Can We Design to Improve Energy Management


The building sector has the highest potential for energy efficiency. Though the vast majority of energy usage in buildings is from non-renewable resources, this can change, and that transformation will affect more than just the United States. It starts with an understanding of the country's current situation.

As context, buildings represent 36 percent of the annual energy consumption in the United States, as well as 65 percent of the electricity demand. Buildings also account for 30 percent of the country's CO2 emissions, a startling statistic which places the problem in perspective. The U.S. is clearly in need of a solution. 

Fortunately, a diverse variety of solutions exist which improve energy management in commercial and residential buildings. More than that, building and design professionals can integrate these solutions at the design stage, incorporating them into the construction process. It's easier than ever to increase efficiency.

With this in mind, which solutions have proven their value in energy management? What strategies, systems and software should professionals use to decrease the energy usage of buildings? These questions have fascinating answers, and we'll explore three of the most promising innovations below. 

1. Smart Building Components

Can We Design to Improve Energy Management

Bloomberg European Headquarters by Foster and Partners

Ongoing efforts to optimize energy usage should give greater attention to smart design. Many of the technologies which facilitate efficiency are already available, employed to incredible effect in smart buildings. These buildings take full advantage of smart building components to manage their carbon footprint. 

As an example, smart windows which lighten or darken with sunlight intensity can reduce HVAC and lighting loads. Studies show that buildings with these windows can enjoy savings of 19 to 26 percent on cooling, as well as 48 to 67 percent on lighting. Smart HVAC systems are also available, and also effective.

When operators integrate HVAC systems with their building energy management system, they can maximize their efficiency. Advanced control strategies can customize air conditioning to the needs of occupants. With multi-speed fans and demand control ventilation, cost savings often fall between 24 and 32 percent.

2. Modular Building Methods

Can We Design to Improve Energy Management

KODA by Kodasema

Modular homes are superior in energy efficiency over their site-built counterparts. The state-of-the-art facilities which produce the components allow for certain advantages, like sealed areas which would prove impossible to seal or insulate in traditional homes. The advantages of modular building methods don't end there. 

With fewer leaks and gaps in the building envelope, homeowners enjoy a reduction in drafts, moisture, dust, pollen and noise. This enhances occupant comfort while improving indoor air quality and decreasing utility costs. The installation of efficient heating and cooling systems can greater compound the effects of improved energy management.

When builders install an energy-efficient heating system in a tightly sealed home, the equipment doesn't have to work as hard. It results in lower energy costs, a quieter system and less humidity. Overall, prefabricated building methods have benefits for both energy efficiency and the long-term satisfaction of residents and building tenants.

3. Building Energy Management Systems

Can We Design to Improve Energy Management

As mentioned earlier, building energy management systems have incredible potential for energy savings. BEMS software can continually monitor and analyze a building's energy usage, checking the consumption of heating and cooling, security systems and lighting. With these systems, managers have full transparency.

BEMS software is exceptionally useful for detecting energy drifts. The term, "energy drift," refers to the fluctuations in energy usage over time, common in older buildings with aging components. When building managers detect these drifts, they can address the problem with energy-efficient solutions. 

Presently, commercial buildings, public institutions and even private homes all have access to BEMS software. As these systems see greater adoption across the country — in both a commercial and residential context — they'll play an important role in the transition toward optimized energy usage. 

Energy Management in Building Design

Can We Design to Improve Energy Management

The building sector has the highest potential for energy efficiency, and the technologies are available. Building and design professionals have access to solutions like smart building components and BEMS software. Moreover, modular building methods are superior to traditional techniques in many ways. 

So what's the next step? How can industry professionals improve the current situation, and work toward reducing the unsustainable levels of energy consumption from the country's commercial and residential buildings? These are complicated questions with no simple answer, but one thing is certain.

Even with growing pains, growth is ultimately necessary.

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