Cities urged to tap building data best practices to develop communal ESG standards

Municipal authorities should tap digital twins and other large-scale data models used for rating the ESG performance of individual buildings to develop a framework on how to measure the sustainability of specific city areas, Jan-Kristian Westerlund, International Business Director at Freesi, said during a panel discussion on Digital Twins, Proptech, Data and Innovation at the recent EXPO Real event in Munich. 

Jan-Kristian Westerlund.

A dual-track regime incorporating large-scale data models with operational data from individual buildings is vital in the battle to reduce carbon emissions, Westerlund added.

“We can use the same data for two purposes, so we’ll be able to see how different cities or portfolios perform. And that will give a clear indication on where to go for collaboration and best practices which is helpful because cities are very open to collaborating as they’re not really competing against each other. In that sense this is a perfect example of how we’ll be able to reach the Paris Climate Accord targets and it’s really the only way: by optimising the current stock and building better for the future.”

Meta and large data models can be combined with data flows from the buildings themselves, for example on air quality and what people in that property are actually feeling and experiencing, Westerlund said. “Setting targets, reporting, and benchmarking provides a base to develop better buildings in the future as we’ll know which systems, setups and designs create the best spaces with the least energy consumption.”

Paul Wessels.

Freesi is an indoor climate management service dedicated to optimising indoor air quality, tenant satisfaction, and energy consumption in real estate portfolios.

Best practices are key, agreed Paul Wessels, Co-Founder of ESG accounting software provider Blue Module. “If you look at ESG accounting, the biggest problem revolves around the banks and the financial institutions who want to have all this data with a view to property valuations. You need best practices to obtain the right measurements, and a central theme is test, verify and certify. So, we have to gather information, provide the proof and assess the information. These are the steps that are being applied increasingly in the financial world.”

Regulatory requirements are also a push factor, Wessels added, pointing to the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Director (CSRD). “The banks are working through this process – they have to also because the European Central Bank is saying we need this information. On the municipality side, I would say you would need a comprehensible framework on how to measure city areas.  So, it might be interesting for these cities to look at developing community standards for measuring an area.”