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Artificial intelligence and green algorithms contribute to improved energy efficiency at BBVA headquarters

Energy savings at BBVA’s headquarters is 5,766,731 kWh a year, equivalent to the consumption of 1,900 households. This equals 12 to 15 percent less than when the complex was inaugurated in 2015 and a 1,430-metric ton per year reduction of CO2 emissions. The building’s sustainable design and equipment are not solely responsible for this success: tools powered by artificial intelligence have also been used to optimize the bank’s energy use.

During the construction of BBVA’s current headquarters in Madrid, criteria was used to ensure its maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact. Together with the use of recycled, sustainable material; the inclusion of extensive green areas; and a sprinkler system that uses rainwater, 50,000 sensors were installed at the bank’s headquarters to detect and collect data about the status of the facilities, the environmental conditions, and the proximity of people.

“Once the complex was functioning and after analyzing all this data, we realized that it didn’t have to be limited to properly managing the facilities, it could also further improve our energy efficiency and reduce costs,” explains Borja Eugui Pemán, BBVA Head of Facility Management. Energy and facility management software based on artificial Intelligence (AI) was specifically conceived and developed for this purpose.

“The tool connects to the building’s control system and, using programmed mathematical algorithms for data processing, it enables us to identify and diagnose issues in the facilities,” Eugui points out. “So, we can make appropriate decisions; stay ahead of potential glitches and disruptions; and correct any inefficiencies. All of this results in energy savings and subsequent cost savings.”

Greater use of natural light

The results were not long in coming: a year ago the bank achieved an electricity savings of 400,000 kWh per year. After this success, the bank decided to launch additional initiatives to better control the lighting, air conditioning, and heating systems using data collected by the sensors and interpreted by the algorithms. One of the actions taken was to adjust the program settings in order to take better advantage of natural light.

“When there is sufficient natural light coming into the work areas, the lights near the windows adapt, reducing the light they emit.” BBVA’s Head of Facility Management estimates that by putting these measures in place, the bank headquarters will reduce emissions by 31 metric tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to the consumption of 41 households, 125,138 kWh, or what can be absorbed by 20 trees per year. Furthermore, in the common areas outside normal work hours, lighting is set to a minimum when no motion is detected, reducing CO2 emissions by another 24 metric tons.

Another measure that was taken to make better use of natural resources was to double the size of the solar panel installation. It has grown from 520 panels generating 205,000 kWh per year to 1,043 panels, which can generate 440,000 kWh/year.

“The increase in green energy generated by our photovoltaic systems allows us to reduce our energy consumption from the grid in addition to being renewable; it represents a double benefit for the environment, reducing our carbon footprint. The emissions reduction totals 109 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent to what 55 trees can absorb in a year,” Eugui explains.

“There are now 102 savings measures that have been implemented at BBVA’s headquarters, achieving a reduction of energy consumption”

Climate control systems and air quality

Other measures that have been adopted are related to the quality of the air inside the buildings and climate control — heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Sensors measuring the temperatures throughout different areas of the complex determine what time is most appropriate for the units that treat the air to be turned on. These air treatment units are responsible for letting air in from outside and feeding the climate control system.

Until now, the process of turning on the general facilities didn’t account for the real-time activity in the different areas of the complex, rather it was programmed to run at fixed times. The new system represents a significant improvement in that it is programed to respond to existing demand at any given moment, adapting when it runs to when people are using specific areas and taking advantage of the buildings’ thermal inertia for as long as possible.

This is how the air conditioning and heating is controlled, and hence the comfort of the occupants who happen to be in the different areas of the headquarters. Additionally, how the related equipment operates is aligned — meaning they communicate between themselves in order to respond to demand, not to the time of day.” BBVA’s spokesperson adds.

At the same time and taking advantage of the fact that each area can be monitored, the decision to install CO2 sensors in order to improve air quality was made. Based on the values that are delivered, the air treatment units will allow more or less air to be let in from outside or re-circulated from within.

Edificio-de-La-Vela-en-Ciudad-BBVA

La Vela in Ciudad BBVA

BBVA consumes 10 percent less energy than it did in 2015

“There are now 102 savings measures that have been implemented at BBVA’s headquarters, achieving a reduction of energy consumption between 12 and 15 percent since 2015, a truly difficult accomplishment in a building that in and of itself already had considerably efficient facilities. And with respect to total energy consumption in Spain, BBVA uses 10 percent less than it did in 2015, and all the electricity it uses comes from renewable sources,” points out Ana Herrero, BBVA Head of Sustainability, Premises and Services.

With these initiatives, BBVA has moved forward with two of its 2025 goals: to reduce its CO2 emissions 68 percent with respect to 2015 and to use renewable energy for 70 percent of its worldwide consumption. These are two of the objectives defined by the bank in Pledge 2025, its strategy for contributing to the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate  change.

Reducing its environmental impact is one of the goals of BBVA’s strategy for fighting against climate change and promoting sustainable development. As part of this challenge, BBVA can now boast 17 buildings that have received the prestigious gold and platinum LEED ratings for sustainable and efficient construction that respects the environment.

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is one of the world’s most rigorous standards for responsible construction. Buildings with LEED certification significantly reduce waste and the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere; they save more energy and are healthier, safer places for their occupants.

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