EERE Success Story—Driving Innovation in the Commercial Building Sector

September 13, 2017

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The Energy Department’s Commercial Buildings Integration (CBI) program leads research and development efforts to accelerate innovation in the energy sector through robust technical and diagnostic analysis of emerging technologies and solutions to produce new efficiencies through integrated building systems research. As a nation, each year we spend over $200 billion to power our commercial buildings, making CBI’s work to advance efficiency technologies and integrated systems solutions a key strategy to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness.  CBI’s work across interior lighting, energy management and information systems, and automated meter analytics has physically validated the savings potential of these technologies and continues to inform future research and development efforts.

The Interior Lighting Campaign (ILC), a technical analysis, guidance and recognition program targets one of the simplest, most cost-effective strategies to tackle energy waste – upgrading inefficienct and outdated lighting systems that account for $10 billion in energy costs per year. Armed with ILC resources, like the High Efficiency Troffer Performance Specification, a diverse group of participants has implemented cost-effective upgrades that not only reduce energy waste in buildings, but also create a level of transparency that provides building owners and operators insight into whole building performance and energy consumption. High-profile partners like the Target Corporation, CKE Restaurant Holdings, Inc., Northern Arizona University, and the U.S. Army, have collectively saved nearly $24 million annually across 95 million square feet using high-efficiency lighting solutions.

CKE Restaurant Holdings, Inc., a restaurant franchiser that owns Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito, replaced 5,650 troffers across 157 facilities. These upgrades helped the company’s Castaic, California Carl’s Jr. location reduce energy use by 62% and its Dandridge, Tennessee Hardees location by 64%.  CKE’s executive team was interested in investing in projects that would provide a solid payback that could serve as an additional funding stream for improvements in other areas of business. This project exceeded their expectations; not only did it save money on energy costs, but it also improved store aesthetics which resulted in increased revenue. As a part of the lighting retrofit project, CKE also integrated energy management system upgrades to enhance asset management and operational efficiency. Projects that combined retrofitting with energy management upgrades averaged a 17% reduction in overall energy costs.

As exhibited by CKE, Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) serve as an effective conduit not only to capture, monitor, analyze and control whole building system performance, but also to improve overall transparency into data relevant to running a businesses and managing one or more properties. CBI launched the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign in the fall of 2016 to address a noticeable knowledge gap and inform building systems efficiency research and development. Given the participation and interest of a diverse set of industry stakeholders, it’s no surprise that the Campaign has exhibited not only the opportunity for building operators to achieve impressive and cost-effective energy savings in existing buildings, but also the need for additional research and development targeted at easing the rigorous integration requirements necessary to use the analytics platforms that make low cost operational improvements accessible.

MGM Resorts International, known for its commitment to being a global leader in sustainability and its collaborative efforts with DOE to promote energy efficient technologies and practices, has implemented a robust application of fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) software across its portfolio of nine properties representing 38 million square feet. For the past three years, MGM has achieved significant whole building energy savings using a small set of key diagnostic rules. MGM continues to build out a reporting framework that delivers critical information on a weekly and monthly basis to operations and management staff.  Staff can use this framework to inform decision making on a property-by-property basis. By restructuring their fault remediation protocol and by submitting issues with major HVAC equipment to the EMIS team for troubleshooting, MGM has also been able to save a significant amount of money in avoided service calls and unnecessary equipment replacement.

Improvements in equipment and sensor connectivity and building data analytics continue to enable operational savings and improvements using a rapidly evolving family of tools that monitor, capture, analyze, and control building energy use. Resources like the recently published Using EMIS to Identify Top Opportunities for Commercial Building Efficiency guide support building owners and managers in applying appropriate strategies to maximize energy savings. EMIS technologies provide the foundation for an emerging form of energy saving measurement and verification (M&V).  M&V of the past has required time-consuming and cost-intensive data collection.  “M&V 2.0”, facilitated by EMIS technologies, has created a more streamlined approach for building owners and managers to determine how buildings systems are working against a variety of factors, to establish a baseline to track performance, and make more effective operating decisions. CBI’s research and in-field validation of M&V 2.0 methods is acquiring new knowledge on how to provide ongoing, near-real time savings estimates and increased data granularity in terms of frequency, volume, and end-use detail. In partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), CBI has published research documenting the key technical issues for applying M&V 2.0 techniques and identifying further R&D needs in this space.  CBI’s research will continue to test and refine automated and simulation-based methods to identify and quantify non-routine adjustments that will improve M&V 2.0 model fitness.  

New innovations that uncover cost-effective operational upgrades for existing and new commercial buildings operators can tap into opportunities ripe with energy savings potential across building systems.  These are upgrades that improve businesses bottom lines domestically and expand technology exports internationally.  CBI will continue to support the research and development that eases access to operational energy improvements, adds skilled boots on the ground positions and engages sector stakeholders in tackling energy waste in the United States.