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Regulators, investors and consumers alike are all calling for organizations to be greener and more earth friendly — and, importantly, to be transparent and specific in how they’re doing so.
As such, organizations are understanding the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs, as well as skepticism around greenwashing (unsubstantiated claims of a company’s environmental friendliness).
And, while many organizations have committed to (very often) ambitious energy and carbon targets, “it’s no longer enough to just make a public commitment, or have the capacity to report ESG performance,” said Logan Soya, founder of ESG and data analytics firm Aquicore. “Can you show how you will achieve that commitment, and demonstrate that you are improving performance?”
And, particularly in real estate — typically considered an energy hog — the focus is shifting from ambition to action, said Soya.
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To help real estate organizations in this transformation, building intelligence software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Infogrid today announced that it has acquired Aquicore to provide a combined ESG analytics and carbon management platform.
“We need a credible path towards a net-zero future, and commercial real estate plays a huge role in this,” said Will Cowell de Gruchy, founder and CEO of Infogrid.
Moving toward net zero
Across industries, there’s no question that power consumption is of greater and greater concern.
This is exacerbated by the fact that power prices are reaching new heights, due to a surge in oil and natural gas prices caused by market, geographic and political factors, said Gartner VP analyst Julia Palmer. Price volatility is also high, she said. And, when it comes to data centers, organizations are facing exponential data growth that is increasing faster than power efficiency gains.
“Energy is climbing up the corporate agenda, due to its impact on environmental, social and business risks,” said Palmer.
Buildings, particularly, have become the single biggest carbon offender, accounting for 39% of the world’s emissions, according to Infogrid.
All told, the buildings and buildings construction sector are responsible for 30% of total global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector emissions. This is across appliances and equipment, buildings and envelopes, heating, light pumps, data centers and data transmission networks.
Thus, the real estate sector plays a critical role in reducing environmental impact and increasing resilience to environmental risks. And the industry is taking note: Per PwC’s report Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2023, 82% of real estate sector respondents consider ESG elements when making investment or operational decisions.
As well as being essential, there are numerous benefits, said de Gruchy. “Improved efficiency leads to cost reduction, and healthier buildings lead to happier occupants,” he said. “It’s a win, win, win scenario: for businesses, for people and for the planet.”
Overcoming barriers to ESG adoption
Yet, many organizations struggle to implement ESG programs.
In real estate, a primary hurdle is capturing all the data necessary to measure, benchmark, and disclose ESG performance for large portfolios of diverse buildings across different geographies and circumstances, said Soya.
“The issues with data access and quality exist on multiple fronts and can create many barriers to an ESG program,” he said.
The joining of Infogrid and Aquicore will help to enable real-time ESG analytics data and reporting for global commercial real estate clients, while also delivering a complete carbon management platform, said de Gruchy.
Infogrid’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered SaaS platform collects, combines and analyzes building data points through IoT sensors, delivering real-time intelligence to corporate real estate landlords and facilities management executives. The company has collected more than 18 billion data points from enterprise customers worldwide, said de Gruchy.
Aquicore, meanwhile, leverages advanced data science and machine learning (ML) algorithms to provide real estate institutions with ESG data and helps them identify and execute efficiency projects and decarbonization strategies and work toward achieving their energy and emissions reduction targets, said Soya.
The two companies have “a shared purpose,” said de Gruchy: To drive commercial real estate toward a net-zero future.
One practical example of their combined expertise, he said, would be overlaying existing Infogrid products that collect occupancy and air quality data with Aquicore energy consumption data. This can show the correlation between the three factors, allowing for more powerful recommendations for operational improvements.
Together, the companies “will be able to deliver a far more complete ESG reporting and reduction proposition for the commercial real estate sector,” said de Gruchy.
Better building management
Leveraging IoT in buildings remains underserved compared to other industries and verticals within tech, said de Gruchy. And automation, if applied in the right way, can play a critical role in key environmental areas, such as water conservation.
For example, pipe monitoring solutions are important in large buildings that often have miles of water supply piping. Traditional, non-tech-enabled solutions require all outlets and taps to be flushed for five minutes every week or month to ensure water isn’t stagnating and creating the conditions in which the Legionella bacterium (a lethal water-borne disease) can thrive.
Infogrid customers can monitor temperature and water flow remotely via sensors and AI to determine which taps and pipes require manual flushing, he explained. Typically, this is fewer than 2% of taps, meaning that 98% of water is wasted in preventative line flushing (not to mention the natural gas expended to heat that water).
This also reduces the need for engineers to visit building sites as regularly, providing additional climate-related savings through emissions prevention, as well as overall cost reductions.
As a use case, Sodexo achieved a 91% time saving using Infogrid’s pipe-monitoring solution. Similarly, a leading financial services firm saved 33,000 gallons of water and 379 hours of engineers’ flush time in one building in just the first six months of deployment. Overall, this resulted in 98% carbon footprint reduction for the task, said de Gruchy.
A more efficient built environment
The announcement comes following a period of high growth for Infogrid, with demand increasing as the result of rising energy costs and the shift to hybrid work. Aquicore, meanwhile, has deployed its tools in more than 1,000 buildings (totaling more than 300 million square feet) with 100,000 actively monitored devices.
The amount was not disclosed, but as part of the deal, Aquicore’s 60-person team will join Infogrid and Soya will join Infogrid’s senior leadership team. The two companies will continue offering their respective, complementary products to real estate clients as they begin the long-term integration-planning process, said Soya.
As he noted, “we firmly believe that it is imperative to reduce energy consumption and emissions within the built environment and have been working towards that goal as our core mission.”