In the United States, buildings consume approximately 37% of the energy. Based on Lincus’ direct experience with hundreds of commercial buildings, there is significant potential for low-cost energy efficiency improvement in both existing and new construction commercial buildings. In fact, achieving energy efficiency goals in commercial buildings has been quite beneficial for the energy utilities within their new construction energy efficiency programs.
Typically, energy utilities focusing on incremental improvements based on whole-building design – and/or system efficiency improvements over the current codes or standards – achieve a 10-15% energy reduction in commercial buildings. This modest approach has worked well in terms of providing relatively higher benefit cost ratios. One of the main reasons for the high benefit cost ratio for new construction-based energy efficiency programs is due to the use of incremental cost of improvements in calculations, as opposed to using full cost of implemented measures, as in many other energy efficiency programs. As new laws for emission reductions, energy efficiency, and codes and standards are put in place with higher energy use baselines, new construction EE programs’ cost effectiveness are diminishing.
Fortunately, we have proven and economical options to continue with the new construction energy efficiency programs with high benefit cost ratios. When low energy and passive design options are included in the building design, mechanical systems, ventilation systems, thermal mass, daylighting, and control strategies, buildings can be expected to achieve much lower energy consumption well below the existing new construction energy efficiency program strategies. In our approach, passive solar and ventilation strategies are the foundation of low energy building designs accomplished by detailed energy modeling in which a building can be viewed in total rather than a collection of various and independent parts so that architects, builders and policy makers adopt a whole building approach to design and construction.
As we are marching toward sustainability and Zero Net Energy while achieving thermal comfort in commercial buildings, Lincus’ design assistance team has demonstrated to architectural and engineering (A&E) firms that Passive and Low Energy strategies using nature to design and/or retrofit the whole building and the site works for the customer and differentiates the A&E firm. The site and the building’s architecture, landscape, water use, microclimate, and urban design are geared to minimize energy consumption, improve thermal comfort, and help to restore the environment. Since typically there is no one A&E firm with all the energy efficiency based in-house expertise and due to the nature of A&E firms’ competitive market not allowing for sustainability options analysis, design assistance under the energy utility energy efficiency programs are ideal in filling this gap. Therefore, for continued success of the new construction EE programs that go beyond the limited savings toward low energy or zero net energy buildings, energy utilities need to consider including passive and low energy technical design, policy, and educational implementation assistance to customers and A&E firms.
Based on Lincus latest experience with hundreds of new construction projects, we have performed a study of the new construction programs and the data from this study provides clear direction for targeted segments in market penetration (building types) and in energy savings contributed toward the program goals.
Marketing New Construction Programs
In this study, of the 116 projects analyzed, office buildings, schools and university building types are the most common participants.
Figure 2 below outlines the share of the approved energy savings by building type. Majority of savings into the evaluated programs were realized from the Laboratory buildings, Health Centers and Universities even though the participation in the program from these segments were limited.
In Figure 3 below, the average approved energy savings per project for each building type is again favoring Labs, Health Centers, Industrial Facilities and Universities.
The study findings show that the share of the energy savings for each building type differs from the population share. As an example, while the K-12 school building category had 16% of all participants, it only contributed 5% to the approved savings. In contrast, laboratory buildings were only 4% of the population, but had 17% of the savings. There are variety of reasons as to why the energy savings of building types does not follow the program participation for each category such as smaller office buildings having limited opportunities, university buildings being served by a central plant and adding a new efficient buildings only increases the load, and that the Laboratory buildings requiring as much as 100% outside air for air quality requirements presenting significant opportunities.
Energy Simulation Tools
Since the energy simulation modeling is the backbone of any new construction building evaluations, this study also reviewed market players’ preference and familiarity with the energy simulation modeling. Typically, energy savings of each project are calculated by one the approved simulation tools using the energy model. Among the new construction energy efficiency projects EnergyPro has the most applications with 84% of projects using this software. This is followed by IES VE (9%), CBECC-Com (5%) and eQuest (2%) depending on a) the latest version improvements in these software tools, b) energy utility company approvals, c) type of buildings and d) the design reviewer’s familiarity with the software tool.
Within the commonly implemented new construction programs, generally accepted elapsed time from project discovery to completion of construction may be as many as 4 years. Since the utility DSM budgets are typically assigned for every 3 years, projects that are installed in greater than 3 years are less desirable. For this reason, some utilities are operating their own new construction programs. This ensures continuity of their programs across multiple budget cycles. Successful programs are also attributed to excellent A&E firm relationships, market segment knowledge of the program, dynamic program management that increases and/or decreases amount of participation from various segments or size of buildings, training of customers and A&E community as well as having excellent knowledge of the design review process.
We want to help you become optimally energy efficient. Contact us for solutions and further details about how to increase your new construction energy efficiency program’s cost effectiveness. We will be happy to assist you on your next project.
For further information on New Construction and Savings by Design, check out our ACEEE paper.