• Commercial Building Energy Efficiency
  • Intelligent Building Management Systems
  • Building Stock
  • Energy Efficiency

Commercial Building Technology Vendors Hold the Key to Meeting Challenging New Building Regulations

Sep 27, 2018

Smart Buildings

Commercial building technology vendors need to play a big role in helping building owners and managers meet new building regulations designed to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recently, New York City took a step toward significantly reducing its carbon footprint and the energy consumption of its citywide buildings. The legislation was announced in August and requires New York City’s largest buildings to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2030. This will define a pathway to increase those reductions to 40%-60% by 2050. Two similar regulations can be seen in Europe—with its recently revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive—and in California—with its California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategy Plan. These regulations define lofty energy efficiency and GHG emissions goals for local building stocks, both new construction and retrofits. 

Achieving and maintaining these results will be no small task. It is well known that energy efficiency upgrades can easily provide 5%-15% efficiencies with relatively simple upgrades to LED lighting, more efficient HVAC systems, installation of an energy management system, adjusting building operational setpoints, and even turning lights out when not in use. The higher percentage savings outlined in these regulations are entirely possible with today’s building technologies, but they can be significantly more challenging to achieve and maintain over time as regulations become stricter and the energy conservation measures needed to attain these results become more complex.  

A Tale of Two Trends

This is where commercial building technology vendors will have to step up their game. Two trends in the commercial building technologies industry signal that they are up for the challenge. The first is the growing popularity of intelligent building systems and the Internet of Things. To achieve the deeper efficiencies, commercial buildings will need to operate with more integrated components to achieve better results. Vendors have evolved these systems to not only capture large volumes of data, but also to use this data to generate actionable insights. Even in aging building stocks, like in Europe where 35% of the buildings are over 50 years old, intelligent building systems and advanced sensors eliminate many of the previous hurdles that older buildings presented to achieve deeper efficiency results.  

The second trend driving deeper results is the formation of ongoing relationships between vendors and commercial building owners and operators. Buildings and building systems are becoming more complex to understand and operate. Vendor services bridge the gap between the skills and resources deficits of existing facility staffs. Not only do these services assure that the building and its equipment are installed and set up properly, they also assist in maintaining these savings over time. Persistence is one of the areas where current regulations are weak. Although the savings goals are lofty, there tends to be less bite in the regulations to assure that these savings are maintained over longer periods. If efficiency goals are credited as achieved but not measured or maintained over time, then the entire process is suspect, and the overall objective of the regulations will not be met. 

Admirably, many regions of the world are adopting regulations that target buildings as a core area where efficiency and GHG savings can be achieved. It is rare, however, to see mention of how this translates to real world technologies and capabilities of the vendors who serve the building markets—especially as it relates to savings persistence. Current trends in the market, however, provide some indication that there is a pathway to success.