Steve Rizer, Editor
Green Building Insider
The research and advisory firm Cleantech Group has released a comprehensive analysis of energy efficiency innovations in commercial office buildings. The report, "As Energy Efficiency Booms, Buildings Get a Brain," was produced through research and interviews with corporations, investors, early stage ventures, and industry influencers.
"Our analysis shows that energy efficiency is poised to overtake solar as a top investment category in 2010, and commercial buildings represent a prime target," Cleantech President Sheeraz Haji said. "Lower investment costs, financial incentives, and faster payback periods are fueling product competition as data-driven technologies battle over the building's brain."
The report, an installment of the firm's flagship enterprise research subscription, suggests that the market for efficiency innovations is changing as governments and investors become more focused on energy performance within buildings and the concern over carbon risk exposure becomes more prominent. Governments with targets for reducing carbon and energy independence are pushing hard for performance monitoring and are pouring money into the sector, and many building owners and investors are beginning to realize that green building labels such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification do not necessarily equate to expected operational savings, Cleantech stated.
"As the Cleantech Group's new research highlights, true building efficiency only can be achieved when executives take a more holistic view of their portfolio of buildings," said Andrew DeGuire, Johnson Controls' vice president for strategy and acquisitions. "Robust building control systems can be networked within buildings and across a portfolio to integrate security, lighting, and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning with other enterprise applications, providing real-time data to track performance, trim operating costs, and set future efficiency goals."
"The focus on performance is driving an information and communication technologies (ICT) invasion of buildings to enable greater visibility and control as vendors compete to be the gateway to building intelligence," according to Cleantech. "Data-driven energy-efficiency products and services look poised to grow, including low-powered Wi-Fi sensors, energy management software, building automation, and smart lighting and windows."
Added Cleantech senior analyst and report co-author Emma Ritch: "Cleantech sales channels will broaden with expanded corporate activity in facilities. Beyond Cisco, big corporations like IBM, Sodexo, Veolia, and Boeing see new markets in building energy efficiency. For cleantech startups, they provide a host of new opportunities for partnerships, pilots, and sales."
Green Building Insider Obtains Conclusions from the Report
Cleantech has provided GBI the following conclusions that were offered in the report:
- Verifiable energy and carbon accounting will drive the adoption of Internet-enabled tools that provide visibility and control over increasingly sophisticated systems, including new lighting architectures and smart windows. Proliferation of building information modeling (BIM) tools from vendors such as Autodesk (RevIt) and Google (SketchUp), coupled with new energy modeling plug-ins from players such as the U.S. Department of Energy (EnergyPlus) and Integrated Environmental Solutions (VE-ware), support the new kind of collaboration required from architects, engineers, and buildings to achieve performance expectations. The next step will be to link BIM models to building and energy management systems in facilities.
- Firms such as EnerNOC and CPower have helped companies automate their demand reduction to maximize earnings and are providing "continuous monitoring" services that ensure that buildings are running efficiently given their usage. Other startups are helping companies move beyond the few demand response days per year to sell scheduled demand reduction into wholesale markets. Firms such as Viridity Energy are helping building owners monitor, predict, automate, and sell scheduled demand reduction back into wholesale markets continuously, depending on market pricing and internal circumstances.
- The movement toward measuring the whole building performance will drive the integration of efficiency efforts to lower demand with renewable energy projects to increase clean supply. Firms such as EPS and Valence Energy already are toe-dipping across these supply and demand silos, and Boeing's customers at the U.S. Department of Defense are showing interest. Add new developments in energy storage from vendors such as Ice Energy and Bloom Energy -- as well as vehicles with their consumption needs and batteries for storage -- and smart building owners will have the capacity to make real-time decisions about when to buy, sell, or store energy to maximize cost reductions or even maximize revenue if generating power locally.
- Closer attention to carbon accounting eventually will cause building managers, owners, and tenants to question the economy of running a partially filled building as employees travel, visit clients, or work from home. Digitized buildings that tie together access control, energy systems, and yield management will save money by only firing up lighting and HVAC systems as needed by floor but will also enable managers to "right-size" rentals based on usage or rent out space when unoccupied. Like car sharing and office on-demand operations -- including Techspace, eEmerge, and Sunshine Suites -- will rebrand themselves as energy efficiency plays, similar to Green Desk. Building owners and investors can mimic these models to increase the occupancy in buildings, thus driving more revenue while improving energy performance and carbon ratings.
- While vendors such as Adura Technologies (lighting) and Serious Materials (building materials and windows) offer efficient and cost-competitive products, they will face increasing pressure to be part of integrated solutions for buildings. Newer vendors such as Redwood Systems and Juice Technologies, which aim to fundamentally change the structure of lighting implementation and control, point out the need for such a holistic building approach to efficiency. The same goes for the electrically switchable "smart glass" windows that can be connected to sensors and change form based on controlled by electric current, such as those from Soladigm and Sage Electrochromics.