Grid-interactive efficient buildings versus carbon offsets: it’s no contest!

Image from Canva used to illustrate Wattwatchers blog post on integration with Buildings Alive software

If you want decarbonisation and electrification advisers who’ll focus on taking your commercial buildings beyond Net Zero, then meet Wattwatchers’ latest software partner Buildings Alive!


Imagine buildings that interact intelligently with the electricity grid in real-time to auto-avoid expensive demand peaks, minimise their carbon footprint, optimise their energy and environmental efficiency, adapt to tenant behaviour patterns, and maximise consumption of renewables.

This vision – which is neatly described as ‘grid-interactive efficient buildings’ – isn’t some futuristic dream.

It’s what Buildings Alive, a data analytics company that specialises in decarbonisation tools for the built environment, and which celebrated its first decade in business last year (2022), is focusing on for its second electrifying decade.

Data drives solution integration

Which brings us to Wattwatchers’ raison d’etre, granular real-time energy data, which turns out to be a vital feedstock for integrating buildings with electricity grids to proactively eliminate carbon pollution and energy costs wherever possible.

Small wonder that Buildings Alive and Wattwatchers now find themselves working together: in a new, data-driven relationship that will match real-time wireless monitoring, down to individual circuit level, with industry-leading data science, machine learning capabilities, behavioural understanding, and the capacity to generate bankable insights for clients without requiring capital investments.

Buildings Alive founder Craig Roussac, who came out of the property investment sector in the early days of the green building movement in Australia, makes no secret of his disdain for carbon management strategies that rely overly on buying offsets rather than actually cutting emissions.

Why plant trees or tap into carbon credits from landfill gas in far-off places when you can prevent emissions and save money by cutting energy waste in your own building, right here right now?

Switching into real-time data

Traditionally Buildings Alive has used mainly historical data from utility metering and sub-metering to model potential savings and advise property sector clients in Australia and internationally on how to achieve them.

But when he reached out to Wattwatchers 10 months ago, shortly before Buildings Alive’s 10-year anniversary celebrations, Roussac had real-time data on his mind.

Partly because he’d recently experienced the benefits of having real-time data from a home energy management system (HEMS) in his own household, which got him thinking afresh, and partly because the clean energy transition is changing the paradigm for everyone.

Electrification is powering new engagement

Electrification is the new powerhouse for decarbonisation, in tandem with increasingly abundant renewable energy being generated from the sun and the wind, and already the carbon intensity of electricity grids is fluctuating up and down depending on what time of the day or night it is across any 24-hour period.

As well as grid-interactive efficient buildings, Buildings Alive now promotes ‘24/7 carbon free energy’ as an achievable goal for building owners and operators. It’s website says:

‘Buildings Alive’s goal is to support the complete decarbonisation of electricity networks globally to limit climate change. Our technology is transforming the energy “system” by empowering buildings to be grid-interactive, flexible, and zero-carbon-ready… buildings capable of dynamically tuning their energy demand to cut emissions, cut operating costs, and enhance indoor environmental quality.’

Dynamic tuning of energy demand

By integrating the Buildings Alive software with Wattwatchers data through the cloud, Roussac and his team can explore the dynamic tuning of energy demand 24/7/365, across commercial and industrial sectors, and down to residential too.

This means responding to the grid in real time, measuring and verifying as they go, and helping to automate their solutions to match constantly changing variables: tenant demand profiles and behaviour patterns, grid supply scenarios, weather and climatic conditions, indoor air quality, and carbon circumstances.

When it comes to going beyond Net Zero, cost effectively, there’s no contest at all between carbon offsetting by default and embracing the data-driven path to grid-interactive efficient buildings.

Want to know more about Buildings Alive?

The Buildings Alive Insights blog is a great source of information and updates on their innovation path, including AI and 24/7 carbon accounting:

·        How Buildings Alive’s AI helps cut energy costs and carbon (6-minute read) explains why Buildings Alive introduced industry-leading AI tech to all sites it’s working with, how it works, and how it makes energy saving simpler, cheaper, faster and easier for Facility Managers / Operations teams.

·        Our clients are getting ‘real’ about carbon 24/7 (3-minute read) explains how buildings like the one profiled in the article (which is in California, is 80 years old, has 80x10kW EV chargers, large IT loads, and no rooftop PV), and others Buildings Alive is working with, are on the path to cutting operating carbon and energy costs to zero (not ‘net zero’) in the next few years using the tools Buildings Alive has introduced.

Sydney-based James Clements is Director Net Zero Property with Wattwatchers Digital Energy. James is representing Wattwatchers, including making a conference presentation, at the International Green Building Conference in Singapore 26-27 June 2023. His Singapore visit is part of the Investment NSW-led NSW Going Global program, which is promoting clean technology exports to South-East Asia.