This week GreenTech Media looked at how Washington, DC, is embracing Big Data analytics to achieve far greater energy efficiency across the city’s building stock. In partnership with Massachusetts-based FirstFuel, the U.S. capital city is aiming to make 30 million square feet of its buildings use less energy. The approach relies on a “virtual energy audit,” which uses Big Data to analyze weather data, a building’s location and, most importantly, its meter data on a 15-minute interview. The result is that building owners are able to identify opportunities for savings. Even better: Many of those savings, like eliminating instances of simultaneous heating and cooling, cost nothing to implement. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the savings found in an initial 25-building pilot could be achieved with operational changes that carried little to no cost. FirstFuel’s approach recalls Microsoft’s own work with Big Data-enabled smart buildings, including a pilot in the city of Seattle that is expected to achieve energy savings of up to 25 percent.
Of course, sustainable cities don’t always look like the IT-rich cities that companies like Microsoft and FirstFuel are creating. Sometimes they look like the airport of the future, much like the new Incheon International Airport in South Korea, which FastCoExist examined in a story on the airport’s design. Totaling 2 million square feet in size, Incheon’s airport includes a range of designs intended to reduce the airport’s environmental footprint, including building-integrated photovoltaics and a liberal use of skylights to reduce need for artificial lighting. Even cooler: the airport’s air conditioning systems was designed only to cool areas of the airport within ten feet of where passengers are—and not empty spaces. It’s a great example of how buildings of the future are getting smarter in every way possible.