A year in review: Why buildings are only getting smarter

Technology and efficiency top the energy charts in 2015

The production, distribution and management of energy will continue to evolve over time; however, two trends in 2015 will continue to gain ground: smart building technology and energy efficiency. As stricter environmental policy gains traction in the U.S. and around the globe, businesses and institutions are required to adopt more sustainable energy management practices to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help combat climate change.

The birth of the smart building

By arming buildings with technology, like sub-metering, data management and utility management software solutions, building owners can track and identify any deficiencies to save energy and reduce GHG emissions. Using intelligent building software, building managers are better equipped to manage utility consumption, identify areas requiring improvement and advance energy efficiency retrofits that have a direct impact on reducing carbon pollution. Oftentimes, implementing distributed energy generation technologies, such as renewable energy and Combined Heat and Power (CHP), can also have a huge impact on efficiency, cost savings and carbon reductions.

Did you know that only 40 percent of commercial buildings actively measure and track their energy use? (Source: ENERGY STAR)

Why climate change is ‘driving the car’

With 45 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions attributed to commercial buildings and industrial facilities, these sectors are under greater pressure to comply with mounting environmental policy mandating carbon reductions. As recently as this December, several countries, including the U.S., pledged a commitment to address climate change and reduce global emissions in signing the Paris Agreement. In August 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the final Clean Power Plan for the same purpose. Considering the fact that 30 percent of energy is wasted within commercial buildings and industrial facilities, there’s clearly more that can be done, and should be done, to improve energy efficiency within these sectors.

Did you know that if commercial and industrial buildings improve their energy efficiency by 10 percent they can collectively save $40 billion and prevent GHG emissions equal to removing 49 million vehicles from the road? (Source: ENERGY STAR)

Leading the way towards smarter buildings

A key component in defining a building as ‘smart’ is the efficient delivery and consumption of energy; therefore, energy efficiency is part and parcel of a smart building. Some leading commercial and industrial building owners and government agencies are already at the forefront of the energy efficiency and smart building movement and they are reaping the results of these efforts in dollar savings and carbon reductions:

Grand Central Terminal

As one of the busiest train stations in the country and the largest in the world by number of platforms, the iconic Grand Central Terminal lies in the heart of midtown Manhattan and provides services to approximately 750,000 people per day. In 2014, the utility systems at the 49-acre transportation complex were upgraded, including new controls, lighting, metering and cooling system, extensive steam distribution system modifications and a new a state-of-the-art Building Management System (BMS). The upgrades will save an estimated $2.5 million annually and reduce harmful carbon emissions by more than 11,200 tons a year—the equivalent of removing 2,140 cars from the road. Learn more about the Grand Central energy efficiency project HERE.

 Vornado Realty Trust

With over 100 million square feet of office, retail, and residential property, Vornado has implemented smart metering technology to track energy use from 3,000 meters across its entire building portfolio. Vornado has been leveraging EMsys, a web-based energy management system, to help support its energy management efforts. This web-based tool, integrating historical energy and water usage, temperature, humidity and environmental data, has helped Vornado recover millions of utility costs each year, in addition to helping reduce its carbon footprint. As a testament to Vornado’s energy conservation efforts, the company received the Partner of the Year, Sustained Excellence recognition from ENERGY STAR in 2015. Read more about Vornado and the efficiency efforts of leading commercial property owners HERE.

University of Massachusetts Medical School


UMass medical school in Worcester recently completed a central plant expansion to accommodate its increased energy requirements. By generating its own steam, chilled water and electricity via a new 7.5 megawatt, gas-fired combustion turbine and heat recovery system, the medical school doubled its campus research capacity and achieved $6.2 million in electricity savings annually. While the expansion increased electricity, steam and water-chilling capacity, it actually reduced overall GHG emissions due to the turbine’s efficiency. In March 2015, the Northeast Clean Heat and Power Initiative (NECHPI) honored the medical school with a Clean Heat and Power Champion award. Learn more about this CHP project HERE.

The evolving energy landscape

As 2015 comes to a close and a new year approaches, one thing is clear: the economic shifts in policy and regulation towards climate change will continue to shape the future ahead. As the growing need to reduce GHG emissions takes center stage globally, businesses, government and institutions will be required to do their part in helping to reduce carbon pollution. By employing innovative energy management tools and technology, commercial and industrial facilities are on the path to becoming smarter and more sustainable – a key requirement in the battle against climate change.

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