How The Cities Of The World Can Achieve Game Changing Urban Sustainability

Our world is undergoing its most rapid urbanization in history. Iconic cities, such as New York, Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore and Dubai are the most recent in an ancient tradition of urban settlements, as old as the story of civilization itself. From Venetian blinds and Damascus steel to Hyderabadi Biryani and Calico fabric, history demonstrates the power of cities to bring together elaborate support systems, human expertize and markets; resulting in high quality products and services.

Much of human excellence has stemmed from the stable and resilient shelter, nutrition, healthcare, education and commerce that cities make possible. As we stand at the cusp of the next great leap in human civilization and empowerment, the world’s cities are once again central to reconciling unprecedented standards in quality of life, economic activity and sustainability.

Cities are a powerful a way to organize human society, but inadequate urban planning and subpar infrastructure can result in huge negatives as well. Bad strategies and poor implementation can lead to considerable negatives in every metric, from the lifestyles of residents to adverse ecological impact. Modern cities have to take proactive decisions now, to produce cascading benefits for current residents, as well as for future generations.

In May 2019, New York took on an initiative that could set the ultimate standard in urban sustainability: the Climate Mobilization Act. It calls for New York to meet 100% of its electricity needs carbon-free, by 2040. In fact, the initiative will eventually make the city carbon neutral. This is an ambitious target to meet and enhancing renewable energy capacities will be part of the strategic approach needed. However, making infrastructure more energy efficient could be even more crucial.

Leveraging data to achieve the pinnacle of sustainability and optimal performance

For a modern city to be carbon neutral, its infrastructure must be elevated to a ‘smart’ status. Upgrading existing buildings with physical retrofit solutions has been an effective option to improving performance and the technologies associated with this approach are constantly improving. In addition to this strategy, enterprise wide platforms, that collect data from existing automation and deliver continuous performance control, are beginning to make their mark. Software based and centralized platforms are the basis for the Digital Retrofit approach, that can build upon the efficiencies of a physical retrofit, to gain multi-fold efficiency.

According to a 2017 study, New York’s buildings were responsible for almost 70% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. As daunting as the task to reduce this figure may seem, retrofitted technologies can help make such dramatic outcomes a reality. In fact, this may be the only viable strategy to transform the world’s current inventory of buildings into smart, sustainable assets. What’s more, Digital Retrofits are rapid to deploy, relatively low cost, and an innovation that could transform the ecological credentials of our civilization.

Unlocking optimal performance, through real time integration

The centralized platform, in the Digital Retrofit approach, gathers real-time performance data using IoT connectivity, and delivers actionable insights, using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. By adding a layer of extensive command and control, this approach is able to empower existing infrastructure at much lower costs than pure hardware retrofits.

This continuous optimization of assets and resources is delivered in tandem with existing in situ equipment. Much like the IoT, AI and data-led revolution in manufacturing and other heavy

industries, commercial real estate owners and facilities managers can now achieve efficiencies that their processes and systems were not capable of previously.

Carbon neutral, but with enhanced performance

Digital Retrofits address the concerns of all stakeholders. They are able to transform the occupant experiences buildings deliver, ensure greater profitability for operators, and address the big picture goal of sustainable operations. Another of its great strengths is that it also enhances the commercial value of the property that deploys it. Continuous control over energy and resource consumption leads to lower running costs, and the value additions delivered to tenants yield better occupancy rates and higher perceived property value.

Digital Retrofits are also a powerful tool in addressing climate change and creating solutions that reconcile abundance with sustainability. As a strategy to manage buildings and urban infrastructure, it is the perfect counterpart to the other groundbreaking tech solutions in renewable energy and sustainable living.

Transformative impact for the future

In a future yet to come, Digital Retrofits may end up being celebrated as a keystone solution that helped humanity undo the damage we have caused the environment, in decades and centuries past. Already a city that captures the imagination because of its iconic landmarks, New York is well poised to reinforce its reputation as a change maker through its leadership in tech driven sustainability.

Within the Indian context, opportunities to leapfrog performance by several generations are even more significant – especially given the sheer population our cities are home to. With leading industry players embracing the power of technology in urbanization, it could unlock India’s potential to achieve unprecedented sustainability outcomes

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