Energy Management Opportunities and Trends in Commercial Buildings
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial and residential buildings consume nearly 30% of end-use energy in the United States. And while that is a staggering figure, according to Energy Star, “The average building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes because of inefficiencies.”
Couple this significant efficiency challenge with initiatives to reduce environmental impact, and the commercial building sector is facing considerable pressure to reduce its energy consumption. This pressure and the financial impact of reduced energy costs drive several key trends in commercial building energy management.
As tenants and investors become increasingly aware of environmental and energy-efficiency issues, commercial buildings prioritizing sustainability are more desired locations. Effective energy management standards will improve the reputation and marketability of your commercial properties.
Trends in commercial energy management
Sustainability and Green Building Practices
Increased adoption of renewable energy: More buildings are incorporating on-site solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal energy systems to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Energy-efficient construction: New construction increasingly prioritizes energy efficiency through improved insulation, smart windows, and high-performance HVAC systems.
Circular economy principles: Buildings, lighting systems, and other structural components are designed to disassemble and reuse materials, minimizing waste and promoting resource conservation.
Technology and Data Analytics Management
Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS): AI-powered BEMS are becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering real-time data insights, predictive maintenance, and automated optimization of energy use.
Internet of Things (IoT): Sensors and connected devices are being used to monitor and control energy consumption at the individual equipment level, providing granular data for targeted interventions.
Big data analytics: Advanced analytics enable building managers to identify patterns and trends in energy use, leading to more informed decision-making.
Occupant Engagement and Behavioral Change
Intelligent lighting systems automatically adjust lighting levels based on occupancy and daylight availability, reducing unnecessary energy consumption.
Interactive dashboards provide occupants with real-time feedback on their energy use, encouraging behavioral changes toward sustainability.
Wellness and comfort are recognized by building managers as the link between energy efficiency and occupant well-being. Buildings are designed to optimize indoor air quality, thermal comfort, and natural lighting, creating a healthier and more productive environment.
Integration with Smart Grids
Commercial buildings are increasingly integrated with smart grids, allowing demand response programs and dynamic energy pricing models. This enables buildings to adjust their energy consumption in response to grid conditions, reducing peak demand and optimizing energy costs.
Financial Incentives and Regulatory Compliance
Governments are implementing carbon pricing schemes and other incentives to encourage energy efficiency in buildings. These incentives are driving demand for energy-efficient technologies and practices. Building codes and regulations are becoming stricter, requiring new buildings to meet higher energy-performance standards.
Energy Management Challenges for Commercial Building Owners
Offices, hospitals, schools, and retail buildings are complex structures that contain multiple energy-consuming systems, such as HVAC, lighting, elevators, refrigeration, data centers, and IT infrastructure. This diversity of systems that require energy requires advanced management applications.
According to the Enhanced Commercial Property Database, the average age of a commercial building in the United States is 53 years old. This age means the average building was constructed before the energy crisis of the early 1970’s. This crisis became the impetus for the 1978 legislation from Congress requiring states to initiate energy efficiency standards for new buildings.
The Absence of Analytics
Despite advancements in smart devices and systems that have improved the ability to monitor and control energy consumption, there remains a significant void in data concerning building inefficiencies. However, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Performance Database (BPD) is an initiative to fill that void. The publicly available database contains nearly one million records from commercial and residential buildings and provides building energy use data for analysis purposes.
Implementing energy efficiency improvements may require a sizable investment. While these investments have a positive Return on Investment (ROI), these returns can take time to realize. Taking advantage of incentives and other financing programs can help offset the upfront cost.
How to Get Started Improving Your Commercial Buildings Energy Management
Conduct a facility energy audit performed in-house by professionals. This audit is the most effective way to discover opportunities to improve building or campus energy efficiency. Utilizing the ASHRAE Energy Audit Levels model, these audits will evaluate the current facility systems and help identify specific methods of reducing your long-term operating costs.