Autonomous Buildings: How One Montreal AI Company is at the Forefront of the Green Building Revolution

Posted by BrainBox AI on Feb 13, 2020 5:06:15 PM

By Jean-Simon Venne, Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder at BrainBox AI


The real estate sector is a major energy user. According to the 2018 World Economic Forum CRE Sustainability Report, it uses more energy than any other sector and is a growing contributor to CO2 emissions. 

[Real estate] consumes over 40% of global energy annually; 20% of total global greenhouse gas emissions originate from buildings; and there is a projected 56% increase in building CO2 emissions by 2030.

That impact is only set to increase. By 2060, the number of buildings worldwide will have doubled.

But that also means there’s a major opportunity to improve.

The potential for more buildings to become smarter, greener and more efficient is the foundation of BrainBox AI’s work because autonomous buildings – whether in commercial retail spaces, hotels, schools or office buildings – play an important role in making the real estate sector more sustainable.

Embracing automation will empower your organization to meet not just your sustainability goals, but also your business goals, faster. 


Why there’s an HVAC opportunity 


So, where does it start? When thinking of the energy consumption of a building, it is imperative to consider the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. These systems typically account for  45-70% of total energy usage in commercial buildings, so the potential for savings is huge.

In the U.S., commercial HVAC is also one of the top three major energy consumption categories, alongside residential HVAC and light duty vehicules (cars). There are obviously many other categories that drive energy use, but they’re each much smaller, so even the most game-changing sustainability innovations, while great, aren’t as impactful as they are in commercial HVAC alone.

Yet, today’s HVAC systems are very often poorly designed and operated, and current methods to improve a building’s energy efficiency are time-consuming and very costly. Physical inspections, re-commissioning or even continuous commissioning will improve efficiency in the short term, but few are implementing these practices since they are costly.  

What’s more, these strategies only focus on a single point in time, so they’re not ideal for consistent, lasting results. A building’s energy performance degrades, or drifts, over time and issues can even go undetected because any data collected isn’t often easily accessible to building operators.

AI, on the other hand, is revolutionizing building management by preemptively changing how HVAC systems behave. Automating the continuous commissioning process – enabling a full building commissioning every five minutes – is the next disruptive innovation that will enable significant energy and cost savings in the real estate space, while also dramatically improving occupant comfort.


An artificial brain for autonomous heating and cooling


BrainBox AI uses deep learning, cloud-based computing, algorithms and a proprietary process to support a 24/7 self-operating building that requires no human intervention and enables maximum energy efficiency. It’s more than a tool. It is like connecting an artificial brain to a building so that it can think for itself and make decisions by itself. It seamlessly integrates into a building’s existing HVAC system, analyzes the building for a period of four to six weeks and uses its suite of algorithms to send efficient and continuous operating instructions to the HVAC system.

This allows buildings to move from being reactive to preemptively managing their HVAC systems. Using AI for predictive HVAC maintenance lets building managers know ahead of time if an issue is imminent, saving time, but also energy and maintenance costs. As an example, manual systems may be optimized based on a seasonal schedule. An automated system, on the other hand, can adapt to weather conditions multiple times every hour.

Contrary to what many believe, it’s also possible to implement an AI-enabled system with low to no CapEx and once BrainBox AI’s solution is implemented, a building can experience a 25% to 35% reduction of total energy costs in under three months. 

Benefits beyond the energy bill


The case for more efficient, automated HVAC goes beyond the cost savings that appear on an energy bill. BrainBox AI’s solution, for example, has also been shown to reduce a building’s carbon footprint by 20-40%.

Beyond that, AI for HVAC can have a dramatic impact on comfort and health and safety. For example, BrainBox AI’s solution can resolve occupant comfort issues by 60% which has been shown to build tenant attractiveness. Improved temperature variation controls boosts comfort, which in turn boosts productivity – including by reducing absenteeism.

In addition, research from Harvard Business Review has shown that in schools and offices, better control of oxygen levels results in improved cognitive performance and decision making. A 2016 study also found that workers in green certified buildings scored higher on cognitive function tests, plus also reported fewer “sick building” symptoms (which includes ailments like headaches, dizziness and fatigue).

Can you imagine no longer hearing any complaints about offices that are too hot or boardrooms that are too cold? Plus, a more comfortable environment enhances the customer experience, in turn potentially driving greater revenue.

A new era in building automation is here, and clearly, it holds immense potential for industries of all kinds. Automation and AI can radically transform your facilities for the better – improving the building, but also the lives of the people using it. It’s just a matter of embracing it.

If you want to learn more, please visit BrainBox AI’s website.


Join BrainBox at World Summit AI Americas this March for two full days of mind-boggling innovation, heated discussions on AI policy, ethics and regulation, applied solutions for enterprise, hands-on workshops and the development of plans for advancing the application of AI in the coming year. 



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Topics: Energy efficiency, Built environment