Buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of annual carbon dioxide emissions. Of that 40%, 28% can be attributed to everyday building operations including heating and cooling. As the world moves toward adopting changes to reduce CO2 emissions, building owners will play a large role in whether those decarbonization efforts succeed. For some building owners, the decision of whether or not to work toward decarbonization may not be entirely up to them. Several local governments, including D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have taken legislative or executive action to force building owners to cut their CO2 emissions or face hefty fines.
Of course, telling owners they need to reduce the level of carbon dioxide they release into the air is only half the battle. Many may not know where to begin, what changes they need to make, or even how much CO2 their building is currently emitting.
Bisnow sat down with Gerardo Molina, a sales engineer at Boland, a holistic building services provider and commercial HVAC company, to learn more about what building owners need to understand about decarbonization, what they should be doing to reduce their carbon footprint and how the right HVAC tools can help.
Bisnow: What do building owners need to know about decarbonization?
Molina: The first thing is that if they don't know about decarbonization, they need to know that it's coming. It's not a matter of whether it's coming, it's just a matter of time. It will impact buildings of all types by fundamentally changing the way they are heated. From an engineering perspective, we currently cool buildings with electricity, but moving forward, decarbonization laws will not allow us to continue utilizing natural gas for both comfort heating and domestic hot water. In order to combat this, the equipment building owners typically have access to today will need to be applied in slightly different ways. There is also new equipment under development designed to help meet decarbonization goals. Building owners need to educate themselves so that they're not caught flat-footed and they’re able to stay ahead of the curve.
Bisnow: How does legislation come into play?
Molina: Legislation is going to be the driver for the decarbonization movement. Many jurisdictions, including New York, Boston and large parts of Canada, already have policies in place that don't allow natural gas to even be brought into some new buildings. Policies like that are going to push this movement forward.
Bisnow: What are some of the biggest challenges building owners will face in their decarbonization efforts?
Molina: There will be quite a few. In the past, natural gas has been relatively cheap, so some owners will see an uptick in their energy spend and perhaps in their upfront costs as well when they adopt some of the new technologies that are going to be hitting the market. Additional training might be required for building engineers or facility management staff in order to operate and maintain this new equipment.
I also think owners are going to have to rethink the hot water temperatures that they use in their buildings. Historically, we've used up to 180-degree hot water, and in some places up to 200-degree hot water, in order to heat buildings, but most new technologies will not allow water temperatures to get that high. While it may be aggravating to reconfigure their current system, owners will see an improvement in the overall efficiency of their building by using lower-temperature water in both domestic hot water and comfort cooling applications. This will give them more equipment options and also improve the overall efficiency of the building.
This transition might be a little bit difficult to navigate, but at Boland, we have the expertise to guide our clients through this process and set them up for current and future success.
Bisnow: How can you help clients move toward decarbonization?
Molina: We focus on the building so that our clients can focus on their mission. We can help them achieve decarbonization goals across every step of the building life cycle. Regardless of the building type, we can help our clients design and implement HVAC systems that utilize heat pumps and heat recovery technologies that can both cool and heat their buildings without the use of natural gas. We're also a leader in the next generation of low global warming potential refrigerants, which can further help our clients minimize their environmental footprint.
We also offer advanced control systems that help to integrate and optimize the HVAC systems, regardless of whether it’s a small project or enterprise management of an entire campus. Decarbonization relies on renewable energy, so in order for this equation to work, the power generation needs to be fueled by solar, wind or other types of renewable energy.
Another option we can help building owners explore is the use of thermal energy storage in the form of ice tanks that can be charged at night when the energy costs are low and discharged during the day when that energy needs to be utilized.
We also have the ability to monitor equipment and proactively plan for preventative maintenance and upgrades as needed. We have service agreements, in-house parts and supplies, rental services and highly skilled service technicians that help keep the building online and operating as designed while working toward decarbonization goals.
This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Boland. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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