Smart buildings will be the fabric of the Greater Bay Area

December 06, 2023 10:21
Photo: Xinhua

With buildings now at the center of corporate thinking on sustainability, there is a keen appetite for modern, environmentally-friendly building designs – and nowhere more so than here in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), where a new wave of construction is on the horizon. There is growing awareness that old building methods and designs involve a high environmental cost. Besides being a major element of business operations and investment, buildings are currently responsible for approximately 40 percent of global energy consumption and 33 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Smart designs

For this reason, smart buildings are increasingly seen as a necessity for corporations and decision-makers around the world. They can transform offices into energy-efficient spaces that help businesses meet GHG emission reduction targets and ever-evolving regulatory requirements. These buildings can also be a means to attract talent, offer users a differentiated experience, and drive operational excellence.

In the GBA, the onus is already shifting to businesses and property developers to design greener buildings and demonstrate their involvement in a smarter and more sustainable economic region. Fortunately, new technological approaches to building operations have the potential to make a big difference in terms of sustainability and efficiency.

Smart future

The cities of the GBA, including Hong Kong, are currently working together to build a cohesive city cluster that promotes the free flow of talent, logistics, capital, and other elements within the region. The results of these efforts will be visible on a vast scale. The GDP of the GBA is projected to reach a staggering USD 5.8 trillion by 2040, which will be equivalent to around 2.3% of global GDP.

Smart building will enable the GBA to achieve its goal of becoming a global epicenter of trade and productivity. As the GBA’s Outline Development Plan sets out, there is a strong environmental agenda to “promote the adoption of green and low-carbon production methods and lifestyles as well as modes of urban development and operation, provide a good ecological environment for residents, and facilitate sustainable development of the Greater Bay Area.” Ensuring the region continues to develop in an environmentally sustainable direction will involve a concerted focus on green construction.

InvestHK published a whitepaper in March this year outlining a roadmap for Hong Kong to become a leader in the development of smart green buildings in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has set out a series of environmental protection policies to mitigate environmental pollution, support environmental technology and green buildings, advocate energy saving and waste reduction, and strengthen environmental education to build a sustainable future for the city.

Amid China’s already substantial environmental and sustainability targets, the GBA may well become the spearhead for yet more advanced regulation and standards to come. GBA regulators are now pushing several pilot schemes for decarbonization projects, including in construction, that will embrace international disclosure and verification standards and help foster a regional green-finance ecosystem, according to the Hong Kong Green Finance Association.

Smart operations

Smart buildings have the capacity to optimize energy usage through energy conservation measures (ECMs) such as automated HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) controls and smart lighting, real-time energy monitoring, and predictive maintenance, contributing significant cost savings for building owners and operators. They can also leverage data from various IoT-enabled sensors to provide inhabitants with a healthier, more comfortable, and more personalized environment.

For example, in our recently completed Cisco PENN 1 building in New York, sensors monitor occupancy and the environment, allowing the office to intelligently react. This kind of system greatly simplifies management, reducing costs and facilitating hybrid or other work patterns which sometimes result in variable occupancy. Smart buildings provide the data firms need to run their buildings efficiently and enable them to adapt to new circumstances.

Smart planning

Creating smart buildings involves smart planning. Each business has its own particular needs, not to mention the fact that occupants, facility managers, and business executives can all have very different priorities. This complexity makes it essential for organizations to establish what they want from a smart building and create a roadmap for how to achieve it, tying in all the many factors and stakeholders.

Companies usually need to bring in experts to develop and convert their digital strategies into transformative and seamless user experiences. In order to achieve their goals, organizations need a professional, end-to-end approach that takes into account user needs, the journey of interactions with the technology, and an intelligent infrastructure. Finding a synergy between user-centric design and robust technical foundations is key to building enhanced usability and future-proof solutions.

The shift to smart buildings involves a range of new partnerships and expertise for most major businesses, but is an indispensable step forward for a region with its eyes on the future. Intelligent building is both a transformative necessity and also a huge opportunity to provide truly green, technologically sophisticated places to live and work.

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General Manager, Cisco Hong Kong, Macau and South China