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The buildings sector in climate action - a matter of digitization and perspective

Aktualisiert: 18. März 2022

According to the UN EP, buildings are causing about 40% of worldwide CO2 emissions.

Buildings and their usage belong to one of the most important drivers in climate change. Due to this fact, the sector as a whole and specially property owners and managers, face a major challenge: to operate all buildings globally in a climate neutral way to protect our environment, today and tomorrow. This problem-oriented view dominates climate debates around the building sector.

However, the other side of the coin faces real estate, with its significant role and remarkable contribution opportunities in the heat, energy and transport transition as well as digitization. Today, the sector still holds the potential of many undiscovered opportunities for reducing energy consumption, shrinking costs, improving daily life, and even protecting climate.

First and foremost:

Buildings are key enablers to three urgent transitions of our time.

  1. In the context of the energy transition, buildings are already indispensable players in energy production, storage, and usage. From now on, they will also produce and store energy themselves, for example with the help of photovoltaic systems on their roof and energy batteries beneath them. When needed, the building can supply itself, its tenants, or even other properties with green energy and bill them accordingly.

  2. With charging stations for e-mobility, our buildings will additionally become the charging stations of the future and thus a mandatory component of green mobility. The buildings sector and transport transition are pushing each other towards progress.

  3. Finally, heat transition is already on its way. It is a fundamental step on the way to NetZero buildings. "Such a transformation will have to rely on three cornerstones: energy efficiency, low-carbon district heating, and local renewable energy sources." (2)

In each of these contexts, major challenges arise for stakeholders and the environment. However, it is now up to us to take a new perspective and focus more on solutions rather than problems in order to speed up climate protection in the buildings sector. But even more than that, it's about digital solutions, which must be the basis for all progress.

"The time for action to decarbonize the existing and future building stock is now." - UN EP

But how? How do we meet the challenges of real estate at the right spot and create a future-proof sector with zero emissions? One of the most pressing opportunities for climate protection is attributed to the use of digital tools and benefits. Digitization is more than ever, one of the most powerful drivers for innovation and transition towards climate protection.

Does digitization equal climate action?

Yes, but not on its own.

According to a study published by dena, digital tools and applications are key enablers to improve interconnection between generation, transmission, storage and consumption of energy - in the best case: free from CO2 emissions. Information and communication technologies can help to successfully master the energy transition and are even a mandatory prerequisite in some sectors to enable networking and to realize the associated efficiency and synergy effects. (3)

Digital technologies, in general, can contribute more than a third of Germany's climate targets by 2030. This is proven by the results of a study by the digital association Bitkom, conducted by Accenture. In the seven areas examined, CO2e emissions (CO2e = carbon dioxide equivalents) in Germany can already be reduced by 152 megatons in 2030 by the targeted and accelerated use of digital solutions. This corresponds to 41 percent of what Germany still needs to save in order to achieve its own climate targets. (4)

According to the Bitkom study "The digital economy‘s impact on the climate", it is even possible to save 16 megatons of CO2e with moderate digitization in the use case of smart homes and connected buildings. With accelerated digitization we can even achieve up to 19 megatons - a potential that we should and must take seriously to correct the sins of the building sector and transform it into a positive influence for life, people and the environment. (6)

There's still a lot to do

"As smart building technologies mature, companies are finding new opportunities to improve their commercial spaces, making them more energy-efficient, cost-effective, and improving the working environment. Smart building functions span a range of technologies, each of which can be used on its own, or in conjunction with others to derive even more benefits." (5)

Nevertheless: In one of our former blog entries, we highlighted the number of 1,000 buildings that would have to be digitally equipped in Germany every day starting today (including Sundays and public holidays) to meet current climate targets 2030. From today's perspective and in the longer term, there are not enough installation capacities to achieve these objectives.

Starting is the best start

There's no time for problem seeking. What we need are practical and digital solutions.

Digitization is our best shot for climate action in the buildings sector, and of course - we can't digitize every building from one day to another. Therefore, we have made it our mission to contribute the climate-oriented digitization of properties by highly automated Digital Twins combined with a standardized NetZero methodology. Thus, we have launched the ETA+ platform for fully integrated energy and building management leading to climate neutrality.

Want to learn more? Book a demo or contact our experts via



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