The pandemic has accelerated a trend towards remote, flexible work. In fact, in 2021, a survey conducted in 12 countries reported that over 75 percent of workers believe that flexible working will become a standard practice in the coming years.

And while many are aware of the environmental benefits of working from home, with 6.4 percent reduction in carbon emissions from less frequent commuting, little has been said about the staggering emissions generated from home offices. In the first year of the pandemic alone, 500,000 employees from half of the 20 conglomerates surveyed globally emitted 134,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from remote working – that’s the equivalent of disposing of close to 3 trillion plastic straws.

Fast forward to today, as we enter the post-pandemic era, organizations are making conscious and tangible commitments to build a hybrid work culture that fosters human connection. Employees working from home are also considering designing their home offices for optimal comfort and productivity.

But this also means more carbon emissions, from both home offices and commercial buildings. Offices are now operating at full capacity, with only half the team present due to rotational work arrangements, while the other half are booting up computers and blasting the AC at home, with few to no energy-saving features.

In Singapore alone, buildings still account for over 20 percent of the country’s emissions and are responsible for over a third of the country’s total electricity consumption. Despite ongoing efforts to green 80 percent of buildings by 2030 as part of the Singapore Green Plan, to date, less than half of Singapore’s buildings have adopted green features.

Yet it has become more crucial than ever for us to do so, as we begin to feel the effects of climate change in recent years – including rising sea levels, and unprecedented heat waves across the globe. Implementing green solutions in buildings will play a pivotal role in the future of sustainability.

Challenges and benefits of implementing green solutions

So why aren’t organizations stepping up their greening efforts then? Well, one of the main contributing factors that deter public and private residential building owners from implementing green solutions is the high upfront costs for retrofitting, lack of technological knowledge to manage smart solutions, and strict regulatory restrictions.

But many might not notice how much these sustainable solutions have evolved to tackle these obstacles. Today, there are many green solutions available in the market, ranging from easily integrable AI sensors to centralized Building Management Systems (BMS) that can reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for both building owners and tenants in the long run.

For instance, Beblu’s AI sensors can easily be retrofitted into existing building structures, and owners and occupants can manage them seamlessly via an aggregated platform. This can save buildings up to 50 percent in energy consumption and 30 percent in water usage compared to traditional buildings, which translates to reduced electricity consumption and consequently lower utility bills by an average of 20 percent to 30 percent.

The future of green buildings

In the era of hybrid working, the continual greening of both commercial and residential buildings will be pivotal in advancing the global net zero target. Further to that, smart buildings can also significantly enhance productivity, reduce manpower costs and ensure comfort and security for the occupants in the building.

That is why governments all over the world are introducing new measures and initiatives for building owners to retrofit sustainable developments. In Singapore, under the Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings 2.0, building owners can tap on a $63 million incentive scheme to retrofit their buildings and make them more energy efficient. The World Green Building Council is also advancing the United Nations sustainability goals to raise awareness and facilitate the global transition towards low-emission, energy-efficient buildings.

Smart solutions such as a robust central building management system and AI sensors can not only help to reduce our collective carbon footprint but pave the way for new building integrations that can smoothen workflow for hybrid work arrangements.

The future of green buildings will also incorporate coworking elements that enable effective collaboration and communication. Applied well, these solutions and aggregated platforms can also bring local communities together for resource sharing in both commercial and residential buildings/spaces, through activities such as publicizing promotions and events.

Kenny Chai is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beblu.

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