Identifying the potential for energy savings in buildings

The Intelligent Utility website provides a good article on where to improve the energy performance of buildings. Do you agree?


The Key to Dramatically Reducing Overall Energy Use? Solve the Problem of Moving Air

The largest energy consumers in the world are big buildings. Think of the abundance of lighting fixtures, heating/cooling systems, water heating and refrigeration units demanded of these large buildings and the resulting energy used to power these services over a vast amount of space. The floor space and sheer number of large buildings is constantly increasing to meet population and economic growth which also plays a key role in escalating energy usage. To put this growth into perspective, there will be a 70-80 percent increase in the global urban population in the next 35 years. This growth in building size and population, coupled with an increase in service demands such as electronic equipment and computing capabilities, are driving the constant rise of energy consumption in these large buildings. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that residential, commercial, and public buildings account for 30 to 40 percent of the world’s energy consumption.

This abundance of energy use is putting a spotlight on big buildings, adding pressure to decrease energy consumption while maintaining all of the services demanded. This may seem like an up-hill battle, but simply put, if you solve the problem of moving air, you dramatically reduce overall energy use.

Whether it is comfort air or industrial air, moving air consumes a large amount of energy – it can be up to 60 percent of a building’s overall energy use. In fact, according to the International Energy Outlook 2013, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and compressors account for up to 30 percent or more of the energy consumed by commercial and industrial sites. The compressed air space is evolving very quickly, especially in the U.S., as manufacturers are spending more than $5 billion per year on energy in compressed air systems and governments are starting to more carefully regulate the industrial efficiency space.

Even though compressed air systems are essential for buildings, they are sometimes ignored until something goes wrong with them or the compressors fail to keep up with rising air demand. There is also a lack of ownership in many companies, as employees do not have a person spearheading energy efficiency improvements in their building. Of 174 Department of Energy (DOE) assessments of compressed air, payback for recommended remediation approaches averaged just one year, but only 42 percent of these were realized. Reasons cited for not following building energy efficiency recommendations included: lack of energy ownership in companies, lack of energy audits conducted, lack of a dedicated energy manager, and lack of technical expertise.

Building owners are taking steps in the right direction to become more energy efficient by partnering with energy service companies; however, there is still room for improvement. Advancements in technologies for lighting fixtures, windows, insulation, building controls, and appliances make it possible to deliver many building services at lower energy intensity. There are also building ratings to measure energy performance which have created greater awareness for energy efficiency initiatives, such as the ENERGY STAR label from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, developed by the U.S. Green Buildings Council and the WellBeing Standard developed by Delos. While these ratings and new technologies offer buildings avenues to become more energy efficient, it all comes down to addressing moving air to dramatically reduce energy efficiency.

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