Energy Efficiency State Of Mind
A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend ConEdison’s C&I Energy Efficiency Summit here in New York, designed to showcase the latest technologies, best practices, and energy management strategies for building owners and operators.
The degree to which the entire industry is moving towards environmental building practices and energy efficiency was indeed striking. From the keynote speech by Robin Crow of RCA Recording to pretty much every breakout session I attended, green building and energy savings were on everyone’s mind, highlighting the degree to which sustainability has permeated the business community in absence of major public policy advances. Indeed, one attendee described energy efficiency improvements as a 'win-win-win-win': with everyone from the resident, to the owner, the investor and public policy makers 'winning'. Not to mention the environment.
One of the most enlightening sessions featured Ilanah Judah, the Director of Sustainability at FXFowle, and David Davenport of Urban Greenfit, presenting on building enclosures and energy efficiency. They emphasized that the most effective cost-saving strategy is often not necessarily the flashiest one: for example, one recent study found that simply installing a so-called ‘cool roof’ will lower energy needs by between 20 -70%, which makes it the single most effective retrofit building owners can take advantage of besides the incredibly costly building envelope retrofit. It was encouraging to see conference attendees place a particular emphasis on integration: We've seen that incremental or piecemeal approaches, though cheaper in the short term, simply aren't as effective in the long term. This was underscored by David Davenport who called on investors in particular to think beyond their two year payback period and factor in property valuations in general, and increased occupany rates in particular.
One of the missing pieces I'd have liked to see attendees tackle was the fact that 100% of our buildings sit empty 50% of the time: homes during the day, offices at night, which results in enormous heat and airconditioning waste. How do we solve that? It's not a clearcut answer, despite the growing popularity of home offices, but if it really wants to make a difference, ConEd would be well-advised to think beyond how much energy it's customers are using, and move on to how they're using it.
Image Credit: Victor Correia/Shutterstock
Sustainable Cities Collective