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Property owners and investors, facilities managers and building operators are all keeping a keen eye on the messages coming from state and federal politicians. Environmental policy has shifted from a fringe issue into a major electoral concern with policies about mining, deforestation, electric vehicles and alternative energy all being wrapped up in a global movement towards Net Zero carbon emissions.

While those policy goal posts seem to rapidly keep shifting, the reality is that the destination of Net Zero carbon emissions is inevitable. What we don’t know is the regulatory timeline. However, it’s clear that the majority of climate scientists and the general public are pushing for massive reductions in carbon emissions to be achieved before this decade is over. And while that may seem a long way off, in the life of large capital assets like buildings and all the plant equipment they need, it is not long at all.

There is a significant opportunity and benefit for stakeholders in the built environment to move ahead of the political rhetoric and gain reputational advantage with their key stakeholders. By shooting for Net Zero now, savvy property owners and investors can stay ahead of government regulation and position themselves as leaders. This means that, in an increasingly competitive market for tenants, property owners can differentiate themselves from laggards in the industry.

Existing building assets are often the result of many years of investment and expansion. Due to this, they operate a variety of equipment of different ages, efficiency and effectiveness. But really understanding if a plant is operating at its peak performance is about more than just the age of its equipment. The only way to really understand how much energy, and by extension how much carbon it is emitting, is through data.

Over recent months, the Prime Minister has been talking about how technology will help Australia achieve Net Zero emissions. Much of the focus has been on the use of alternative fuels such as batteries, more solar, establishing hydrogen for transport and other alternatives. But scant attention has been given to maximising the efficiency of existing buildings and equipment.

The lowest carbon emitting and cheapest energy a building owner or operator can access is the energy they don’t use. In order to reduce carbon emissions, building owners and operators need to understand, in detail, how their plant and equipment is operating, and how to maximise efficiency and reduce downtime. And that means using intelligent software to extract that data and present it in a useful way that allows property owners and managers to make informed decisions about how they use the equipment they have and to help them make better choices when it comes to fixing, decommissioning or replacement.

In the past, those decisions would have most likely been made through a largely financial lens. But the perfect storm of government policy and the changing expectations of prospective tenants and property buyers means environmental concerns are now near the top of the list when considering how to procure and operate plants and equipment.

Today’s political environment can not be ignored by the owners and managers of large buildings. Whether we look at shopping centres, airports, museums, office towers or any other large building, the writing is on the wall for clunky, poorly configured equipment that uses excessive energy and is responsible for excessive carbon emissions.

As emissions reductions targets become stricter, there will be a need to not just reduce emissions and reach Net Zero but to also have the data to demonstrate compliance with enforcement regimes that will be part of new rules that will be enforced.

The Prime Minister is right when he says technology will be a major element in achieving Net Zero emissions. But it’s not all about hardware. Getting smart with software can make an immediate impact that not only gets you on the road to Net Zero but saves you money today.

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