Latest Trends in Building and Facility Energy Efficiency

Investing $279 billion in updating and replacing equipment in buildings can yield as much as a $1 trillion in energy savings over 10 years, according to a recent report by The Rockefeller Foundation and the DB Climate Change Advisors.

The difference in energy usage can equate to a savings of about 30% of the annual electricity charges in the US. Buildings use about 40% of the world’s energy and contribute to as much as 40% of global carbon emissions. Facilities in the US use about 49% of the country’s energy and three-quarters of all electricity usage. The US is responsible for approximately 20% of global energy consumption.

Fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) make up about three-quarters of the energy used. The combustion of fossil fuels leads to the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases, resulting in global climate change. Technology allows buildings to operate more efficiently and shifts our reliance away from fossil fuel sources.

Data and Analytics

Active energy management (AEM) is the use of tools to actively monitor and manage the performance of HVAC systems. Founded in 2011, Essess is the first data company focused on monitoring commercial and residential energy efficiency across wide geographical areas.

The company’s energy loss detection and diagnostics products identify energy inefficiencies, generating reports with metrics and scores to offer explanations to building owners on ways to reduce their energy usage. Essess’ CEO Storm Duncan explains, “We can capture and zero in on energy use for buildings down to individual windows and help building owners increase efficiency and reduce costs.”

Controls and Automation

Commercial building owners can save about 38% on their heating and cooling costs by installing controls on their systems, according to Pacific Northwest National Lab. The lab recommends four control methods to maximize energy efficiency: air-side economizers, supply fan speed controls, cooling capacity controls and demand-controlled ventilation.

Air-side economizers cool outside air instead of creating cold air within the compressor. Supply fan speed controls circulate the air faster or slower based on whether fresh air reaches a certain temperature rather than running the fan continuously at one speed. Cooling capacity controls operate the HVAC compressor at varying speeds depending on need. Demand-controlled ventilation varies the fan speed and air intake based on a building’s carbon dioxide levels, preventing the ventilation fans from running constantly.

Researchers at the lab have determined multi-speed fan controls offer the greatest energy efficiency in hotter cities while demand-controlled ventilation is best used in colder cities. Some manufacturers are just beginning to offer these controls but the majority of manufacturers do not offer them.

High Efficiency Equipment

A consistent trend is to offer the highest efficiency equipment possible. Energy ratings and high efficiency standards change yearly. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) promotes the manufacture and purchase of high efficiency equipment. The organization’s goal is to increase the number of high efficiency systems installed in both residential and commercial buildings.

Each year CEE releases its latest standards and rating guidelines for what qualifies as a high-energy efficient piece of equipment. The organization looks at such data as SEER ratings – the cooling output divided by the electric energy input during a cooling season – and offers recommendations on right-sizing and installing equipment. Sizing and a proper installation slashes energy savings by as much as 35%, according to CEE.

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One comment

  • Great post! I believe that part of the trends in
    construction and design is for structures to have efficient energy systems. This is due to the fact that a lot of corporations now uphold green design concepts as part of the corporate responsibilities.

    October 25, 2012

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