Symposium Raises Questions About Energy-Efficient Building Design

With legislation for energy efficiency and climate change sitting on Capitol Hill, HVACR industry experts gathered May 13 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to discuss the technologies and strategies needed to engineer and construct net-zero-energy buildings.

More than 50 industry professionals participated in the 13th Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium, which included presentations from the following speakers:

• U.S. Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY)
• U.S. Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD)
• James Rannels, supervisor of the Commercial Building Integration and Deployment Project for the U.S. Department of Energy, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
• Richard Lord, engineering fellow at Carrier Corp.
• Drake Erbe, vice president of market development for Airxchange Inc.
• Karen Penafiel, CAE, vice president for advocacy at BOMA International
• Godfried L. Augenbroe, associate professor at the School of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology
• James McClendon, director of engineering for Wal-Mart

Congressman Israel, who serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Energy and Water, State and Foreign Operations, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, kicked off the discussion by saying, “It is within our national interest to conserve energy.”

He continued by tying the need for increased and regulated energy efficiency to issues of national security, charging that the U.S. Department of Defense spends billions of dollars each year on heating, cooling, and power, resources that are supported through foreign oil and funds borrowed from overseas.

In his opening remarks, Robert Wilkins, president of Danfoss North America, posited, “The current trajectory of technology-based energy-efficiency improvements seems unlikely to meet important energy savings goals related to cost, global security, energy security, and climate change. Progress is being made, but the trend does not match the challenge.”

Energy Efficiency Requires a Systems Approach
Sticking to the symposium’s theme, “Rx: Systems Approach to Net Zero,” Drake Erbe of Airxchange Inc. introduced the idea of a systems approach to energy efficiency by saying, “The building delivery system must be driven by more than just manufacturing.”

Together with insights from Richard Lord of Carrier Corp., Erbe emphasized that components have been nearly maxed out in terms of energy efficiency. Each building needs to be approached from a systems level, and, more importantly, building components and systems need to be integrated to work together and improve energy efficiency.

“If the desire is to be at net zero by 2030, efficiency requirements also need to change,” said Lord. “As they stand today, they do not recognize or reward innovative designs. The fact is that operations cannot be controlled independently—for example, heating systems should recover energy that can then be used for other building systems. We are currently defining efficiency based on components, and we need to develop a different approach to reach efficiency goals.”

As the symposium’s participants pointed out, most buildings are not operated as intended, which ultimately effects energy efficiency. Instead, operations and maintenance need to go hand-in-hand with energy engineering. To achieve this partnership, the industry needs more than voluntary standards; enforceable standards should be used to achieve and guarantee maximum results.

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