Industry Viewpoint

Building Energy Intelligence

The United States is the second largest energy consumer in the world. I think we would all agree that doing everything we can to use less energy would benefit us all. One of the best ways to reduce energy consumption is to improve the efficiency of the power, heating, and cooling systems in as many of the existing buildings in this country as we can. But before we can initiate any improvement or upgrade projects at these types of facilities, the building owner and/or facility manager must have a clear understanding of the true consumption levels and usage patterns within these types of structures. That’s where smart metering and submetering hardware and software systems come into play.

As we all know, benchmarking is an important first step in understanding the real energy performance of a building. However, motivating building owners and facility managers to invest in these types of systems comes with its own set of challenges. These systems can be expensive to install, and the volume of data they produce can overwhelm a facility manager or owner. But as we’ve seen many times in the past, energy codes, laws, and federal directives can force change when and where it wants.

Commercial building energy use continues to capture the attention of our city leaders, state representatives, and government officials. Benchmarking and disclosure laws are gaining popularity with city leaders looking to drive energy-efficiency initiatives. Cities already with ordinances in place include Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; New York; and San Francisco. Starting in October, building owners in Philadelphia will be required to benchmark their building’s energy and water usage, and report the results. The ordinance applies to commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger.

Beginning next year, the City of Minneapolis and other public entities will begin disclosing energy and water use for any of their buildings with more than 25,000 square feet. A city ordinance will require private commercial buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to begin reporting usage levels on June 1, 2014. They will then be required to publicly disclose their usage levels in 2015. Private commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet will begin reporting June 1, 2015, and publicly disclosing in 2016.

As these types of initiatives continue to gain recognition, I’m certain many other cities will follow suit. Whether you agree with these types of prescriptive mandates or not, they do present you with a business opportunity. According to some sources, existing building stock is the single largest sector of energy consumption in the nation. This means there are a very high number of commercial buildings that, at some point, will need expert analysis by electrical professionals who know how to install power measurement equipment and systems, monitor the data they collect, and develop energy-saving retrofit projects.

But don’t limit your thinking to just these types of buildings. Business opportunities also exist on a smaller scale. You can target your energy measurement and savings sales pitch to small businesses in your area, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers. A new report issued by the Preservation Green Lab notes that small commercial buildings (less than 50,000 square feet) represent a massive untapped opportunity for energy savings. The report, “Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings,” notes these smaller buildings account for 47% of the energy consumed by commercial buildings and offer a potential energy savings between 27% to 59%, depending on building type.

Big or small, inefficient buildings need to be a focal point for us all. Don’t miss the opportunity to cash in on the resurgence of energy efficiency project possibilities presenting themselves in your area of the country.

 

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