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October 27, 2020

Connecting to the Future of Sustainability - One Building at a Time

Large Commercial Buildings

Steven is a facilities manager for 100,000 square feet of office space. He used to have to guess how his building was performing each day, as weather and use of the space changed constantly. He had no real line of sight to energy use, air management and comfort controls – and it was expensive and inefficient. That was before his building got smart – by getting connected.

Connected buildings are the gateway to providing better service and technology to customers. Insightful data allow for solutions that improve a building’s performance. This includes decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy savings, and helping building owners make the right decisions not just for their facilities, but for the planet.

Trane Technologies is a world leader in connected buildings, with more than 20,000 connected buildings in the U.S. and Europe, and over 1 million pieces of connected equipment.

We sat down with Dane Taival, vice president of digital and energy services, and Dave Molin, vice president, controls products from our Trane® Commercial business; experts in the current and future states of connectivity, with seemingly endless knowledge on the value of connected buildings’ data and how smart buildings impact sustainability.

Q: How do you define smart buildings, and why are they so meaningful?

Dane: Smart buildings can learn, adapt and improve. They are controllable and connectable – their systems utilize digital controls which send data to the Trane Intelligent Services cloud, providing us detailed information on how a building is running, where improvements can be made, and how to make them happen.

Trane has been connecting buildings and collecting data from them around the world for over 10 years, with tested, proven innovation yielding an enormous volume of perceptive data. Through highly efficient HVAC and integrated controls systems, we are able to minimize costs and energy use along with greenhouse gas emissions, while successfully managing productivity and comfort. That’s the most important aspect of smart buildings, and will continue to be as we connect even more facilities in the future.

Q: How do connected buildings increase sustainability?

Dane: Today, 15% of the world’s carbon emissions come from heating and cooling buildings, and the numbers are only increasing. Connected buildings play a vital part in overall increased sustainability, especially as we look at accelerating decarbonization and the shift to carbon neutral buildings.

Carbon neutral buildings employ three key components, which directly align with the need for exponential growth in the connected buildings space:

  • using less energy (i.e. improving energy efficiency; geothermal, for example)
  • buying better energy (such as renewable energy credits, demand saving strategies and energy storage which often have attractive utility cost savings)
  • self-generating more energy (like solar and wind)

Connectivity will also play an integral role in Trane Technologies’ 2030 Sustainability Commitments, including the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in our own operations, and in our Gigaton Challenge of reducing customers’ carbon emissions by one Gigaton – the equivalent of 2% of the world’s GHGs. The connectedness of equipment and systems will progressively make that calculation, and our success, in the Gigaton challenge very straightforward for us.

Q: What role do connected buildings play in the global pandemic?

Dave: The pandemic has accelerated the question of what’s possible in this space, especially as it relates to new technologies and innovative solutions.

There is increased importance around connectivity as buildings prepare to, or are, reopening, and building owners are thinking about how they can become more resilient in the future. We are seeing it every day. Connected buildings and equipment provide a more comprehensive, holistic approach to the reopening process, with the ability to remotely analyze and address issues more crucial now than ever before. With the collaboration of chief engineers, facilities managers and technicians – and their combined data analysis – you have a superhero support system looking at how to fully optimize these connected buildings and their advanced machine learning capabilities. Ultimately, we want to provide confidence of a safe and healthy indoor environment for both building owners and their occupants.

Q: How do connected buildings contribute to healthier indoor environments?

Dane: When you think about the impact of a safe, comfortable indoor environment, the most important asset is the people. The true return on investment in connecting buildings and optimizing their indoor environments can be found in the occupants.

The application of technology to solve for a building’s problems cannot be overstated. Connected buildings help monitor things like air flow, temperature, humidity, and air quality, providing objective measures to make needed adjustments. The data gathered from each unique, connected building gives us the best look into what to do for a building’s specific performance needs, and the subject matter expert interpretation of that data is crucial.

Q: What does the future of connectivity look like?

Dave: In today’s hyper-connected, data-driven world, there’s really no questioning whether you should connect your building now or in the future. Today is the day to connect your facilities and take advantage of operational insights from live, streaming data. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in the connected buildings and equipment spaces, but know there is still work to be done as an industry. Trane is excitedly looking forward to deploying even more inventive, state-of-the-art technologies, with more offerings that leverage building connectivity, data analysis and our in-house expertise.  A “disconnected” building will become a relic in the near future.

Dane: We also recognize the need to respond to global megatrends, like climate change and resource constraints. We’re operating right where these megatrends intersect with our technologies and innovation. In the next 10 years, we’ll see increased availability of connectivity, and data driving real-time action. That will change the industry, and will be the driving force behind operating smarter, more cost-effective and high-performing buildings.

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“Smart buildings can learn, adapt and improve. The true return on investment in connecting buildings and optimizing their indoor environments can be found in the occupants.”

Dane Taival, vice president of digital and energy services
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