By Tom Barone, Acting Vice President for Operations and Energy Services,
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
Improving energy efficiency and reducing costs are benefits that industry professionals – from building owners to architects – can tap into through Deep Energy Savings initiatives.
Deep Energy Savings (DES) is a generally accepted industry term—but ironically no standard definition has been created or embraced by industry professionals. For this reason, the term is often used more broadly to describe a range of efforts that improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. Most states look at a range of 30-50% energy savings, depending on the age, type, and location of the building. In New York, a savings of at least 30% is required to classify as DES. DES differs in execution depending on whether the process takes place during renovation or during new construction, but in either case it is a trend increasing rapidly in popularity.
At the heart of all DES initiatives is the realization that a majority of buildings will still be here 50 years from now, and those buildings need to be ready for the next generation of owners and occupants. That means less reliance on fossil fuels and more emphasis on systems that leverage renewable energy with high efficiency. When undertaking a renovation project, owners, architects, designers, and builders must come together and agree on everything from the occupant requirements to the energy goals and available budget. Taking an existing building and turning it into a zero net energy building—one that generates through renewable sources as much energy as it uses annually—is almost impossible, but modern upgrades can certainly go a long way in improving the efficiency of the building and providing DES benefits. NYSERDA offers expertise and incentives in the early stages to the design teams as well as incentives for qualified capital investments that will improve energy efficiency.
In the case of new construction, the ultimate goal is to construct a building or facility that generates as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. The industry is making great strides in that area, however the most practical approach today is to optimize energy efficiency measures and create a building that is zero-net-energy capable so that as renewables become more mainstream and affordable, owners can make the switch and enjoy the savings. Our goal at NYSERDA is to give designers and architects the knowledge and ability to look beyond the energy code requirements and strive for results that exceed the baseline while providing an easy platform for future enhancements that achieve a zero net energy environment. By starting with an established energy goal, everyone involved can make the best decisions and recommendations to support that goal. Everything from the shell and HVAC to the lighting and manufacturing floor can be designed in such a way to pave the way for future improvements. Even the orientation of the building comes into play when considering lighting and climate control.
One of the factors critical to long-term success in energy efficiency is ongoing performance monitoring, otherwise known as commissioning. A variety of systems and methods are available to measure performance and make necessary improvements as systems or infrastructure decrease in efficiency over time. For example, if the window seals fail or motors wear out, the owners are notified and can take the appropriate steps to get back on track. Change is taking place in the way the industry measures energy savings—the shift is from a focus on kilowatt hours to a focus on BTUs per square foot, which is a more logical approach that can be considered early on in the renovation or construction process.
In summary, change is a process that takes time, and NYSERDA is committed to educating owners and designers on the benefits of energy efficiency. Over time, energy efficiency will lead to DES which will lead to zero net energy buildings. It’s an evolution that provides big benefits.