High-performance buildings that are “efficient, smart and integrated” are crucial to the Obama administration’s vision of a clean-energy future, according to Lisa Tryson, director of corporate communications and public relations at Danfoss.

On June 7, leaders from the HVAC construction and buildings industries gathered with policy, research and energy-efficiency advocacy groups at Danfoss’ 26th EnVisioneering Symposium in Washington, D.C., to discuss government response to new carbon reduction and energy-efficiency targets, steps to a new building-energy world and what’s needed to guide the transformation.

“The U.S. Clean Power Plan and the recent United Nations carbon-emissions agreement point to a new vision for energy and a low-carbon or post-carbon future,” Tryson said in her opening remarks. “Since buildings consume about 70 percent of our electricity, it’s hard to imagine a low- or post-carbon world without very high-performance buildings. Our mission today is to explore how we make the vision a reality.”

The event, with the slogan “Tomorrow’s buildings: new driving forces,” brought U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Julie Rosenberg and Cindy Jacobs into the discussion, where they noted that the Clean Power Plan is set to achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. 

“Energy efficiency is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Jacobs said. 

Part of the plan’s success depends on states utilizing innovation to help drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings. While current efficiency trends include transparency in building energy use, energy benchmarking and disclosure policy, Scott Foster, director of the sustainable energy division at the United Nations Economic Commission, was thinking about the global implications. 

“By 2050, the world’s population will be about 9 billion,” Foster said. “Of those 9 billion people, 70 percent will be living in cities. That’s the equivalent of adding 235 cities the size of Paris to the planet.”

Cities like New York, however, are making big plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent — and a 60 percent reduction from buildings — by 2050 with its One City: Built to Last campaign. Richard Yancey, executive director of Building Energy Exchange, said New York has already achieved a 19 percent reduction since 2005 thanks in part to upgraded performance standards for new construction and improved lighting, heating systems and code-required efficiency in existing buildings.

On the grid

With the growing availability of data, high-performance, integrated buildings require a platform that can analyze real-time energy use and help building systems communicate with one another.
Participants at the event said the U.S. Department of Energy has been investing in grid modernization initiatives that will improve reliability and efficiency, which includes the development of a platform that will help varied building systems from different manufacturers communicate.