Buildings & Design Solutions Group: Grand Challenge

Economically viable zero net energy building systemsBuildings image

How do we affordably design buildings that use little to no net-energy? Given that they consume 72% of our electricity, it’s going to take much more than replacing light bulbs and upgrading windows. Achieving this ambitious goal will require a range of new technologies and tools for integrating efficiency into building systems during design and optimizing them during operation.

Although green building methods have progressed considerably in recent years, many of these structures perform far worse than expected. The reason is that building implementation and use often differs from the optimal design. What’s needed are solutions that can be used in any type of building under all operating and climate conditions.

The Institute’s modeling and optimization techniques have been applied to an array of planned and existing commercial buildings including those in the private, education, and military sectors.

Recently, the Buildings & Design Solutions Group demonstrated the power of their approach when they were able to achieve 20% energy savings on UC Santa Barbara’s Student Resources Building, a LEED Silver building that is already 50% more efficient than average.

Modeling and optimization technology is progressing quickly and more dramatic reductions could be possible once these tools are fully integrated into the design and operation of buildings. If just 30% efficiency savings were achieved for existing commercial buildings, the energy saved would be equivalent to taking about 200 one-gigawatt power plants offline. 

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