Danfoss Event Explores Path to High-Performance, Integrated Buildings

Danfoss Event Explores Path to High-Performance, Integrated Buildings

Danfoss recently hosted its 26th EnVisioneering Symposium, “Tomorrow’s Buildings: New Driving Forces,” in Washington, D.C.

Danfoss, manufacturer of high-efficiency components and controls for air-conditioning, heating, refrigeration, industrial, and water systems, recently hosted its 26th EnVisioneering Symposium, “Tomorrow’s Buildings: New Driving Forces,” in Washington, D.C.

Lisa Tryson, Danfoss director for corporate communications and public relations, set the symposium agenda in her opening remarks.

“The U.S. Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the recent United Nations carbon-emissions agreement point to a new vision for energy and a low-carbon or post-carbon future,” Tryson said. “High-performance buildings are vital to that future. Buildings can be made dramatically more efficient, smart, and integrated. Since buildings consume about 70 percent of our electricity, it is hard to imagine a low- or post-carbon world without very high-performance buildings. Our mission today is to explore how we make the vision a reality.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Julie Rosenberg, branch chief, state and local climate and energy programs, and Cindy Jacobs, senior advisor, commercial- and industrial-buildings branch, climate-protection division, noted the CPP is set to achieve a 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

“Energy efficiency,” Jacobs said, “is critical to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Some current efficiency trends include transparency in building energy use, energy benchmarking and disclosure policies, the availability of utility aggregate data on buildings with three or more tenants, and increasing interest in tenant energy efficiency. But the overarching point is that the CPP has set in motion the transition to a new energy/carbon world.

Scott Foster, director, sustainable-energy division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, sees the same trends emerging worldwide.

“By 2050, the world’s population will be about 9 billion,” Foster said. “Of those 9 billion people, 70 percent will be living in cities. That’s the equivalent of adding 235 cities the size of Paris to the planet.”

Grid Modernization and the Building Delivery System

High-performance, integrated buildings require a platform that can obtain and analyze real-time energy-use information and help building systems communicate with one another. The U.S. Department of Energy, participants noted, is actively investing in grid-modernization initiatives that will improve reliability, efficiency, and resiliency and enable better energy analytics. This includes the development of a platform that will help varied building systems from various manufacturers talk to one another.

James Freihaut, PhD, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University, said two-thirds of fuel energy is lost in U.S. electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. Moving the market toward a new generation of buildings that can interact on a smarter grid requires a redesign of the entire building delivery system—from regulations and policy to design, construction, and finance—and that redesign needs to be data-driven.

Drake Erbe, vice president of business development for Airxchange and chairman of the committee for ASHRAE 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, said: “The building delivery system has to change. Beyond standards and codes, there is a whole set of groups that need to fundamentally change their individual business models.”

Foster took the argument a step further, suggesting that moving the market requires a significant “mind shift”—from selling commodities to services.

“We’re not actually delivering energy,” Foster said. “We’re delivering quality of life. We’re not actually delivering commodities—oil, gas, and electricity—we’re delivering lighting, heating, cooling. If we can figure out how to structure the regulatory system so that it focuses on the services and puts value on services, it would change business models.”

Performance Standards, Benchmarking, and Best Practices

Richard Yancey, executive director of Building Energy Exchange.

Laura Van Wie McGrory, vice president for international policy for the Alliance to Save Energy, and Maureen Guttman, president of the Building Codes Assistance Project, explored important strategies for advancing system efficiency. These included:

  • Better modeling to reflect real-world conditions.
  • Analysis of mechanical systems at full and partial loads.
  • Establishing better-informed baselines.
  • Continuous commissioning to ensure long-term energy savings.
  • Coordination among industry stakeholders and between industry and policymakers.
  • Professionalized workforce training on systems approaches.

Executive Director of Building Energy Exchange Richard Yancey offered a glimpse into the future when he outlined New York City’s One City, Built to Last campaign. NYC’s climate action plan seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, including a 60-percent reduction from buildings. Since 2005, it has achieved a 19-percent reduction, driven by upgraded performance standards for new construction and improved lighting, heating systems, and code-required efficiency in existing buildings, with expanded benchmarking and retrocommissioning for 25,000-sq-ft facilities.

Amory Lovins, co-founder, chief scientist, and chairman emeritus of the Rocky Mountain Institute, also presented a picture of what the future could look like when the full building envelope is considered in the design phase, noting that, with good design, U.S. buildings could triple or quadruple their energy productivity over the next 35 years.

Looking Ahead

The symposium’s discussion laid the foundation for a new initiative: a major report on advanced building- and energy-performance strategy Danfoss is creating in collaboration with Freihaut.

Launched in 2006, the Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposia Series facilitates dialogue on emerging challenges and solutions to efficient energy use among industry, the policy community, and thought leaders in research and development.

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