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AI could halve the annual carbon footprint of the built environment by 2030, new research from Pi Labs claims.

The proptech’s venture capital firm’s Sustainably Intelligent: AI for a Greener Built World report, launched today, delves into the profound impact artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to have on curbing carbon emissions within the real estate industry and the broader built environment.

The Pi Labs research team, headed by Luke Graham, quantified AI's carbon reduction potential, identifying that widespread adoption of just four AI use cases could avert an estimated 5.81 to 6.46 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030. This figure, equivalent to offsetting the entire annual carbon footprint of the United States, underscores the transformative power of AI in addressing climate challenges.

Examining 68 sustainability-oriented AI use cases across the real estate value chain, Pi Labs spotlighted key applications, including generative design, construction rework prevention, energy waste reduction, and demolition waste redirection. These use cases leverage AI to optimize resource utilization, enhance construction efficiency, and minimize environmental impact.

Pi Labs' report highlights innovative solutions already in practice, such as ETH Zurich's use of 3D printing to slash construction material inputs and start-ups like Contilio employing LiDAR and 3D AI to mitigate construction rework. Similarly, companies like Demand Logic harness data analytics to curtail energy waste in buildings, while Sorted.io deploys computer vision to streamline waste sorting processes.

Graham said: "The findings of our report indicate that AI is poised to have a transformative impact on carbon reductions. According to venture funding data from 2023, there is already significant investor interest in AI driven green solutions aimed at the built environment, however there is the potential to drive this figure up yet further with a clearer understanding of the positive climate impact and growth potential of these technologies."

The report also acknowledges potential drawbacks, including increased energy consumption resulting from widespread AI adoption. The power requirements of generative AI could generate nearly 200,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, if it became part of the toolkit for real estate professionals worldwide.

Real estate adviser JLL has acquired Hank, a US proptech firm which optimises the management systems of commercial buildings. 

Sacramento, California-based Hank’s AI-powered platform creates a ‘digital twin’ of a building in the cloud by plugging into its existing management system and subsequently learning how the asset operates. It can then model the effects of adjustments to make the building more efficient and healthy. 

Successes for the platform include delivering 30% heating, ventilation and air conditioning savings for the a Petaluma office campus building and allowing the landlord of another office building to accommodate a call centre tenants with specific cooling requirements without installing a dedicated HVAC system.

Sharad Rastogi, president at JLL Technologies, says: “Hank’s cutting-edge technology presents a major opportunity to drive efficiencies for our clients today and best anticipate the needs of tomorrow. JLL’s acquisition of Hank represents a continued commitment to drive sustainability and embrace technology to shape the future of real estate for a better world.”

Hank was co-founded in 2016 by Zachary Denning and Jerremy Spillman. Denning will serve as JLL’s director of sustainability product.