Facility managers today have access to a wide variety of ways to improve overall energy efficiency within their buildings.
Strategies for how to improve energy efficiency in buildings include, but are not limited to:
- Leveraging the many features of modern building automation systems (BAS).
- The ability to implement and optimize smart control over HVAC, lighting, and security.
- Analytics that allow you to identify problems that you cannot necessarily see and make optimization changes on the fly.
- Taking advantage of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
The potential energy savings within commercial buildings today are enormous. This is especially true when looking at wasted energy and how you can reduce it by creating smarter buildings.
Facility managers and building owners who are taking advantage of the latest building automation and management systems are reaping incredible energy savings in many areas, including HVAC, lighting, and operationally.
Read on to learn more about how to make a commercial building more energy-efficient.
Average Energy Consumption in Buildings
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), buildings are the single largest energy-consuming sector in the U.S. economy. They account for approximately 75% of the nation’s electricity use and 40% of its total energy demand.
This results in Americans spending nearly $400 billion each year to power homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and other commercial and residential buildings.
Additionally, MIT researchers have found that commercial buildings waste upwards of 30 percent of their energy.
Before assessing ways to minimize energy consumption, it is essential to consider first the areas within a building that consume the most energy.
The major areas of energy consumption in buildings are:
- HVAC (heating and cooling systems, ventilation, and air conditioning)—35%
- Major Appliances (water heating, refrigerators, and freezers, dryers)—18%
- Miscellaneous areas including electronics—36%
The DOE points out that there is excellent potential to increase the performance and efficiency of these key systems listed above by “improving the way they are controlled as a part of integrated building systems (e.g., sensors that adjust light levels to occupancy and daylight).”
Key Savings Areas & How To Reduce Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings
The DOE also notes that some of the critical opportunities for immediate energy savings within a building include:
- High-efficiency heat pumps to reduce or eliminate the use of refrigerants that can lead to GHG emissions.
- Thin insulating materials.
- Windows and building surfaces with tunable optical properties.
- High-efficiency lighting devices including improved green light-emitting diodes, phosphors, and quantum dots.
- Improved software for optimizing building design and operation.
- Low cost, easy to install, energy harvesting sensors, and controls.
- Interoperable building communication systems and optimized control strategies.
- Decision science issues affecting purchasing and operating choices.
Strategies To Improve Energy Efficiency In Buildings
The following energy conservation measures for commercial buildings take advantage of the latest advances in technology to create the most energy-efficient buildings possible while maintaining a work environment that promotes increased productivity.
Leverage Building Automation
To improve the efficiency of the systems and achieve a truly smart building that can reduce energy consumption and waste, a facility manager should consider using a modern building automation system (BAS). These systems help to significantly reduce energy consumption and save money.
In addition to providing a higher efficiency building, a BAS can also result in the following:
- Enhanced operational efficiencies
- Improved work atmosphere and productivity
- Lower maintenance costs
- More predictive and proactive maintenance plan
- Reduced energy usage
- Lowered energy bill
Building automation systems have come a long way in just the last 5-10 years alone. This has created opportunities for both managers of a new facility and those with an older legacy system that they would like to tap into for greater control.
There are many benefits to a BAS, and a recent study found that building automation solutions are being employed more often with good results. The study notes, “The average net energy savings per installation is about 36% for space heating, water heating, and cooling/ventilation (HVAC), and 23% for lighting.”
Today’s building automation systems manage more than just HVAC systems, providing additional areas to identify energy savings. By controlling lighting, security, fire alarms, and access control, facility managers can optimize operations and control systems from a single pane of glass.
When it comes to legacy upgrades, be sure to work with a company specializing in BAS installation, performance, and maintenance. There are many systems and equipment options available. A professional can evaluate your situation, providing a path to upgrade from an older legacy system while taking advantage of new technology.
For more on what a BAS system does and can do for your facility and learn how to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings, click here.
Automate & Monitor HVAC, Lights, Security
Some key areas where a BAS can help reduce energy costs are HVAC, lighting, and security/access control.
The National Grid found in its research that “in a typical office building, lighting, heating, and cooling represent between 54 and 71 percent of total use depending on climate, making those systems the best targets for energy savings.”
Having greater control over these systems using a modern building automation system can help a facility manager to maximize operational performance and make subtle yet cost-effective adjustments based on data over time.
Alternatively, a BAS can mitigate potential problems in real-time, creating a more preventive posture. Building automation solutions can also be tailored to the type and size of facility or facilities, helping a facility manager better oversee larger buildings or multiple buildings.
Build More Environmentally Friendly, Energy Efficient Buildings
Whether you are building a new facility, renovating an existing building, or just looking to make your current facilities and work environment more sustainable, one valuable resource is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is a leader in the arena of building environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings.
The USGBC has created a roadmap with its LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, standards, and rating system that is recognized and used worldwide.
Some of the benefits of embracing LEED standards, and a more sustainable and green approach to buildings, include:
- It helps create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.
- It saves energy, water, resources, generates less waste, and supports human health.
- Attracts tenants, costs less to operate, and boosts employee productivity retention.
- Certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories, including energy use and air quality. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then earns one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
Be sure to work with a BAS company that has LEED Accredited Professionals.
4. Use Audits & Analysis
Using data analysis and visualization, an accredited BAS company can help a facility manager realize more significant savings over time.
You can achieve this by performing energy audits, offering recommendations based on past experiences and proposals that support your goals regarding saving energy, boosting system performance, solving ongoing problems, etc.
A smart building utilizing a more integrated approach can leverage systems to provide several operational efficiencies, from the better use of employees and other personnel to the better use of equipment and resources.
For example, analytics software can detect anomalies or changes in equipment performance, alerting a facility manager or maintenance person before a major issue occurs, saving repair costs or downtime.
This is why picking the right company to work with is so important, as these trusted advisors can provide a building operation review to determine energy management or environmental improvements necessary to achieve established goals.
With the available abundance of data, it’s leverageable for real energy and cost savings.
Consider Employee Productivity vs. Energy Savings
With all of this talk about using modern technology to save energy and costs, it is essential to factor in employee comfort and productivity when creating a strategy to save energy and minimize overall energy costs.
The 2-20-200 Rule illustrates why employee comfort is key to productivity and your bottom line, more so than lowering the thermostat.
What is great about today’s building automation systems, though, is their ability to find energy savings while still maintaining a comfortable and conducive work environment that has no negative impacts.
By optimizing and automating systems while leveraging the latest technology, BAS can also create better work environments while savings costs.
Take Advantage of New Technology
Having all of the systems integrated also enables a facility manager to mine aggregated data for additional energy savings, operational efficiencies, and overall building performance.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, allows a facility manager to process and analyze all of the building(s) data and recognize patterns or anomalies that can lead to insights, savings, and greater efficiencies.
Robotics presents another area that can help buildings reduce energy, improve efficiency and productivity.
For example, many buildings successfully use automated ground vehicles, robotic assembly lines in warehouses, and automate certain job functions. This translates into tangible savings to the bottom line.
Implementing Strategies For How To Improve Energy Efficiency In Buildings
The above strategies are all practical and attainable ways to improve energy efficiency in buildings. In most cases, integrating a building automation system into your facility’s operation will begin showing instant savings that lead the way towards achieving your long-term goals.