ACEEE 2016 Summer Study: “Don’t build it, just change their operations”

At ACEEE’s 2016 Summer Study, MKThink’s Innovation Director, Signo Uddenberg, gave a panel talk on reducing our energy footprint through more thoughtful consideration of the spaces we use, or don’t use for that matter, and the impact they have on the need for energy consuming systems.  He delivered his presentation in the Panel 8 session: Capturing Savings through Behavior, chaired by Tianzhen Hong of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and David Lehrer, University of California, Berkeley.

Don’t build it, just change their operations

Most behavior change is focused on reducing energy use that already exists such as energy use from lighting, HVAC, water heating, and plug loads.  However, there is another area of opportunity to reduce or avoid significant energy use (both embodied and operational energy use): avoiding the construction of additional square footage to support building operations that may not be needed or may not require such low square footage densities. Through building occupancy and utilization monitoring, and building asset studies, latent capacity within existing buildings can be identified to avoid constructing new buildings.  Most of the latent capacity exists as time and density variables that require organizational change to capture their potential.   By benchmarking an organization’s utilization and density (occupancy) rates across their building portfolios and developing building retrofit and operational programs for increasing utilization/density, these organizations can avoid new construction, in turn avoiding the energy use associated with those additional square feet.

In a study conducted earlier this year at a U.S. military base in Hawaii, occupancy rates were measured at an office building for a 2-month period.  Although the building was considered mostly “full” (i.e. it could not hold more occupants), the average occupancy during operational hours was less than 60% during the study period.  By increasing the occupancy rates (or density) to 80%, approximately 179,053KWH of operational energy use, and more importantly 12,003,900KWH of initial embodied energy, could be prevented in new construction by accommodating the additional people in the current building versus constructing a new building to house them. This result represents significant energy savings at little to no cost.

View the presentation below.

The 2016 Summer Study was the 19th biennial ACEEE conference on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. A diverse group of professionals from around the world gathered at this pre-eminent meeting to discuss the technological basis for, and practical implementation of, actions to reduce energy use and the climate impacts associated with buildings. The Summer Study enabled sharing of ideas and dialog among leading thinkers, visionaries, and luminaries in the field, while in the midst of the magnificent natural setting of Asilomar.