Younger generations may be unacquainted of the notorious arctic-like environment amongst Hong Kong shopping malls – referring to the constant and unrelenting air-conditioning that keep temperatures below 20 degree Celsius year-round a decade ago. Yet with rising public awareness of climate change, mall operators are now directing more resources towards carbon reduction with the help of smart technologies, aiming to provide shoppers best-in-class shopping environment with temperatures at an optimal level.
To achieve the goal of net zero emission across its portfolio by 2035, Link recently appointed JEDI to install AI-powered energy management system (EMS) as it seeks to step up carbon reduction efforts. The company expects to complete installation of the AI-powered system at 54 of its properties by the 2024/25 financial year.
Smart technology uses big data collected from shopping malls to provide precise analysis. “Shopping centres in different districts have varied requirements based on their respective traffic and tenant portfolios. Malls located in sight-seeing spots would need substantially higher power of energy during weekends than those in residential areas. We have to communicate thoroughly with property management teams to understand the various needs of tenants and shoppers so that we can adjust accordingly. Only by doing that can the smart technology achieve its intended impact,” explained David Ying, the team lead at JEDI.
EMS to adjust temperature based on crowd traffic and weather
JEDI is a brand under Jardine Engineering Corporation (JEC). In recent years, the company has been leveraging AI-powered analytics to assist property managers in enhancing energy efficiency management in buildings. “Hong Kong’s subtropical climate means that the temperature gap between summer and winter is wider than other southeast Asian regions, with air-conditioning making up a large portion of electricity usage by shopping malls. That is why air-conditioning is such an important item in our energy management system especially that most shopping malls are opened around 14 to 16 hours a day,” said Adrian Hui, General Manager at JEC. “Managing energy for air-conditioning is not just about adjusting temperatures. We also need to look at other factors that may affect the human comfort, such as humidity level, lighting condition, and the changes in outside weather. Our key of success is to figure out how to adjust the system to meet the ever-changing needs of the shopping malls at different times.”
According to Mr Ying, almost all property management companies in Hong Kong currently based their day-to-day operating decisions on data collected by Building Management System (BMS), while there is only very little adoption of EMS. “BMS also uses data to promote automation of property management and it’s been adopted for a wide range of functions. But when it comes to energy management, it has yet to attain a high level of precision. Take air-conditioning as an example, while most BMS are able to use data to adjust temperature by simple day or night mode, and summer and winter mode, our EMS can help operators achieve carbon reduction by making adjustment as frequently as every half hour according to crowd traffic, outdoor temperature, changes in weather and time.”
The essence of EMS lies in its ability to monitor and provide real-time analysis on high energy usage equipment. This not only provides corporates with access to real-time data, but also allows the system to follow up and adjust accordingly when it detects any unreasonable usage level. “A good energy management can prolong the lifespan of equipment, reduce expense, and alert operators when emergency or malfunction occurs. This will help make both monitoring and maintenance easier, while minimising losses,”Mr Ying added.
EMS: Highly cost effective with quick result
EMS’s other advantage is cost effectiveness. “EMS does not require very high capital expenditure. As most property management companies have adopted BMS, all we need to do is to let the two systems connect and “communicate” in order to obtain relevant energy data for the analysis. Generally speaking, after two to three weeks of preparation of machine learning on twelve-month of historical data, EMS will begin to show its impact in about a month’s time,” said Mr Ying, adding that the JEDI’s goal is to help clients break even within 18 to 24 months.
Link, which has set a goal of attaining carbon neutral by 2035, has long been leveraging technology to improve energy efficiency. For more than a decade, the company has adopted a plan that it formulated as a benchmark for managing energy efficiency. Colin Hong, Director of Hong Kong Operations at Link, said that Link has always valued sustainability. “Since 2010, Link has reduced its absolute energy consumption by 40%. Yet we are still working to improve, including unearthing new technology that can further reduce carbon emission. We want to continue doing our part for the environment.”
Link plans EMS installation at 54 properties by end of 2024
Since April 2021, Link has been trial-running EMS at T Town, Cheung Fat Plaza, Tsz Wan Shan Shopping Centre and TKO Gateway, with significant improvement achieved despite its decade-long high standard of energy management. The company will expand the system within its portfolio, with the goal of completing EMS installation at 54 of its properties before the 2024/25 financial year.
According to Mr Ying, one of the challenges of implementing EMS in Link’s properties was that to achieve tangible results, it would need to improve the performance of an already highly efficient system. “Though it was by no means an easy task, over the course of the year-long test run, we are pleased to help Link further reduce electricity usage of the selected malls by 4 to 5%.” In future, JEDI will continue to communicate closely with Link to understand the characteristics of different buildings, so that it can make minor adjustment to the modelling of their surrounding environment. This will help EMS bring true efficiency to Link’s shopping malls, and to create an ideal shopping experience for the local community.”