ASHRAE, Buildings, the Grid, and Resources to Face the Challenges

April 25, 2018

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Photo of the exterior of a large office building.
Image: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

By Sheila J. Hayter, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, ASHRAE President-Elect

ASHRAE is focused on advancing toward a future where the built environment is healthier, more comfortable, and more energy efficient. Building energy consumption accounts for more than 40% of worldwide energy use. With such a staggering statistic, it is no surprise that the building industry is at the forefront of the grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEB) concept.

Enabling smarter grids has the potential to create a revolution in the building sector that will save energy and costs. ASHRAE believes partnering with key allies like the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) and national laboratories will make this revolution a reality sooner rather than later.

One way ASHRAE is leading the charge in this field is through research and engaging both societal and member expertise into zero energy districts, communities that are a mix of campuses, commercial buildings, and homes.

Zero energy districts are designed and built to use renewable energy and maximize energy efficiency on a larger scale than just a single building. This is done by sharing resources and infrastructure, by capturing energy that otherwise might be wasted, and by relying on renewables. Projects have started in several locations across the United States, and the cost savings from these locations are expected to spur growth in other locations.

As the building industry engages within the GEB concept and BTO continues to realize success in accelerating the rate of efficiency improvements in new and existing commercial and residential buildings, ASHRAE is poised to lead the conversation, so we can face the challenges ahead and identify much-needed solutions.

Greater awareness and coordination between the public and private sectors on standards, codes, and guidelines can help advance the pace of which energy-efficient technology and research are incorporated in the built environment.

The ANSI/ASHRAE/NEMA Standard 201-2016, Facility Smart Grid Information Model provides a common basis for electrical energy consumers to describe, manage, and communicate about electrical energy consumptions and forecasts. This standard gives guidance for driving the innovations of technology manufacturers toward requirements that will support the developing smart grid. The standard provides a way to model real building systems as a combination of four abstract components: loads, generators, meters, and energy managers.

ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2014, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, a compliance option to the International Green Construction Code, provides total building sustainability guidance for designing, building, and operating high-performance green buildings. Standard 189.1 serves as a framework for action and coordination on GEBs by balancing environmental responsibility, resource efficiency, occupant comfort and well-being, and community sensitivity.

One of the biggest impacts on energy efficiency from ASHRAE is the publication of the 2016 version of Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. By law, each state is required to adopt commercial building codes that meet or exceed this standard, which will result in building energy savings of 35% to 40% relative to the 2004 standard. While 90.1 doesn’t explicitly link to GEB today, one can imagine a future when standards for “connectedness” become just as fundamental to energy efficiency as traditional energy-efficiency measures contained within the standard today.

Similarly, ASHRAE’s Green Guide publication works toward improving the residential built environment, but does not specifically focus on GEB technologies or systems. However, these guides are regularly revised to help the building sector embrace green building concepts; in fact, it was recently revised to include specific content on residential buildings and is currently working on the development of the first residential building design guide focusing on multifamily buildings.

As GEB technologies and design principals are developed and validated, these guides could provide future HVAC&R system designers, architects, building owners, managers, and contractors easy-to-use reference material for grid-interactivity across a wide class of buildings.

ASHRAE’s Advanced Energy Design Guides are tailored to the design and creation of zero energy buildings, which draw outside resources equal (or less) than are provided using on-site renewable energy sources – this integration with distributed energy resources is a key aspect of the GEB future.

A new publication, Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings – Achieving Zero Energy, is the first in a series of guides that will empower owners, contractors, consulting engineers, architects, designers, and administrators of K-12 school buildings to cost-effectively achieve advanced levels of energy savings. 

The guides were developed by ASHRAE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society, and the U.S. Green Building Council with support and funding from BTO.

ASHRAE remains committed to providing aggressive energy-efficiency improvements in new and existing buildings and also embracing new technologies for energy savings, such as GEB, through our standards, guidelines, and other publications. If we continue to work together, focus on performance and utilization of the right resources, we can advance toward producing a more sustainable world for future generations.

Read more in the Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings article series.