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Urbanization: The climate crisis demands smarter, local and urban action

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Rapid urbanization will be one of the greatest challenges we will face in achieving our collective net zero emissions goals. This major global trend has been discussed and analyzed for decades, and today, as the data suggests, its acceleration requires a smarter, cleaner, faster response.

Two titles for 2022 really highlight the point. The first, published by the United Nations in October, notes that “there is no reliable way today to prevent a rise in global temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.” According to the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, “In order to improve the situation, a comprehensive, rapid and fossil-free reform of our supply sectors is needed. Energy, industry, transport and construction, as well as the food and financial systems… And it must happen faster.”

The second was issued in November, also by the United Nations, to mark November 15 as the day the world’s population reached 8 billion, an increase of 1 billion people from 2010. The United Nations predicts that the next step will be passed in 2037, when the planet’s population will reach to 9 billion people.

Urbanization will continue to be the defining theme for the next 50 years, highlighting the need for cleaner air, lower emissions, smarter infrastructure and equitable spaces to live and work, and this phenomenon is accelerating. Millions of people are returning in droves to urban environments. By 2030, it is estimated that the world will have 43 megacities (cities with a population of more than 10 million).

The population is growing and yet our ability to mitigate the most damaging aspects of this growth appears to be running out of steam. According to the United Nations, “Cities are responsible for 75% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and buildings being among the largest contributors.”

Building digitization is the heart of the problem

Earlier this week, Matthias Rebelius, Managing Director of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, spoke at the World Economic Forum in a panel discussion entitled “ Net Zero localization He noted that one of the biggest barriers to digital adoption for building or campus owners could be the integration of existing systems and technologies. This is a critical first step in getting a comprehensive picture of energy use.

When Mr. Rebellius talks to building owners and managers, he often hears that they’ve made a series of incremental changes to their sites, such as adding sensors for lighting or installing a new building management system for heating and cooling. They often point to difficulties with older hardware, where individual systems operate in isolation and give a disjointed picture.

Without a clear baseline for utilization, most building owners will struggle to make significant changes that will reduce CO2 emissions.

Creating a single point of data management, collection and interpretation is the first step in auditing and managing the energy and emissions of our buildings.

Building X is the antidote to these data silos. We can now connect all the data generated by a smart building into a single point, or as we call it, a “data lake”. Building X enables integration of existing building software and ecosystem, including third-party applications, through open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), all with the strongest cyber security.

Siemens already analyzes more than 3 million data points per day, in thousands of buildings around the world.

Not only is this data essential for reducing emissions and energy consumption, but it can also provide insights into maintenance programs and occupant safety. On average, users achieve up to 30% energy savings, 30% reduction in maintenance and 45% reduction in equipment downtime.

Think globally and act locally

The solution is to think of the entire system. Only when the energy entering the building comes from renewable sources, the grid itself is smart, district heating is widely deployed, and incremental load balancing storage is deployed, can we begin to truly reduce the energy use of our buildings and in many sectors.

At Siemens, our strategy has always been to work with our partners and connect with local challenges and the skills to solve them. This is what we call “glocalization” and it is a strategy that was mentioned at the World Economic Forum by Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens. We need to find the right decentralized solutions at the city level, whether it’s district heating with our partner Cetetherm or producing and using hydrogen in a small town like Wunsiedel, Germany. As history has shown us time and time again, when we work together, join forces and double our impact, we can build a better future.

As millions of people return to cities around the world, new megacities appear every year. However, cities are still home to only half of Asia’s population, and Africa is still mostly rural. They account for only 2% of the Earth’s surface, but their resource consumption is much greater. How we construct, extend and modify buildings in these urban centers will be central to our fight against climate change and massive urbanization. It’s time to build the world we want to live in.

Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Matthias Rebellius (Branvoice: Siemens Smart Infrastructure)

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