The Key to Increasing Commercial Building Efficiency

Achieving efficiency in the commercial building sector

Energy Biz, June 2, 2015. Image credit: 849356

New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Initiative is perhaps the highest profile example of building-focused sustainability legislation. But it is certainly not the only one. From Texas to Hawaii to Illinois to Colorado, every day it seems there is a new headline pointing to another community taking on the challenge. Sustainability is clearly an idea whose time has come. And while much of the attention and effort is focused on distributed generation and renewables, as big data and the Internet of Things continue to change the way we operate buildings, utility side tools such as demand response (DR) have the potential to play an ever-increasing role in helping the nation achieve its sustainability goals. But there are roadblocks to implementation—especially in the Class A building sector.

Utility practitioners across the country have long relied on DR as a stopgap for managing peak load and easing grid strain. And while DR technology has come a long way, its impact on occupant comfort, coupled with an inadequate return on investment, can make commercial-level participation a difficult sell. This is one reason DR has been sidelined as an emergency-only measure for much of its history.

But there are ways to make DR more appealing to the commercial building sector, and a first step in accomplishing this is understanding the needs of building owners. Vice President of Sustainability for Kilroy Realty, Sara Neff, has overseen the implementation of 1.6 MW of automated demand response (ADR) capability in over one million square feet of Kilroy’s Southern California office portfolio. One way her company has benefited from DR, says Neff, is by using it to shave usage peaks and by using the DR building hardware and software upgrades to enable further control-side efficiency optimization.

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