Whole-Building Approach Finds Savings in Efficient Systems

August 24, 2017

The next level of energy efficiency in buildings depends on a holistic systems approach that accounts for how building systems, facilities and the grid interact with each other, according to the Systems Efficiency Initiative, a coalition of more than 50 government agencies, utilities, design professionals and manufacturers.

The systems approach is necessary because individual pieces of mechanical equipment and other building components are rapidly approaching technical and economic limitations for energy efficiency, meaning that it will cost more and more to achieve marginal efficiency improvements.

In addition, individual components that are highly efficient don’t always mean the building operates efficiently. A whole-building view solves both of these problems by finding savings opportunities in the interactions between building systems, an area that offers previously unexplored avenues to reducing energy consumption.

The report identifies two major priorities for building owners. Chief among them is partnering with energy services companies to build up building-to-grid capabilities incrementally. This should be done in combination with building systems designed around the non-energy benefits of connected devices and IoT. The end goal is a multidirectional flow of both power and information between utilities and customers, coupled with smart sensing, metering and control technologies that enable proactive demand response decisions rather than reactive ones.

Building owners’ and managers’ associations are also urged to educate members on how commissioning (both initial and ongoing) impacts building performance, participate in pilot programs and support workforce training to achieve the original performance intent of buildings as designed. The report recommends programs recognized by the DOE Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines as a good place to start; consider reaching out to professional organizations as well, as many offer continuing education for building professionals.

The full report, Going Beyond Zero: A Systems Efficiency Blueprint for Building Energy Optimization and Resilience, is available at