Skip to main content
Modern curved building

The real estate sector must change

This is a blog about real estate and energy efficiency. About research that leads to reduced energy use, which in turn leads to reduced environmental impact. But also about what I hear in discussions about innovation and trends, as part of my research role and in my daily life as a project manager.

How do we reduce emissions and simultaneously meet our residents’ needs for housing, food on the table, services and waste management? Last but not least, how do we create opportunities for a good life, both for us and future generations? These are issues that drive and engage me both privately and at work. My professional mission is in line with this, and is about how we can succeed in transforming the real estate sector to achieve our environmental goals. In Sweden, the construction and real estate sector accounts for about 40% of our final energy consumption and about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.

To meet our climate goals, every forthcoming decade we must cut our CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by half. This halving is something that can be applied on many different levels: to the planet, the country, the city, businesses and to the real estate sector at large. To accelerate the transition, innovative services are needed that often require digitalisation.

Energy efficiency and reduced energy use

To manage the transition, we must work with both energy efficiency and reduced energy use while simultaneously switching to renewable energy. Energy efficiency has to do with using technology and system development to consume less energy per delivered unit of benefit. For example, heat pumping technology provides more efficient heating than direct-acting electricity.

Something that is at least as important but often overlooked in the energy conversation is that we must review our needs and reduce our energy use. The absolute most environmentally friendly kilowatt hours are the ones that we do not need to use! It’s all about actually economising our resources and using them wisely. We need to understand that it is not always necessary to build something new; instead, we must become better at making the most out of our use of existing properties. For example, through digitalised access to buildings and premises, we can more easily utilise our existing properties during all hours of the day.

The need for flexibility services in the housing and commercial premises sector will increase dramatically

When we phase out fossil energy sources, they are replaced by electrical energy, and we are currently seeing an electrification of both industry and vehicles. At the same time, we are producing more renewable energy. As a result, our energy production is becoming more decentralized. As our electricity networks become increasingly crowded, we need to build both more intelligence and flexibility into the systems. Here, there is a growing discussion about how the real estate sector can contribute to the electricity grid and the energy system in general by offering flexibility services. One way to do this is to take advantage of the opportunity to store heat in the building and schedule heating during periods of the day when there is more available power in the network. We also need to reduce electricity use during power peaks, when the grid is at its most heavily loaded.

But now I would like to return to the most important thing, which is that we need to economise our resources and use them wisely. To do this, actors from various industries and with different experiences need to bring about an energy- and resource-efficient transformation of the real estate sector so that we can continue to live and work within our planetary limitations.

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

* Mandatory By submitting the form, RISE will process your personal data.