon in building structures.
Lloyd Lee, Managing Partner, Yoo Capital, highlights Yoo Capital's use of technology to make transportation more efficient. Saying that a focus on the digital signalling can transfer millions more passengers to sites on public transport, demonstrating that it can be done efficiently.
He notes that it has been really eye-opening how using similar technology to effectively manage logistics – combined with a focus on consolidated planning, electric vehicles, and logistics centres within estates – can have a dramatic impact by drastically reducing delivery vehicle numbers and downtime.
Robert Whitton, CEO, Impact Capital Group, agrees that data capture is essential to drive construction efficiencies and productivity; modular construction is important in reducing waste, transport, and on-site presence, while the digitalisation of the design and process is
For Sam Monger, Director, Special Projects, Grosvenor, one challenge is the lack of benchmark data for many of their historical buildings, but Monger notes, “Where we have got control (of business management systems), we’ve been able to reduce energy consumption by between 20 and 40% without affecting the user’s experience of the building.”
Abigail Dean, Head of Sustainability, Nuveen Real Estate, echoes Monger’s point about the need for benchmarks, adding that enabling transparency of information, including in the operational performance of buildings, can be transformative for the industry.
DRIVING BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE with technology
Badelska then fields an audience question from Equiem’s Cali Hyde, about how energy consumption can be reduced by encouraging different tenant behaviours and using technology to drive behavioural change.
Lee says that often, the important thing is the overall message you send to tenants about their living space and their own impact, and the unquantifiable impact that you have on the behaviours of people coming to your places. He adds that the other side is accepting flaws of human nature like forgetfulness and laziness and putting systems and technology in place to create barriers for consumption.
Dean says one of the fundamental challenges in the move towards net zero is the separation between landlords and occupiers. She believes landlords need to be given greater control over their buildings; this will be a major change in how the UK real estate industry works, so will need a collective industry decision to get there.
Ellison agrees, adding that behavioural change is difficult to achieve. She says technology can drive this change, by giving information back to people using the space and improving the understanding of what works well, but that there will still also necessarily be significant on-site human engagement.
“This can start to resonate with people if they realise that the small things they do collectively have a big impact.”
Monger expects to see regulation get more challenging, which may encourage landlords and tenants to work together, while Whitton says that giving tenants access to their energy usage data can be empowering: “This can start to resonate with people if they realise that the small things they do collectively have a big impact.”
Lee cites the need for open communication between the private sector and government to ensure the effective targeting of policies, projects, and regulation, while Ellison says, "what is important about regulation is that it sets trajectory and sets targets, and to some extent leaves industry to work out how to get there," which enables the private sector to respond effectively and find their own solutions. Dean agrees, saying that government should simply set the standard, which creates confidence in the industry to start investing in getting buildings to that level.
"What is important about regulation is that it sets trajectory and sets targets, and to some extent leaves industry to work out how to get there.”
THE ROADMAP to net zero
In terms of a big picture roadmap for the move towards net zero, Monger says you have to identify the big levers and figure out how to make the biggest changes as quickly as possible. He highlights the start of development as the point where you have the maximum levers of influence, so it is crucial to plan how to optimise the whole life carbon impact of abuilding.
Ellison says it is important to just start getting things done and figuring out what the challenges will be for your business. One thing to consider will be resource scarcity and the amount of material needed for building construction; Ellison believes tech can help to unpack the complexities of what goes into a building and how it is used over its lifetime, saying, “it’s about getting the data right and understanding what difference you can make… be ambitious!”
“It’s about getting the data right and understanding what difference you can make… be ambitious!”
Dean stresses the importance of ensuring that climate change and the move towards net zero carbon building is well understood throughout the industry, saying it should be fundamental and relevant to every single role, and a priority in all industry conversations.
Whitton says we have to embrace collaboration and technology, while Oboh advises focusing on getting in-house operations up to speed and addressing operational challenges, as well as being people-focused and thinking about impacts on end-users.
Lee concludes by reinforcing the potential impact of sending out the correct message to everyone we work with. Do not be afraid to set the bar; this can resonate throughout the industry.
Technology has a major role to play in unpacking the complexities of the build process and building lifespan, to help us understand what differences can be made.
As well as the direct impact that can be made through operational adjustments, sending a message to tenants and others about the need to be mindful of our carbon footprint can help to drive change.
For change to happen, the move to net zero needs to be a priority in all industry conversations across the board.
This discussion was hosted by Measurabl, who is the world’s foremost SaaS platform for collecting, managing, disclosing and acting upon real estate ESG/sustainability data – helping to drive us toward a smarter tomorrow.
Catch the full conversation below On-Demand via video below.
P.s. Join our IMPACT Tribe at 'SPACE [UK Tribes]' on 8 July at The Binary, SE1, to discuss sustainability, social impact and responsible growth. Find out more.