ECSP guest blog: Innovating to achieve energy efficiency at Atrium Group’s shopping centres

Europe has some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets and regulators are getting tough on those sectors that are either the biggest emitters of GHG gases or big energy consumers. Everyone has a responsibility to respond, and that includes retail property. There is a change in emphasis from highlighting good practice in terms of reductions to an agenda that is far more urgent in the race to deliver net zero.

As part of ECSP ‘Shopping Values’ campaign running this month, Daria Pawełko, Group Innovation Manager at Atrium European Real Estate, explains how her company is innovating to make its centres more energy efficient.

As shopping centers recover from the impact of Covid-19, managing the loss of revenue and the inflationary cost of utilities, such as energy, reducing costs will be a principle focus in the year ahead. PropTech solutions limiting consumption will be particularly useful.

Atrium Group not only aims to increase its energy efficiency by 25%, but also to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2025, with the ultimate goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. To get there, we are exploring initiatives such as smart energy management solutions and new energy sources.

As indoor climate installations usually account for around 70% of the total energy consumption, it’s also one of the key sources for energy optimization.  One project we have reviewed covers artificial intelligence (AI) driven software integrated with our existing building management system (BMS). By analyzing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) consumption data with contextual data from various sensors located throughout our malls, we are better able to optimize our system operations to achieve decreases in energy consumption, while maintaining the indoor climate comfort for both tenants and shoppers.

As far as renewable energy sources are concerned, we are looking at three options.

First, the deployment of photovoltaic (PV) infrastructures within our malls, including some more innovative PV installations, transforming glass facades or skylights into energy production facilities; while elsewhere decreasing indoor temperatures to reduce energy needs whilst maintaining ambient conditions.

The second source of renewable energy is water. In cooperation with a PropTech startup company, we are testing an energy eco-generator that allows for energy production from the in-mall water distribution system – like a mini waterpower plant.

The renewable landscape is also constantly evolving. So thirdly, we are incorporating new modular wind power solutions, which are adjusted to lower wind conditions. These are being considered for use as alternatives to standard solar farms that require vast areas of roof space.

These are just a few examples of Atrium’s ESG efforts which focus on the “E” (Environment). We are working closely with all tenants to help contribute to minimizing our joint environmental footprint. Our entire organization is involved in this continuous improvement process – we are currently running a company wide Innovation Campaign where all employees from technical, through marketing and accounting are sharing their ideas on how to achieve our ESG goals and make our shopping malls not only great shopping destinations, but also a ‘greener’ part of our communities.

Atrium is one of the top owners, operators and developers of shopping centres in Central and Eastern Europe. Using decades of experience and history in the region it has grown into a real estate owner and developer that creates more than just a great place. It provides the perfect balance of leisure and living to over 200 million of our visitors yearly at 26 prime urban locations in capitals and cities across Central and Eastern Europe.