Commercial and industrial buildings use up about 40 percent of U.S. electricity output, and similar figures can be found in most advanced countries.
So it's a bit of a surprise that the building efficiency concept took so long to catch on, but it is finally getting the recognition it deserves – and is also an obvious gold mine.
This is far from a comprehensive exploration of all things involving building energy efficiency.
Here is a atse of a few things that have taken place in the last year.
First some things to think about:
· What's the big deal? According to The Cleantech Group, energy efficiency will overtake solar as a top investment target and commercial and industrial buildings are a major focus. Why? Lower investment costs, financial incentives and faster payback.
· What's the government doing about it? The Energy Department is spending millions and millions of dollars on programs to improve building design with more efficient building components, systems and models for both existing building retrofits and new construction. DOE also is whipping out its checkbook for cool new energy efficiency technologies and worker training.
· Who's in the building efficiency game these days? Companies big and small, old and brand new. Some are going it on their own and many are partnering and acquiring: big companies with huge global footprints but little direct experience snatch up the young technology innovators.
Building efficiency projects and what they're about
Chicago office buildings = virtual generator: Chicago's Building Owners and Managers Association and an unlikely collection of partners are working on using about 260 downtown office buildings as virtual generators to better manage energy use and cut energy costs. The pilot program is said to be the country's first.
Downtown Charlotte gets green with Duke Energy and Cisco: Charlotte Center City Partners, a local economic and cultural development group, Duke Energy and Cisco are collaborating on a program to cut energy use in downtown core buildings by up to 20% by 2016. The project will involve about 60 buildings and the energy efficiency tools will be building automation technologies (like ACES, LESS and iMEC), unique energy tracking tools, such as Enigin Plc's Eniscope, and help for office workers in reducing their energy use.
USPS locations get energy efficiency makeover: Surprise, the U.S. postal service wants to be green, too. SThey are also turning to advanced monitoring and control systems in up to 2,250 postal service locations throughout the country. The postal service wants to cut its facility energy use by 30% by 2015.
Utilities are doing it too: American Electric Power, one of the country's biggest utilities, won EPA's Energy Star status by cutting energy use almost 16% from its 2007 level at its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters. Updated technologies, more efficient HVAC equipment, a reflective and more contributed to AEP's reduction.
Of course, there are many more such projects on the drawing board and underway, and more to come as building efficiency gets more recognition as a practical way to save energy and money and cut emissions. Let us know using the comment form below if you know about or are involved in an innovative energy efficiency project.