Tracking three common culprits in energy waste

09 November 2023
Tracking three common culprits in energy waste

It happens every time. A developer and a team of designers and engineers put together a building and estimate that that building will consume a certain amount of energy. Plans and projections are made accordingly. Then, the building is constructed and open for business. Soon afterward, it quickly becomes clear that that building is using far more energy than anyone had predicted. And we’re not talking about tiny percentages or a few kilowatts here and there. We’re talking about an average standard of twice the energy amount that was predicted in the original design. Even buildings that were certified LEED Platinum for energy efficiency in the design stage often end up consuming far more energy than anything predicted in models.

So why the extra energy?

Many building have an energy performance gap – defined as the difference between (A) the energy consumption that was forecasted in the building’s design stage and (B) the energy use measured during actual operations. A significant amount of this extra energy can be reasonably explained in terms of building use and operations, but recent research suggests that as much as 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is actually going to waste.

Tracking energy waste – an advantage for buildings and planet alike.

Micro-scale benefits
Identifying energy gaps and energy inefficiencies and implementing actionable intelligence to plug these gaps can boost performance by up to 30%, potentially resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

Macro-scale benefits
Buildings are responsible for 38% of global carbon emissions, and over 85% of those emissions will be emitted during the operation and maintenance phase of a building’s lifecycle. 30% of those emissions are rooted in energy waste. If we could make a dent in reducing this energy waste, we would really be moving the needle in global carbon emissions.

That energy waste stems from a variety of different factors, including three particularly prominent culprits.

  1. The one from day one – A building’s passive performance gap: Façades, building orientation, and HVAC equipment are just a few examples of static, intrinsic building components that have a direct and even predominant impact on a given building’s baseline energy performance and building operations. A passive performance gap is often a construction-related intrinsic issue, such as, for example, fit-out choices that could have compromised performance. This gap would exist from day one, exerting significant impact on energy waste.
  2. The deviant one – A building’s active factor waste gap: Active factors in energy waste are deficiencies and irregularities that result from direct deviations from maintenance plans or, alternatively, from the lack of adaptive maintenance. Such factors for example could include delayed replacement of air-handling unit filters, inefficient or irregular cleaning of photovoltaic panels, or simply regular wear-and-tear and aging issues.
  3. The ever-changing one – A building’s response to changing operational conditions: Operational factors in energy waste are factors that arise from deviations to the standard sequence of operation or the standard operating procedures described for equipment, or assets, or process. Moreover, there are other external varying factors. For example, a certain room may have an occupancy of 20 people, then 10, then 4, then 20 again. If heating or cooling devices, for example, cannot respond automatically to these changes, energy would be wasted.

As a building analytics and comprehensive building portfolio management platform, PARA makes it easier for building owners and operators to track energy use and identify and trace wasted energy. Most building platforms provide an actual energy usage intensity figure. PARA goes beyond that by disentangling and separating passive, active, and operational waste, to create better and more tailored recommendations for addressing energy waste and achieving better energy efficiency.