Systems Efficiency Is the Key to Building Energy Optimization

Published On
May 1, 2017

A new report, "Going Beyond Zero: A Systems Efficiency Blueprint for Building Energy Optimization and Resilience," published in May by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), focuses on how to better capitalize on new technologies that allow "smarter interactions of components" within and among various building systems (including heating and cooling systems, lighting systems, and miscellaneous electric loads), as well as interactions among multiple buildings, and between the buildings and the electric grid.

"We have known for years that, while we need to continue making progress on the efficiency of individual components in buildings, we can't meet our goals without also looking at buildings holistically and taking a systems approach," said Keteri Callahan, president of the ASE. "It's time we move from the discussion phase to execution, and that's what this blueprint is intended to do."

ASE sponsors the Systems Efficiency Initiative (SEI), a collaboration formed in 2015 that includes over 50 entities involved in energy use across the entire life cycle of buildings. SEI includes manufacturers, designers, builders, utilities, national- and state-level government agencies, and efficiency advocates.

The report outlines a number of reasons for the need to transition to a systems approach. Among them:

  • Some mechanical equipment and other building components are approaching technical and economic limitations for achieving further efficiency improvements.
  • Highly efficient components do not necessarily result in an efficient building.
  • Emerging opportunities to achieve significant efficiency gains are optimally applied at the system level, not an individual level.
  • Current metrics and regulations typically address the efficiency of equipment and buildings as designed, but most do not address actual building performance. New systems-level metrics, standards and tools can support improved building performance systems.
  • Despite decades of improvements in equipment efficiency, the overall energy use of U.S. commercial buildings continues to increase.

The report goes on to identify some key strategies for improving building system efficiency. These include breaking down silos, integrating systems, optimizing operations through technology, incorporating systems strategies through all phases of a building life cycle, and thinking outside of the building.

It's prime reading material for electrical contractors looking to get into integrated systems work. Check it out here.

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