How To Reduce Energy Use In Buildings

The goal has been set to reduce building energy use by 30% by 2030 in the US.
Published: Mon 29 Feb 2016

Buildings are major users of energy, accounting for around 40% of global energy use and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Any efforts to reduce this level of usage will thus play a major role in reducing demand and meeting carbon reduction targets. [Engerati-Energy Efficiency-An Energy Source Not To Be Underestimated]

Hot on the heels of its Grid Modernization Plan the US Department of Energy (DOE) through its Building Technology Office has released a Multi-Year Program Plan for buildings for the period 2016 to 2020. [Engerati- Modernizing The Power Grid] The long-term goal is to reduce the energy use per square foot of US buildings by 50% compared to 2010 levels.

In the US in 2014 residential and commercial buildings used more than 40% of the nation’s total energy and more than 70% of the electrical energy, resulting in an estimated annual national energy bill totaling more than $430 billion. The 50% reduction, which is envisaged through the widespread adoption of existing energy efficient building technologies and the introduction of new technologies, would save more than $200 billion annually and reduce emissions by about 20% compared to 2010 levels.

Building energy reduction targets

Based on analysis of the building sector and programme planning, an interim target has been set to reduce building energy use intensity by 30% by 2030.  To support achievement of this goal, the following market focused interim targets have been identified:

• Emerging technologies – By 2020, accelerated technology development will make available new, cost-effective technologies capable of reducing the energy use of typical buildings by 30% compared to high efficiency technologies available in 2010.

• Residential buildings – By 2025, improvements in the efficiency of space conditioning and water heating in typical single-family homes will reduce these energy uses by 40% from 2010 levels.

• Commercial buildings – By 2025, actions by market leaders representing 20% or more of the sector will cut the energy use of their buildings by at least 35% relative to typical commercial buildings in 2010.

• Building energy codes - By 2025, improvements in the typical design and construction of new buildings will be sufficient to reduce their energy use by 40% compared to typical new buildings in 2010.

• Appliance and equipment standards – By 2025, increases in the efficiency of new products will cut the energy use per square foot of the buildings sector by at least 20% from 2010 levels.

Emerging technologies

The four major technology areas under study are lighting; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), water heating and appliances; the building envelope and windows; and sensors and controls.

These are considered critical to improving building energy efficiency. They represent approximately 60% of the energy used in buildings and an even greater share of the potential efficiency gains over the next several decades. The rapid introduction and deployment of cost-effective technologies in these areas could cut future buildings’ energy use in half, producing net consumer and economic benefits of tens of billions of dollars.

Plans include improving the performance of current technologies and developing the next generation of technologies, reducing manufacturing costs and advancing market penetration of these technologies. To be developed are low-cost materials for thermal insulation of buildings and interoperable platforms that are able to sense multiple parameters, including temperature, humidity, occupancy and indoor air quality.

Residential and commercial buildings

There are approximately 114 million residential buildings and 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US.

For the residential sector the focus will be on increasing the market adoption of advanced energy-efficient technologies and practices in both existing and newly constructed homes and gaining enough market penetration to become incorporated in new building energy codes and industry standards.

For the commercial building sector the focus will be on overcoming the barriers to energy-efficient technologies through demonstrations and the development of an investment market infrastructure.

Building energy codes and appliance standards

Today’s building energy codes enable new buildings to use 30% less energy than the codes that were in place less than 10 years ago. However, not all states have adopted a building energy code. A strong focus moving forward is on increasing and measuring energy code compliance to ensure that intended energy savings are realized.

Regarding standards, future strategies include enhancing test procedures and increasing compliance testing as well as raising minimum standards. Standards are currently implemented by the DOE for more than 70 types of appliances and equipment representing about 90% of home energy use, 60% of commercial building energy use and 30% of industrial energy use.

Further reading

US DOE: Building Technologies Office Multi-Year Program Plan