To succeed in decarbonizing our energy systems, we will be relying much more on variable renewable resources like wind and solar energy—but we’ll need to do more than install more clean generation resources. We’ll also need to get better at how and when we use energy: that is, to use more electricity at times when it is clean, abundant, and affordable, and trim usage when electricity is expensive, constrained, and polluting. The meteoric rise of batteries and other energy storage technologies has created well-deserved excitement in the industry. However, current technology is too costly and current applications are too limited to fill the gap and get us to carbon neutrality. Given that buildings are at the center of our energy systems (buildings use 75% of all the electricity we generate, and often over 80% during peak times), we need to look at buildings themselves, and the systems within buildings, as part of the solution to grid decarbonization.
NBI has been working on this issue for years under the aegis of the GridOptimal Buildings Initiative. Over the last three years we have:
- Developed new metrics to measure various aspects of building-grid integration
- Released a series of design and operations fact sheets
- Worked with USGBC to update LEED through a pilot credit
- Released a free calculator tool to evaluate building performance and improve design
- Published guidance for utility programs
Now, we are excited to announce the release of a new resource that will help buildings live up to their central role in enabling grid decarbonization: ASHRAE’s Grid-Interactive Buildings for Decarbonization: Design and Operation Resource Guide. Over the last year, NBI and our friends at PAE wrote this comprehensive guide, which is the second publication from ASHRAE’s Task Force For Building Decarbonization (TFBD).
What’s in the Grid-Interactive Buildings for Decarbonization Guide
This guide is a first-of-its-kind manual that promises to be a game-changer for architects, engineers, owners, and operators in the building design and facility management community. The guide aims to provide the essential framework for creating and operating grid-interactive buildings—homes and businesses that optimize their energy use and grid interactions to target the three primary value streams of grid integration:
- Reduced Carbon Emissions
- Cost Savings
The guide provides an overview of grid-interactive buildings to introduce unfamiliar designers and operators to the novel concept and set the stage for a deep dive into the foundational guidance necessary for all projects. The guide caters to the full range of building types and complexity—offering guidance for simple, standalone systems found in small businesses and homes, as well as larger-scale, complex systems with interconnected systems and distributed energy resources.
Crucially, the guide continues beyond generic advice. It delves into the specifics, offering detailed design, specification, and operational recommendations for various building systems. This level of granularity gives architects and engineers practical guidance that they can directly apply to their projects. From lighting to HVAC systems, the guide provides a comprehensive approach to creating buildings that are dynamic, interconnected systems.
The guide underscores the importance of resiliency in the face of evolving challenges. With climate-related uncertainties becoming more prevalent, having buildings that can adapt and respond to changing conditions is paramount. This guide equips building professionals with the knowledge and tools to enhance the resilience of structures, ensuring they remain robust, reliable, and functional throughout their lifespans.
Infographic: Key Concepts
The release of the first comprehensive grid-interactive building design and operation guide marks a milestone toward sustainable and resilient buildings and energy systems. Transforming existing buildings today and ensuring all newly constructed buildings have the tools needed to manage their loads in response to grid conditions effectively is a crucial part of the solution to realize a carbon-neutral future.
Where to Get the Guide
The Grid-Interactive Buildings for Decarbonization: Design and Operation Resource Guide can be purchased by visiting ashrae.org/decarb or contacting ASHRAE. For more information, see ASHRAE’s Press Release.
We will be presenting the guide in person at the 2024 ASHRAE Winter Conference, January 20-24, 2024, in Chicago, at the seminar “Grid-Interactive Buildings for a Decarbonized World.” We will present the guide and talk about project case studies that helped in the guide’s development.
Alexi Miller, Acting Director of Building Innovation
Kevin Carbonnier, Project Manager
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