Owners of retail and office space are finding that they can charge premium rents for “green” locations that are more energy-efficient, have more natural light and better air circulation, and meet the increasingly stringent environmental codes cities are adopting.

However, fewer than 20 percent of landlords have adopted “smart” energy and environmental management technologies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

JLL, which manages billions of square feet of commercial space around the world, is one of those few. 

The company is making major investments in AI systems that reduce a building’s greenhouse gas emissions. The reason: those properties command higher rents and tenants are more eager to lease them than older buildings that are less energy-efficient and spew more emissions.

By 2026, 56 percent of tenants will pay premium rents for “sustainable” properties, JLL estimates.

JLL is working with TurnTide, a California firm using computer-controlled electric motors that analyze usage patterns to more precisely control building temperatures.

JLL also has partnered with Envio Systems in Germany, which fits out a building with sensors that report which parts of a building are in use so lighting, temperature, and other factors can be adjusted in response.

Such systems can lop 20 percent off a property’s annual energy cost, the WSJ noted.

However, installing these AI systems also means installing the sensors and other “smart” infrastructure on which AI depends. To date, no more than 15 percent of buildings have those.

“AI in buildings works if you have the data,” Thomas Kiessling, Siemens Smart Infrastructure’s chief technologist, said to the WSJ. “Bad data means you can’t do any schedules, rules, or more sophisticated use cases around AI.”

Fifth Wall, a venture capital firm, has compiled a $500-million fund to decarbonize buildings. It’s putting about a third of its money into start-ups creating smart building controls and infrastructure and even more into new materials, such as concrete and steel made using renewable energy.

TRENDPOST: AI will play a key role in the energy revolution—not only in making buildings more energy-efficient and healthy places to occupy, but also in designing greener building materials, speeding the discovery of new battery chemistries, and designing ways to mitigate carbon pollution.

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