Driven by the continued escalation of energy costs and the increased awareness of the need to conserve energy, the federal government and most states are establishing energy management requirements in the construction of new buildings and industrial facilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has several programs and initiatives designed to aid energy management goals. The DOE plans to reduce the United States’ reliance on foreign energy sources, increase energy efficiency, and implement alternative methods of powering homes and businesses that comply with emerging energy management codes.

Through its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the DOE’s Building Technologies Program (BTP) works closely with the building industry, manufacturers, state and local governments, national laboratories and universities to conduct research and development on technologies and practices for energy efficiency. According to its Web site, the department also promotes energy- and money-saving opportunities to builders and consumers, and it works with state and local regulatory groups to improve building codes and appliance standards. The BTP is researching ways to design, build and operate buildings of the future differently.

Today’s buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy—including transportation and industry—but energy-efficient construction and maintenance technologies will enable tomorrow’s buildings to use significantly less energy and help meet national goals for sustainable development, environmental protection and energy security. Most of the research conducted by the BTP is funded through competitive solicitations and research partners, and projects are selected based on factors such as energy-saving potential, likelihood of success and alignment with the recommendations of industry-developed technology plans.

BTP research demonstrates the -bottom-line benefits of new technologies and building practices and promotes their widespread use. Some of the program’s current initiatives include the development of test procedures and minimum efficiency standards for residential appliances and commercial equipment; the development of more stringent and easier-to-understand building energy codes and financial assistance to help states adopt, implement and enforce them; the support of research and development for the next generation of energy-efficient components, materials and equipment; the development of Energy Star technical requirements and qualifications and the promotion of Energy Star products; and working with architects, engineers, builders, contractors, owners and occupants to optimize building performance, comfort and savings through a whole-building approach to design and construction.

The DOE’s EERE also offers its Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), which promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy resources at federal facilities all over the world, including military installations and DOE sites. As the largest energy consumer in the country, the federal government has both the opportunity and responsibility to lead by example with smart energy management. FEMP provides building designers, constructors and owners with recommendations and other useful tips to help purchase the most efficient equipment for offices and facilities; information on how to design high-performance buildings that save energy and money, enhance indoor environmental quality, and preserve the environment; and guidance on how effective building operations and system maintenance can help ensure reliability, safety, and energy at relatively low cost. It also provides up-to-date information about energy markets, utility restructuring, renewable power purchasing and load-management opportunities to help manage costs, improve reliability and reduce environmental impacts.

Perhaps the most important trend in building energy management is the development by the federal government and states of building energy codes. The DOE’s Building Energy Codes Program is an information resource on national model energy codes. The department works with other government agencies, state and local jurisdictions, national code organizations and industry to promote stronger building energy management codes. It also helps states adopt, implement and enforce those codes. According to the DOE, new buildings can be designed to be both more comfortable and more efficient, cutting heating and cooling costs by close to 50 percent.

Results to date have been excellent. DOE’s $37.5 million investment in the program has resulted in energy savings of nearly $1 billion per year and in the improved energy efficiency of nearly 3 billion square feet of new commercial floor space and 4 million households.  EC

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.