Innovation Leads to Accelerated Performance Pilot As a New Construction Program

ComEd Adopts DOE Accelerate Performance Pilot as Official New Construction Program Offering, August 14, 2017

Recent innovations in the procurement approach for new construction buildings developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have been shown to deliver deep and persistent energy savings at little or no additional upfront cost to building owners.

The Department of Energy partnered with NREL, Seventhwave, and the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State to implement Accelerate Performance, the first owner-focused program to be delivered through a dual-owner/utility-channel approach. Accelerate Performance is designed to harness the energy savings potential of the commercial buildings sector through integration of energy-performance based procurement at the onset of projects. The program encourages building owners and developers to engage with their utilities early on in the planning phase to ensure that energy goals are understood and so utilities can provide the support necessary to achieve them.

In June, ComEd, a leading electric utility in Chicago and northern Illinois, fully embraced Accelerate Performance by integrating it as an official new construction program offering. “ComEd is very proud to be the first utility in the country to adopt this innovative approach, built on measurable building energy performance,” said Jean Ascoli, senior energy efficiency program manager for the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program. “Accelerate Performance empowers our customers to achieve greater savings, helping projects reach their peak energy efficiency potential.”

Through Accelerate Performance, building owners prioritize energy performance requirements in the pre-planning phase, typically a specific target for energy use intensity (EUI), or the energy use per square foot, that project teams are expected to meet. Identifying an aggressive, yet achievable, energy performance target can be challenging for an owner; to simplify the task, Seventhwave developed a free online tool, the EUI Analyzer, based on city energy benchmarking data. The tool allows owners to compare proposed project against peer buildings, as well as against properties within their own portfolio. After the building owner has established an energy target through the EUI Analyzer, it is included in the contract and the design and contractor teams are chosen based on their ability to meet it. After the project is complete, the project teams measure the energy performance to verify that targets identified in the contract were successfully met.

Graphic of the EUI Analyzer tool.

Traditionally, energy performance is discussed only after the design team is under contract. Using this model, when an owner puts out a request for proposal (RFP), a specific energy benchmark is included along with standard requirements like budget and timeline. By setting a measurable energy goal at the beginning of a project, operational efficiency enters the conversation much earlier and the value-engineering of energy efficiency measures is off the table.

“Accelerate Performance flips this methodology on its head,” said Jeff Berta, senior director of real estate development at Structured Development. “If the systems aren’t performing as promised, that’s a lost investment from the owner’s perspective. By setting an EUI target early and measuring the building’s operations after completion, performance-based procurement removes that risk.”

Graphic of the Accelerate Performance timeline from start to finish.

ComEd is currently supporting nearly 20 projects that are utilizing Accelerate Performance and is in discussions to extend its support to several others, many of which have aggressive energy goals including zero energy aspirations.

Earlier this year, Accelerate Performance was recognized by E Source as a top 20 technology and trend (alongside Amazon’s Echo and Tesla). “We are grateful to the DOE for providing supportive resources to pilot Accelerate Performance,” said Ascoli. “ComEd is excited to take this pilot to the next step, with the goal of transforming the procurement paradigm.”

Seventhwave has successfully illustrated that the energy-performance based procurement approach through Accelerate Performance can be flexible and applied to multiple building types including higher education, healthcare, market rate office and retail developments, high-rise residential and even a microbrewery. Accelerate Performance has the ability to add value for all owners by reducing risk, achieving superior energy performance while staying within budget, and maximizing energy savings and control costs.

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