Solutions & InnovationArticle
Getting to Zero Through Transformative Innovation
December 06, 2021
Bold decarbonization commitments will bend the curve on climate change, and the technology exists today to challenge what’s possible.
3 min read
It’s no secret that the HVAC industry has been a significant contributor to the world’s climate crisis. Buildings account for 40% of total energy usage in the U.S., and 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to the heating and cooling of buildings. Demand for cooling is only increasing – and a pressing, urgent need for climate leadership grows each day.
But here’s our optimistic view: bold sustainability and decarbonization commitments are changing the way we do business, and the technology exists today to significantly bend the curve on climate change.
Solving major global challenges like climate change and achieving aggressive carbon emission reduction goals requires courage, innovation and action.
At Trane Technologies we have been innovating and advocating for sustainable climate solutions long before it was the norm. Recently, I had the opportunity to showcase what’s possible in that realm at the 2021 Getting to Zero Forum in New York City. Over three days, industry experts, state and local officials, architects, engineers, manufacturers and others cast a light on solutions that reduce energy demand and carbon emissions – working collaboratively to define a new energy and carbon future for the built environment.
While there’s no complete playbook just yet, we know that defining this new future demands a commitment to transformative innovation and solutions – something reflected in our Gigaton Challenge to reduce our customers’ emissions by one gigaton (a billion metric tons) by 2030 - the equivalent of the annual emissions of Italy, France and the U.K. combined. These audacious emissions reduction targets, the first in our industry to be verified twice by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), are raising the stakes on what’s possible for a sustainable world – and are being brought to life in several critical areas.
We believe the future of heating is electric, and are leading our industry in developing cutting edge heat pump technology that will help get us there. Commercial buildings have traditionally relied on separate heating and cooling systems with an independent boiler and chiller – an inefficient process and carbon emissions contributor. With inventive heat pump technology, we combine these two systems into one for simultaneous heating and cooling with heat recovery, offering a high-efficiency, fully electric system with the potential to be a zero-emissions solution when paired with renewable energy sources.
"Electrification, on-site renewables and connectivity all play an integral role in reducing carbon emissions and increasing sustainability."
President, Trane Commercial HVAC Americas
We also see a path to net-zero emissions systems through on-site renewables and thermal energy storage, and are integrating renewable energy in our building climate solutions that use electrification rather than fossil fuels. With a lofty goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, several well-known New York City customers are already ahead of the curve in this area, and their progress towards net-zero.
Neiman Marcus’ historic Bergdorf Goodman Women’s store, just south of Central Park, is working to replace their large, gas-powered equipment with more efficient and operationally flexible electric centrifugal chillers – along with upgraded building controls systems – as part of a tailored solution designed by our Trane team. These changes will help the famed company shift to city electric grid use, which is becoming greener as it draws increasingly on clean energy sources.
Head about fifteen minutes south and you’ll find yourself at the equally notable Madison Square Park, which commercial landlord SL Green overlooks from their towering 11 Madison Avenue building. Implementing a state-of-the-art thermal storage system with Trane’s help, SL Green is now creating ice when the energy load is low – typically at night – then using that ice to cool the building during the day when the load is high. Through this project, SL Green has lowered tenant energy costs by 10%, reduced annual energy and operating costs by more than $700,000 and decreased carbon emissions by 1.4 million pounds – equivalent to taking 130 cars off the road, or planting 188 acres of trees!
Additionally, a connected, holistic approach to buildings is vital for driving positive environmental outcomes – and leveraging advanced, digital technology is key. Connected solutions are providing real-time data and insights for our customers, helping improve their building performance, optimizing energy use, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing costs, while successfully enabling human productivity and comfort.
The opportunity for bending the curve on climate change is here, and together – we can transform the carbon landscape across our cities and communities.
Our industry has indeed contributed to the global climate crisis. But it’s also an industry that has the scale and position to change the world. At Trane Technologies leading with bold sustainability is core to who we are and what we do, yet true impact cannot be achieved by us alone.
We have a shared responsibility to act – and courageous, collaborative leadership from all aspects is needed to accelerate progress. Policy and regulations addressing existing buildings and infrastructure must evolve, and soon. Large scale, ambitious efficiency targets promoting building decarbonization must be actualized. Emissions-reducing technologies must be encouraged and adopted. Just imagine the impact implementing these technological innovations and mindset shifts would have across the built environment.
Technology exists today that will pave the way for a cleaner, brighter, and healthier future. The opportunity for bending the curve on climate change is right in front of us, and together – we can transform the carbon landscape across our cities and communities.
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