The Path to Drawdown: Building Automation Systems
Buildings and construction account for 38% of the total global CO2 emissions and 35% of total energy use. And much of the energy use in buildings is the result of heating and air-conditioning, lighting, information and communications systems, security and access systems, fire alarms, elevators, appliances, and indirectly through plumbing.
Most large commercial buildings in high-income countries have some sort of centralized, computer-based building management system that monitors, evaluates, and controls these systems. That centralized computer-based management is called the building automation system. Building automation systems use sensors to constantly scan and rebalance energy use to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. New buildings can be equipped with a building automation system from the start, and old ones can be retrofitted to incorporate it and reap its benefits.
Adopting automated rather than manual building management systems can result in over 20% more efficient heating and cooling, and 8% more efficient energy use for light, appliances, etc.
Current adoption of building automation systems ranges widely by country. Project Drawdown estimates that, for building automation systems to make a significant dent in global emissions, their adoption needs to grow particularly rapidly in developing countries:
- In 2018, over 75% of buildings in some high-income countries were managed by automated systems while some developing regions have not adopted them at all.
- By 2050, if building automation systems are adopted by 100% of commercial buildings in OECD countries, 80% in China, and 50% in all other regions, it can help avoid up to 10.48 gigatons of CO2 emissions.
Comfort Systems USA, Inc. (stock ticker: FIX) provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning installation, maintenance, repair and replacement services in the mechanical services industry. Headquartered in Texas, the company has 38 operating units in 114 cities and 142 locations throughout the United States. In addition to standard HVAC services, it also provides specialized applications like building automation control systems.
FIX's Role in Drawdown
Comfort Systems building automation service enables their customers to automate, control, and monitor their HVAC, lighting, access control, video surveillance, energy management systems, and even share their building data with other enterprise-wide business systems.
When providing this service, Comfort Systems works with all major control system manufactures and provides solutions representing every major product offering in the marketplace.
Customer end-use sectors (p. 5) include industrial, education, office buildings, healthcare, government, retail, restaurant and entertainment, multi-family and residential.
The demand (p. 4) for building automation control systems is fueled by the growth and aging of the installed base of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and changing requirements from increasing technology deployment.
Compared to their other services and construction, though, building automation systems accounts for a small part of Comfort Systems’ total revenue - around 4%-5% (p. 54).
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On the sustainability front, Comfort Systems have implemented a number of energy- and emissions-saving practices in their facilities, like LED lighting, paperless construction sites, and a refrigerant management program.
They’re also in the planning phase of important steps (p. 32) toward enhancing the transparency of their sustainability reporting. In the near future, they’ll be:
- Tracking and reporting on their sustainability progress through Ecovadis submissions
- Reporting on their GHG inventory
- Developing a policy to transition their fleet to electric and hybrid
- Adhering to TCFD reporting guidelines to disclose climate change-related risks and opportunities
- Submitting to the CDP to identify business efficiencies and related cost reduction while also enhancing climate reporting