Can AI Help Commercial Landlords Comply With MEES?

Can Artificial Intelligence Help Commercial Landlords Comply With MEES Regulations?
22 November 2022

As the expansion of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for commercial buildings draws closer, are EPC assessments enough to truly measure energy efficiency?

Andrew Fitzpatrick, Director, Business Development UK at BrainBox AI, explains how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be an ally for owners and investors as they navigate the changing regulatory environment in the UK.

Andrew Fitzpatrick leads all UK business development activities for BrainBox AI, including sales and managing key strategic partnerships. Prior to joining BrainBox AI, Andrew developed nearly ten years of sales, engineering and commercialization experience across Canada, the US, and the UK, creating expertise in the implementation of digital real estate solutions. Some of his most notable work to date includes a series of highly complex multi-million building projects, including the Battersea Power Station redevelopment project. Andrew holds an MBA in Business Administration from the Bayes School of Business and a BA in Engineering from McGill University.

Changes to Energy Efficiency Compliance

Due to the increased volatility of energy markets during 2022 energy efficiency has increased on the agendas of facility managers. Additional impetus has also come from legislative changes implemented before the war in Ukraine, including upcoming changes to the legislative landscape resulting from the extension of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) to the commercial building sector to cover.

From 1 April 2023, MEES will apply to commercial landlords as well as residential landlords; they are prohibited from granting, renewing or extending tenancies unless they achieve the required level of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) E, with certain exceptions. A recent government white paper and subsequent consultations have proposed raising future requirements to an EPC rating of C by 2027 and B by 2030.

The EPC has provided energy efficiency at a glance guidance for many years and therefore a reference for assessing the cost of energy bills. Factors considered include the amount of energy used per m² and the level of carbon dioxide emissions.

“Although EPC standards help to boost the basic energy efficiency of buildings, the rating only provides a corresponding picture at a certain point in time. In order to make the best possible use of energy for cooling and heating commercial real estate, need more. dynamic assessments.”

Are Single EPCs Enough?

Extending MEES to the commercial sector will help improve energy efficiency standards but EPCs alone are arguably flawed. The EPC assessment only compares to a checklist-like approach and provides for any assessments or measurements of the working conditions of building functions.

Furthermore, MEES only addresses one side of the carbon footprint equation for commercial real estate. Buildings are currently responsible for 39 percent of global energy-related carbon emissions: 28 percent of which come from operational emissions resulting from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the 11 percent next from materials and construction.

To achieve further reductions in emissions, managers of commercial building facilities will need to adopt big data solutions to maximize the operational energy efficiency of their buildings.

Although EPC standards help to boost the basic energy efficiency of a building, the rating only provides a corresponding picture at a certain point in time. Optimizing energy use for cooling and heating commercial real estate requires more dynamic assessments. These evaluations can be provided by analyzing data and fine-tuning HVAC systems depending on occupancy, sunlight exposure, ambient temperature and many other variables.

However, performing dynamic assessments and adjustments at scale in a commercial building would require much larger facility management teams. Any cost savings that owners and owner-operators might see from that work would likely be mitigated if that highly skilled labor were implemented. This is why progressive facilities management teams are increasingly looking to technology solutions. These can take the available data and make those adjustments in real time throughout the building.

Where such technology is underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI) it can also help reduce the strain on a building’s HVAC systems, which can help extend their operational lifespan.

Looking to the future, this type of facility management technology could also help maximize local energy use through load sharing or shifting and possibly further minimize carbon emissions by aligning energy use with energy supply. This could allow buildings to use energy from renewable sources in favor of fossil fuel production.

Improving UK Energy Standards

AI works to promote improved energy efficiency through the real-time evaluations it offers to optimize energy use. A more focused regulatory framework will force landlords and building managers to apply the full capabilities of AI in a tailored way. MEES does a great job addressing the quality of fabric and building equipment but doesn’t do as well at measuring operational energy use.

A great out-of-the-box standard that is already making progress in the UK is the new NABERS UK standard, a more detailed six-star energy efficiency rating system. This model accounts for component services within the building that affect energy use, including heating, cooling systems, elevators, lobby lighting and more.

NABERS provides a data-driven approach with a high level of granularity that provides much more information for evaluation. To that end, the data approach fits well with AI, which is rooted in data and real-time responses. Embedding the NABERS UK system more deeply into building requirements will take time, but there are lessons that can be applied from the NABERS experience in Australia.

Dynamic and Rapid Building Performance

AI will be key to understanding building performance in a fast and dynamic way. IEA statistics show that in 2021 the operation of buildings will account for 30 percent of global final energy consumption and 27 percent of total energy sector emissions, demonstrating the value of optimized building energy performance.

The technology is now in place to empower us to move away from the days of assessments that are done once every 6 months, 12 months, or 5 years. Live data is available and should be used to quickly identify underperforming assets or equipment and recommend changes.

AI capabilities can be taken one step further by allowing real-time autonomous action on suggestions to avoid wasted energy. After all, the cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use in the first place.

Picture: photograph of Andrew Fitzpatrick speaking at a lecture. Image Credit: BrainBox AI

Article written by Andrew Fitzpatrick | Published 22 November 2022


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