DOE's Building Technologies Office (BTO) announced it is investing more than $3 million in five projects to improve the efficiency of the nation’s commercial buildings. This investment is designed to drive innovation in multisystem technology packages while also fostering the collaboration of dynamic industry teams that include energy consultants and nongovernmental organizations, utilities, and technology providers.

“Commercial buildings consume almost 20% of all energy within the United States,” said David Nemtzow, director of the Building Technologies Office. “Research and development focusing on these innovative technology packages will uncover key interactions between commercial building systems that can improve our nation’s commercial building stock and cut energy bills for American businesses. It’s an excellent partnership among U.S. businesses, universities, and the Department of Energy.”

These projects, which include matching private-sector funding, will leverage a combined $5.4 million to help ignite new innovative commercial building technology packages that can save significant energy in new and existing buildings. Findings from this work will also enable and unleash investment-level decision-making, helping accelerate the development of utility programs for packages of technologies that meet cost-effectiveness thresholds.

U.S. commercial buildings use nearly 18 quads of energy annually, roughly 18% of total U.S. energy consumption, including 36% of national electricity consumption. In 2014, the United States spent more than $180 billion to provide energy services to these existing commercial buildings. Through strategic research and development (R&D) investments, like these projects, advanced energy efficiency building technologies can dramatically improve the energy performance of commercial buildings, saving money and helping create jobs.

Each project team, made up of strategically structured partners, will  develop and verify the benefits and trade-offs of multisystem energy efficient technology packages (groups of technologies that improve efficiency across two building systems: envelope, lighting/electrical, plug, process, heating, ventilation, cooling, refrigeration, energy management and information, sensors and controls). These projects will help commercial building owners and operators better understand and optimize building systems in order to achieve significant cost-effective energy savings. Selected teams will create new synergies between building stakeholder groups, and, ultimately help utilities develop and release or expand more aggressive and ambitious energy efficiency program offerings.

Projects selected for funding are:

  • A Systems Approach to Achieving Deep Heating Savings through Measurement, Management and Motivation
    Led by Steven Winter Associates in Connecticut, this team proposes to validate the heating and occupant-based savings in existing multifamily units using “smart” and connected wireless thermostatic radiator valves. Key partners include Sentient Technologies ConEd, and the Related Companies.
  • Integrated Solutions for Optimized Performance (ISOP) Package
    Led by TRC Energy Services in California, this team proposes to study the synergistic interactions of daylighting, plug controls, automated fault detection and diagnostics (AFDD) and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system optimization. This project seeks to answer untested building science research questions about the complexity of integration among these components as they are applied within operational commercial buildings. Partners include lighting, shading, HVAC control and AFDD providers and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
  • Bringing Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) Tools into the Mainstream for Retro-Commissioning and Continuous Commissioning of HVAC and Refrigeration Systems
    Led by the University of New Haven in Connecticut, this team proposes to study selected software platforms that apply algorithms to identify, diagnose, and sometimes fix “broken” electric cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration systems in buildings. Key partners include UTRC and United Illuminating.
  • Integrated Controls Package for High Performance Interior Retrofit
    Led by Seventhwave, this team proposes to study the integration trade-offs, cost and energy optimization of daylighting, LED electric lighting, plug load sensors and zonal air flow control. Key partners include lighting control, plug load control, and window film providers and Xcel Energy, the State of Illinois, and the University of Minnesota.
  • Using Network Switches to Operate and Control Lighting and Plug Loads in Commercial Building Office Spaces
    Led by the Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment, this team proposes to research and validate energy and cost savings opportunities using existing power over Ethernet (PoE) infrastructure to power and automate lighting, plugs and HVAC system controls. Partners include a PoE consultant, plug control provider, architecture and engineering firms, Xcel Energy and CBRE.