Major shift in the way buildings are designed, operated and managed
Major shift in the way buildings are designed, operated and managed

Major shift in the way buildings are designed, operated and managed

Interview with Dr Jens Hirsch, Chief Scientific Officer at BuildingMinds
RE+D magazine

An exclusive interview, conducted under the auspices of this year’s RICS World Built Environment Forum 2023, where Dr. Jens Hirsch participated as a speaker on the panel discussion “Towards net zero: Analysing sustainability investment practices, ESG strategies, and beyond”.

BuildingMinds is one of the world's leading platforms enabling companies to drive the performance of their real estate portfolio manage, while aligning theis business needs with the demands of low carbon emissions and a sustainable future.

Data collection is notoriously difficult in the real estate industry. I understand that BuildingMinds offers a comprehensive solution to the practical aspects of this issue, but have you ever encountered lack of cooperation -e.g. from operators or tenants? If so, how do you address those issues?    

Data collection is indeed a critical aspect for our customers, as it enables them to identify potential improvements and meet regulatory requirements in the real estate industry. At BuildingMinds, we understand the challenges associated with data collection and have developed a comprehensive solution to address these practical issues.

To collect data, we offer a wide range of methods, including smart meters, utility provider integration, invoice scraping, and advanced estimation techniques. Our typical customers are large asset managers who manage hundreds or thousands of properties in their portfolios. Given the diverse nature of these portfolios, a one-size-fits-all approach is not feasible. Additionally, challenges may arise when tenants are unwilling to share their energy consumption data, and national data protection laws can pose obstacles in certain countries.

To tackle these issues, we assist our customers in utilizing all legally available avenues to collect accurate data. However, when this is not possible, we rely on energy ratings and building-specific benchmarks to fill any remaining data gaps. Our team of sustainability experts has compiled an extensive set of benchmarks, and our data estimation methodology incorporates factors such as occupancy and local weather conditions to ensure optimal results.

Ultimately, BuildingMinds is committed to working closely with our customers and overcoming any challenges that may arise in the data collection process. Our primary goal is to provide actionable insights that empower our clients to make informed decisions in managing their real estate portfolios.

How important are emerging technologies, such as AI, big data and IoT, in achieving ESG objectives? Do you expect that Industry 5.0 is here to transform property and real estate assets?

These technologies have the potential to transform property and asset management, enabling smarter decision-making, improving operational efficiency, and driving sustainability efforts.

At BuildingMinds, we leverage AI in several ways to support our clients in their ESG pursuits. For instance, we use AI to extract valuable data from energy performance certificates, enabling us to better understand the energy consumption patterns of buildings. Besides this, we utilize advanced machine learning models, which are trained using vast amounts of data, to deliver customized retrofit recommendations for our clients. These data-driven insights are tailored to each customer's unique requirements, ensuring that their property upgrades are both efficient and effective in meeting their sustainability goals.

Industry 5.0 represents the next phase of industrial evolution, characterized by a human-centric approach and a focus on sustainable development. In the context of property and real estate assets, Industry 5.0 has the potential to revolutionize the way buildings are designed, operated, and maintained. By integrating advanced technologies like AI, Big Data, and IoT with human expertise, Industry 5.0 aims to create a more sustainable, efficient, and responsive built environment.

The importance of emerging technologies in achieving ESG objectives cannot be overstated. With the advent of Industry 5.0, we expect a transformative shift in the real estate sector, driven by the seamless integration of technology and human-centered approaches. At BuildingMinds, we are committed to staying at the forefront of these technological advancements, ensuring that our clients are equipped with the tools and insights necessary to excel in the ever-evolving property landscape.

Innovative materials, renewable energy production or controlling energy consumption? If you had to choose, where would you mostly rely on, to achieve carbon neutrality sooner and better?     

It is essential to recognize that achieving carbon neutrality requires a tailored approach, considering the specific circumstances of each building and portfolio. A one-size-fits-all solution is not feasible, and we must rely on a mix of strategies to address the diverse challenges faced by the real estate industry in its pursuit of sustainability.

That being said, "efficiency first" – controlling energy consumption – is often considered a top priority. By focusing on improving energy efficiency, we can achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and drive sustainability across portfolios. This approach also tends to have a more immediate impact and can be cost-effective in many cases.

Innovative materials play a crucial role in reducing both operational GHG emissions and embodied carbon in new developments and construction projects. By using advanced materials, we can create more sustainable and energy-efficient buildings, thereby contributing to the overall decarbonization effort.

While renewable energy production is a vital component of the carbon neutrality equation, it is important to acknowledge that on-site energy production might not be feasible or significant for all buildings. Small-scale renewable energy installations can be helpful, but the optimal use of available resources should be prioritized. In some cases, on-site energy production may have high marginal costs or face other limitations that make it less attractive as a primary solution.

In conclusion, achieving carbon neutrality is a complex endeavor that requires a multifaceted approach. Controlling energy consumption, utilizing innovative materials, and leveraging renewable energy production where feasible all contribute to this goal. At BuildingMinds, we are dedicated to helping our clients assess their unique circumstances, develop tailored strategies, and maximize the positive environmental impact across their portfolios. By providing data-driven insights and expert guidance, we support our clients in accelerating their progress towards carbon neutrality and ensuring a more sustainable future for the real estate industry.

In the race towards net-zero, how important do you consider public policies and strategies -including subsidies- relevant to critical and emerging technologies? How relevant are deep tech innovations to the real estate sector?

These policies play a crucial role and should be aligned with scientific knowledge and prioritize cost-efficiency to ensure maximum impact. However, achieving net-zero emissions requires a comprehensive approach that also involves private initiatives and corporate citizenship to drive change in the real estate sector.

Deep tech innovations are highly relevant to the real estate industry, as they have the potential to unlock new pathways to decarbonization and enhance the overall sustainability of the built environment. Given the ambitious decarbonization requirements projected by initiatives like the CRREM project for 2050, it is evident that reaching these targets will be challenging without the development and widespread adoption of new technologies and innovative solutions.

The real estate sector must embrace deep tech innovations to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and create more sustainable buildings. By integrating these cutting-edge technologies with existing practices, the industry can transform its operations and make significant strides towards achieving net-zero goals.

In summary, public policies and strategies play a vital role in fostering the adoption of emerging technologies and deep tech innovations in the real estate sector. However, collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as a commitment to corporate citizenship, is essential for accelerating the industry's progress towards net-zero emissions. At BuildingMinds, we are dedicated to supporting our clients in navigating this complex landscape, providing data-driven insights and expert guidance to help them achieve their sustainability objectives.