Green series - Urban aids: Urbanisation and its benefits on the environment

IN line with the environmental sustaining goings-on around the nation during this month of October, our property section will run a series of articles in sync with the "green" theme. Having featured our "green-inspired" ID piece last week, today we share an article by Schneider Electric's country president for Malaysia, Soo Pow Leong, on "urbanisation".

For a start, we look over the definition of urbanisation – a social process whereby cities develop and grow while societies become more modern. Perhaps a more to-the-point, short and catchy term would be "citified". While there are some who are of the mindset that modernisation and development have adverse effects on the environment, Soo begs to differ, provided ...

Urbanisation in Asia

Environmental sustainability must be addressed in order to build urban resilience, as well as mitigate and adapt to climate change.

This is one of the most crucial concerns in Asia, being one of the world's most climate vulnerable regions and a growing emitter of greenhouse gases in its own right, accounting for more than 40% of the total. The region is urbanising at a more rapid rate, more than any other region in the world. By 2050, some 64% of Asia will become urban.

Meanwhile, with estimates suggesting that cities are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions – transport and buildings being among the largest contributors – it is not surprising that many Asian governments and the private sector are coming together to rethink how the urbanisation megatrend can be leveraged to further, rather than to hinder, sustainable development.

To derive at environmental advantages from urbanisation, city planners and governments are considering running a city as a multinational company by gathering key data, utilising information effectively, and having a clear long-term strategy.

This is why the private sector is essential as it contributes its various industry expertise and by working
with municipalities and partners, it ensures that city leaders have all of the necessities in place to run a city like an MNC. This might involve tracking, managing and forecasting sustainability metrics such as carbon, water and waste, optimising the performance of building infrastructure, as well as developing long-term sustainability plans to address priorities, needs and issues.

Asian cities to-date are actively evolving and innovating in using smart technologies to achieve the goals of sustainability, liveability and responsiveness. Their efforts can be seen in three key areas – buildings, water and energy.

Smart buildings

According to the UN Environment Programme, energy consumed by buildings has escalated to around 40% of total consumption, worldwide.

At the same time, studies have shown that only a quarter of a building's costs are associated with capital expenses. The remaining three-quarters go toward operating a building over its lifecycle. To make matters worse, the energy use in buildings is only going to rise as the International Energy Agency predicts energy demand to increase by 50% by 2050.

Integrated building management solutions are an excellent way to enable smart, sustainable ecosystems inside and outside buildings, regardless the age of the buildings.

Smart water

In many Asian cities, the combination of population growth and a sharp increase in demand for energy and manufacturing has major repercussions on water as a resource. The World Bank forecasts a global deficit of 40% between anticipated demand and available water resources by 2030.

Smart water solutions, such as improving water management systems and networks, preventing and reducing leaks, and optimising processing, are critical in addressing this challenge.

When implemented in East Water's water pipe network – Thailand's most advanced, efficient and complete water pipeline at approximately 400km long – such solutions reduced water loss in the pipeline by 17% (from 20% to 3%), and reduced energy consumption by 5%.

Smart energy

Demand for energy in Asia is expected to double within the next 15 years, largely expected in cities. As fossil fuels remain the main source to power.

Asian cities, generating electricity in a sustainable way will pose a great challenge. Thankfully, the growth in alternative sources of energy has created new opportunities for governments and companies in Asia to integrate renewable energy sources, using solar and wind, with smarter upgrade projects across the region.

One such example is the San Lorenzo Wind Farm in the Philippines. It adopted an end-to-end solution that protects the wind farm from many system faults and ensures reliable production all-year round. And is capable of generating over 120 GWh of electricity annually and can sustain the energy demands of 48,000 households.

Smart grid solutions are also transforming the power industry. By letting businesses know how much power they are using and calculating the costs in real-time, businesses have the necessary tools to measure and reduce energy consumption. Companies are leveraging on the "Internet of Things (IoT)" and smart grids to build more efficient energy infrastructure in cities. When electrical systems of buildings are connected to smart grids, the grids detect power usage and divert power to places where it is needed most.

As urbanisation rapidly transforms the face of Asia and the lives of its people, everyone from policy makers to companies and residents have an important role to play in ensuring that the benefits that urban expansion brings is efficient, inclusive and sustainable, and life is "on" for everyone, everywhere at every moment.

The article by Soo was inspired by the report that the Prime Minister's Office in Malaysia had saved 40% in energy after adopting Schneider Electric's Building Automation and Energy Monitoring System. This retrofitting project also helps Malaysia meet its Copenhagen promise, to reduce 40% of carbon emissions by 2020.

With proper collaboration, the right use of data, creativity, science and the IoT, urbanisation is said to be the smart and sustainable way forward, a more progressive and constructive approach to a better future.