The 2013 global Energy Efficiency Indicator research study, which surveyed 3,000 facility management executives, attests to the impressive gains made by the green building sector since its inception.
In the one area which is chiefly associated with green building efforts – that of energy efficiency – major strides have been made to promote awareness amongst owners and managers. Over two-thirds of organizations in the study have made improvements to lighting, HVAC and controls in just the past year, while 44 per cent had undertaken behavioural and educational programs to raise energy awareness amongst building occupants and or users.
The ambitions of building owners with respect to energy efficiency are considerable, extending well beyond aspirations to merely reduce their usage of energy or diminish their carbon footprint. An impressive 46 per cent of US organizations in the survey said that they intended to achieve near zero, net zero or energy positive status for one or more of their facilities in the future, which in a best case scenario means transitioning from being users of energy to producers.
The EEI study also indicates that as the green building sector has grown, so too have the means by which sustainability is accomplished. Green building is not just expanding to involve an greater number of players in the industry, but also to encompass an increasing number of areas and technologies.
A key example is the adoption of grid responsiveness by building owners to shore up efficiency. The 2013 EEI survey indicates that grid responsiveness is becoming an increasingly popular sustainability measure, with 14 per cent of organizations in the US now participating in demand response programs.
Grid responsiveness involves building owners dialing back on their non-essential usages of energy, or else availing themselves of back-up power sources when the grid is subject to contingencies or disruptions.
In exchange for their cooperation, building owners can enter compensation arrangements with utilities and grid operators, providing them with a fiscal incentive to assist in broader energy management efforts.
These efforts are just the beginning, however, with more advanced grid response measures such as automated demand response and predictive controls promising to enable the constant fine-tuning of building energy consumption in response to pricing signals issued by the grid an an hourly basis.
Networking technology is rapidly emerging as a key component of hi-tech green building measures. The EEI study found that 19 per cent of organizations surveyed had installed smart building or smart grid technology, enabling them to engage in comprehensive management of facilities performance across a range of areas. Smart building technology is now seen as the technology with second highest likelihood of increasing in market adoption over the next decade.
While green building is most commonly associated with basic efforts to shore up energy efficiency, another area which is becoming increasingly prominent in efforts to achieve sustainability is systems resilience. This has been especially the case ever since the occurrence of Hurricane Sandy in August of last year, which severely disrupted access to power amongst residents and businesses in the disaster-affected area.
The 2013 EEI survey found that 51 per cent of respondents in the US had installed or were planning to install distributed generation systems equipped with access to reliable fuel sources, in order to ensure the provision of power during protracted emergencies. A further 39 per cent have installed or intend to install solar panels as back-up power systems.