Energy controls and underfloor heating can lead to a reduction in consumption

April 16, 2012

The use of energy efficient technology in buildings can help property owners and companies to save money, as well-planned retrofits and product implementation may cut operating costs for commercial structures.

Large commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling costs by an average of 25 to 35 percent by adding certain retrofits to existing large HVAC systems on their rooftops, according to research by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Northwest Public Radio reported that researchers from the lab used computer modeling to test the differences that can be made to a building's HVAC costs through the use of retrofitted air-side economizers, supply fan speed controls, capacity controls and demand-controlled ventilation.

Head researcher Srinivas Katipamula noted that 60 percent of commercial buildings around the country use inefficient HVAC systems, and the owners and tenants are not the only ones who are affected by this lack of effective technology.

"If half of those units that are operating now were retrofitted with this particular technology, you could avoid 16 power plants that are about 200-megawatt size," said Katipamula. He noted that one of the reasons that structures are not updated is because of a lack of cohesion among tenants and building owners.

Katipamula spoke to how this lack of ownership by the tenants creates a situation where "the owners tend to install equipment that is less expensive or least costly. But they consume more energy." This leaves both parties paying more than they have to, and a retrofitting of the system would likely pay for itself in three years, according to the study.

Other technology can also help building owners reduce overall operating costs, as underfloor heating helps to increase the efficiency of a structure.

Green Building Elements reported that a joint study from the Danish Technical University and the University of Padua outlined how the use of energy efficient heating systems can both increase the comfort level of buildings and lower energy costs.

This helps businesses increase their bottom lines, as workers are more productive, monthly costs are cut and customers may feel more comfortable.

This type of transformation of thinking in the real estate market is what the U.S. Department of Energy is trying to promote. The agency designated an innovation hub, the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) to promote the use of more sustainable structures across America.

The GPIC is an effort that features the brightest minds from the private sector, energy development companies, academia and the government to help transform the building industry.