Meeting energy and carbon reduction goals in the building sector calls for aggressive energy efficiency measures in both new constructions and existing buildings. This requires both savings depth (% energy reduction per building) and breadth (% of building stock addressed). This article presents opportunities and challenges for implementing deep energy retrofits in commercial buildings and describes research efforts to develop scalable energy efficiency packages. While the research is primarily targeted at the US building stock, it may offer useful insights for India's rapidly expanding building sector.
There is already a wide array of proven, commercially available energy efficiency technologies and strategies to achieve deep energy savings in new and existing buildings. According to the New Buildings Institute, there are almost 600 net-zero energy buildings in the United States [NBI 2019]. However, for most of the market, there remains a stubborn and persistent "adoption gap" for energy efficiency, i.e., the difference between the techno-economic potential and adoption of energy efficiency solutions is substantial. Various roadmaps and action plans over the years have identified a range of barriers and opportunities to address this gap [e.g., McKinsey 2009, CEC 2015], including awareness, cost-effectiveness, access to financing, workforce training, ease of use, etc.
The current practice in building energy retrofits is to treat each building as a unique engineering project, making retrofits difficult to scale. Furthermore, such retrofits are often too disruptive to building occupants and activities because they are not aligned with the real estate life-cycle. Put simply, it's not currently easy to implement state-of-the-art advanced integrated building system technologies that yield deeper energy savings. There is growing consensus in the building industry that using systems approaches may well be a "game changer" and will become increasingly necessary to achieve future meaningful and cost-effective energy savings in buildings (ASE 2017, Regnier et al. 2018a). However, advanced integrated systems remain underutilized for a variety of reasons: they often require significant engineering expertise to ensure that they are designed, integrated, commissioned, and operated effectively. Utility incentives, if available, are only possible through custom programmes with narrow eligibility requirements and often entail overly cumbersome measurement and verification (M&V). Savings uncertainty and persistence issues remain a real or perceived risk, which in turn hinders financing based on savings.
One approach to address the adoption gap is to better coordinate and align energy efficiency with the actual business of real estate. Toward that end, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is leading a research project sponsored by the US Department of Energy to develop and field-validate packaged solutions that opportunistically incorporate energy efficiency within real estate life cycle events that are happening every day in the building sector. The intent is to significantly reduce transaction costs for owners and service providers through technology combined with business process integration, standardization, and streamlining throughout the real estate delivery chain.
The realities of the real estate business
LBNL conducted research to understand and characterize the real estate life cycle from the perspective of intervention points for energy efficiency and their associated stakeholder processes, priorities and sensitivities (Mathew et al. 2019). The summary of these findings is provided below.
We identified seven themes:
1. Payback is (almost always) still important
How long of a payback period is acceptable? The most common responses fall in the three- to five-year range. However, several organizations and individuals that we talked to clearly steer go/no-go project decisions away from energy and toward proposed projects' ancillary or non-energy, occupant-facing benefits.
2. Packaging and standardization of solutions are valuable
The prospect of standardized, drop-in energy efficiency solutions with well-vetted energy savings was welcomed by almost all interviewees. Time urgency was cited as a big obstacle/factor in fit-outs and renovations, and commoditization of solutions was seen as highly beneficial and much more likely to result in energy efficiency advances than customized approaches.
3. Get in the specs
The importance of having a hard-wired directive or preference - whether housed in a set of specifications, design standards, guidelines, 5-year plans, or even, in one instance, a purchasing portal - cannot be overstated. The predilection to avoid headaches and go with a known, replicated solution is a very strong one. As one respondent put it, “what's easy gets done."
4. Timing is critical
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Role Of Smart Meters In Energy Management
Energy metering in India has evolved over several years. Apart from energy accounting and revenue management, it plays a crucial role in billing efficiency, renewable energy integration and load management. The Government of India is now focusing on the need to adopt prepaid and smart meters to bring down the Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) losses.
Water-Food-Energy Nexus In India
In these times of agriculture crisis and falling water tables, it is important to rework policies to better address key challenges in the irrigation-power space, argues this article reproduced from TERI.
Investigating The Water-Energy Nexus (WEN) In Indian Industry
This paper attempts to provide the need, background and context for a comprehensive WEN strategic programme in Indian industry.
Wef Nexus – Applying An Inter-sectoral Lens To Meet Growing Needs
Ritu Thakur of the CDKN-Asia team and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia, describes how an inter-sectoral development approach in Nashik, the "backyard of Mumbai", is helping meet people's growing needs for water, energy and food.
Integrating Water Streams
This article discusses the concept and practice of Integrated Water Cycle Management, its growing relevance in the context of changing climate and customer values and also the irrelevance of the business model with which water utilities have been operating for long.
Exploring The Water-energy Nexus
There is a clear need in urban India and the countryside for concerted investigations that address the water sector's impact on energy resources, and the energy sector's impact on water resources, including development, operations and end-uses, says Hariharan Chandrashekar.
Integrated System Packages For Deep Energy Retrofits In Commercial Buildings
This article presents opportunities and challenges for implementing deep energy retrofits in commercial buildings and describes research efforts to develop scalable energy efficiency packages.
Review Of France's Roadmap For Positive-Energy And Low-Carbon Buildings And Building Clusters
France's roadmap for positive-energy and low- carbon buildings and building clusters was prepared way back in 2010 based on a study undertaken by an expert group to align with the French energy legislation adopted in 2005, with a target to lower greenhouse gas emissions by threequarters by 2050 compared to 1990 (the so-called Factor 4 objective).
If climate change commitments are taken seriously by world governments, their industries will follow suit and drive change from unsustainable practices to sustainable practices. The energy and environment management professionals whose professional and personal lives are so directly connected to this cause have a pivotal role to play in driving change at all levels.
An Eco-Conscious Guest House's Journey Towards Energy Sustainability
This article presents the efforts of a sea-front eco-conscious guest house in Puducherry in lowering its energy footprint without compromising the services provided to the guests.