Thursday, May 21, 2009

Energy Efficiency in Building Materials and Operations: Not Sexy, But Crucial

On May 11, 2009, Stanford’s Precourt Center for Energy Efficiency hosted a seminar on improving energy efficiency through better operations and materials in buildings. The speakers were Dian Grueneich, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission; Marc Porat, Chairman & CEO, CalStar Cement; Stephen Selkowitz, Program Head, Building Technologies Dept., LBNL; Kevin Surace, CEO, Serious Materials; and Jim Sweeney, Director, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford.

There are enormous opportunities in the building materials and operations markets.

1. Buildings account for 40% of total U.S. energy consumption.
2. The California Public Utilities Commission has decided upon energy efficiency as its number one strategy to reduce carbon emissions in California.
3. 60% of all energy efficiency spending is for lighting, while lighting accounts for only 25% of commercial building energy consumption (building operations only). This mismatch in resource allocation is stunning. Dimming products account for only 3% of lighting sales. More resources need to be allocated to other aspects of building efficiency.

Because buildings account for a large portion of total energy consumption, achieving zero net energy consumption in the construction and operations is critical. CPUC’s goal is to have zero net energy consumption by 2020 in all new construction and by 2030 in all existing buildings in California.

Thus far, energy efficiency efforts have focused more on building operations than on building materials and design. Building operations includes lighting, demand side management, time of use programs, etc. Building materials traditionally includes weatherization and insulation. But materials science and facility design engineers are looking into how to use new and different combinations of materials in buildings, and how design, include building shapes and interior spaces, can be optimized for energy efficiency.

This often ignored area deserves a close look because of its large market and the potential to make a large impact on energy consumption.


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