Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Consulting

Energy Efficiency Trends in High Performance Buildings

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The National Facilities Management & Technology (NFMT) High Performance Buildings conference took place in Ft. Worth, Texas, on Jun 2 – 3.  The conference was a two-day event focused on bringing information and latest technologies to those managing the design, construction, and on-going operation of high-performance buildings.  The event offered seminars on a variety of emerging trends for building management, and included a trade show with approximately 500 vendors representing products and services ranging from lighting to water management to building automation.

Here are some of the key trends highlighted at NFMT 2015:

Photo courtesy of jessie.williams.wikispaces.com

Photo courtesy of jessie.williams.wikispaces.com

  1. “Water is the oil of the 21st century”- Andrew Liveris, CEO, Dow Chemical, 2008

Water issues extend well beyond the current drought conditions currently seen in California and, until recently, Texas.  While electric utility rates have been raising at the rate of 2.5% annually, water rates are going up more than twice that, at a rate of 5.85%.  This increase is not only a function of scarcity but also tied to the aging water management infrastructure. We saw this very phenomenon in Central Texas last year:  LCRA water users did such a great job of reducing water consumption during the drought that the utility requested a rate increase to cover their fixed infrastructure costs.  Water utilities in New York City and Houston have started implementing Demand Usage charges similar to the pricing system in place with the electric utility companies.  Better water usage management will become key in the future, and there is plenty of room for improvement in the commercial area.

  1. Intelligent Lighting

New updates to California construction code for 2015 require daylight harvesting technologies to be utilized in primary (distance from window = height of window) and secondary (distance from window = 2.5 x height of window) lighting zones of commercial buildings.  Daylight harvesting involves reducing illumination from electrical lighting when natural light is available in such a way that ambient light level remains consistent.  This requires automated systems and dimmable lighting to dynamically manage the environment.  While dimmable fluorescent lights do exist, LED lighting is natural for this application.  Combine this with occupancy sensing, networked lighting, and other technologies, and lighting will be getting a lot smarter.

  1. Building Automation + Lighting + Internet of Things = Big Brother?

When replacing an existing bulb with LED lighting, it’s easy to forget that you are now installing silicon-based circuitry. Technology that required an auditorium-sized supercomputer in the 70s can now fit on a chip smaller than a pencil eraser today.  Silicon in lighting means that intelligence can be put into devices which are essentially everywhere and have access to readily available power.  Occupancy sensors, Wi-Fi, personal smart devices all exist today.  Consider scenarios where retailers utilize lighting to highlight different areas in response to consumer traffic.  Building automation can recognize employees by electronic badge or smart phone, and could automatically activate lighting and air conditioning to specific parts of the building based on authenticated entry.   The concept of having buildings intelligently respond to their occupants can feel a little like Orwell’s Big Brother is watching you, but this is where technology is heading.  The possibilities are limited only to imagination.

While some of these trends loom eminent, others are further on the horizon.  Working with a company like EES Consulting can keep you informed of the latest developments in energy efficiency, and let you take advantage of the financial benefits as they best apply to your business.