As COP28 unfolds, a key thematic focus of today’s proceedings will be Urbanisation and the Built Environment, an area which we know represents huge untapped potential for driving systemic change. With far-reaching effects on lives, resilience, skills, job creation, and equity, the built environment is key to a net-zero future. Yet, surprisingly, governments worldwide still overlook the vast potential of our industry. COP28 presents a crucial opportunity to rectify this oversight.
On a positive note, for the first time, COP28 opened with a Local Climate Action Summit (LCAS), providing a formal platform for mayors and city officials at the heart of the multilateral negotiation space. The summit hosted by the COP presidencies recognised the critical role of local leaders in driving down emissions, addressing climate risk and driving climate progress at the national level. With cities responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the delegation called for fossil fuel phaseout, halving emissions by 2030 and more direct investment in cities to accelerate the fair and just transition to tackle the climate crisis.
However, recent findings from the Net-Zero Tracker, released on Monday 4th December, warned that of 88% of global emissions covered by intended net-zero targets, merely 7% have commitments to phase out coal, oil, or gas exploration, production, or use. And only 13% of countries committed to net-zero strategies have a comprehensive fossil fuel phase-out in their plans.
As an industry, the built environment sector recognises the critical threat of climate change and is ready to take action. However, as things currently stand, we are falling behind on our climate targets. Since 2015, emissions from the buildings sector have grown at an average rate of 1% each year, with global growth in floor area negating much of our sector’s efficiency and decarbonisation gains. We have the technology and many of the required skills to address the issue, but the need for improved and urgent policy is paramount to establish an action orientated framework that accelerates progress.
The readiness of the industry to change in order to reach net-zero targets was demonstrated in a recent collaborative industry whitepaper developed by IES and a number of industry contributors. The paper delved into the transformative potential of a whole-life performance modelling approach for designing and operating buildings, introducing the concept of Sleeping Digital Twins, a concept which re-imagines existing 3D design, energy compliance, and BIM models, exploring how they can evolve into dynamic digital twins to optimise operational building performance.
The whitepaper, encompassing insights from industry stakeholders and a comprehensive survey, revealed a collective enthusiasm for the Sleeping Digital Twin approach, with stakeholders recognising its potential to optimise building performance at every stage, aligning with critical net-zero carbon goals.
Ultimately, widespread adoption of whole-life performance modelling, fuelled by the reawakening of existing models, holds the key to steering the AEC sector away from a compliance-focused culture. Rather than designing buildings merely to meet minimum performance standards, extending and optimising the use of existing design models throughout a building's lifecycle ensures performance optimisation at every stage, driving progress towards crucial net-zero carbon goals.
At IES, our consultants have been working to turn the Sleeping Digital Twin theory into reality, and here we showcase some of our projects leading the movement:
IES have been supporting the net-zero ambitions of one of Ireland’s largest pensions company, having recently created four calibrated digital twins of commercial buildings within their portfolio, using its Sleeping Digital Twin process. All four of the buildings selected in this project had previously been modelled by IES for compliance purposes. However, the client recognised that they could utilise these existing Sleeping Digital Twins to start creating a plan to achieve net-zero status across their portfolio, knowing that these much more accurate models would allow them to test and compare different decarbonisation interventions with a much higher degree of confidence in the results.
Read the full case study.
Through a combination of detailed HVAC modelling, using IESVE, and intelligent data collection and analysis, via iSCAN, IES created a Digital Twin of a prominent Scottish building to help monitor and optimise energy performance, test proposed building technologies prior to install, support capital project planning and assess the environmental impact of the facility over time. IES Consulting initially provided services to the client back in 2009 when they undertook the building’s initial EPC assessment and, more recently, they have renewed the EPC for the building again. However, this project extends far beyond regulatory compliance.
Read the full case study.
Possilpark Health Centre
IES Consulting were commissioned by Health Facilities Scotland (HFS) to perform a post occupancy review of Possilpark Health Centre. The Health Centre was exhibiting comfort issues in a number of occupied spaces from both overheating and underheating. The work from the IES Consulting team enabled HFS to effectively understand the problems present in the health centre and focus its response towards viable solutions. This was achieved by enhancing the pre-existing design stage IESVE thermal model to represent the building in operation.
Read the full case study.
As net-zero targets loom ever closer, we cannot afford to be complacent and continue with the status quo. By recognising the role that each of us must play in the race to decarbonise, whether as an AEC practitioner, facilities manager, building owner or occupant, we can all play our part in supporting the shift towards a whole-life performance approach. We also need to be sharing stories of best practice, allowing others to learn from our successes so they can follow suit.
With this in mind, and to mark today’s focus on Urbanisation and Built Environment at COP28, we’re asking you to get involved in our Sleeping Digital Twins campaign and share with us your own project case studies where you have taken steps towards an integrated whole-life performance modelling approach and are taking operational performance into consideration. We’d love to hear your stories and share these with the industry to inspire others and broaden this movement as we push towards a net-zero built environment.
Complete your details here and we’ll be in touch.
Download the Sleeping Digital Twins Whitepaper.