Volume 19, Number 1
NRC is investing in an industry-led research program designed to reduce energy use in existing commercial and institutional buildings (see Construction Innovation, Vol. 18, No. 1). The goal is to support our industry clients and partners in developing, advancing and deploying building energy retrofit technologies that are reliable and cost-effective with a proven return on investment.
Through this program, NRC will carry out strategic projects and technical services for industry partners seeking to develop new or improved technologies, products, systems, and decision-making tools. This will not only achieve significant energy savings but also yield an appealing return on investment for the building owner. The program includes collaborative projects and services on effective demand-responsive technologies to assist building owners in achieving additional savings through connectivity to the smart grid.
The deliverables from these collaborative projects and technical services will enable building owners and managers to greatly improve energy performance while providing healthy and comfortable conditions for occupants. These include the following:
The Smart Grid
The smart grid is a modernized electrical grid that enables more sophisticated use of the electricity system through the use of information and communication technologies—such as smart meters, sensors and computing devices—to improve customer service and enhance reliability.
Today’s electrical grid primarily carries electricity from power sources to consumers, while the smart grid enables a two-way flow of electricity and information. This information allows utilities to learn about consumption patterns, outages, thefts and incidents of low voltages, leading to better decisions regarding operations and maintenance.
Building owners benefit from the smart grid as well. Besides having access to a more reliable supply of electricity, owners are able to reduce their energy bills by taking advantage of time-of-use pricing and shifting consumption from peak times to other times of the day. They can also earn incentives by possibly selling excess power back to the grid.
- Canadian firms will gain new opportunities for commercializing proven energy-retrofit technologies for buildings, thereby growing their businesses.
- Firms in the business of building automation and controls will realize expanded markets for their products and services.
- Power utilities will be able to prolong grid life and reduce the amount of capital investment needed to upgrade their generation and distribution facilities. They will also be able to better manage peak loads and meet customer needs.
Targeting energy efficiency
NRC will collaborate with industry clients on strategic projects and technical services by addressing building integrated systems to target energy efficiency in three areas:
- Developing and enhancing technologies to reduce heating and cooling demands, and to collect renewable energy. NRC researchers, working with project collaborators, have set goals to make significant performance improvements in insulation systems, dynamic curtain walls and roofing systems with integrated photovoltaic materials (see Dynamic building envelope design story).
- Enhancing the effectiveness and reliability of automated controls and energy management of lighting and ventilation equipment while improving indoor conditions for occupants (see Intelligent building environmental control story).
- Developing algorithms and interactive platforms connecting building energy systems with the smart grid. By integrating advances in data analytics and reasoning functionalities, we will help our industry collaborators develop new products and services. These will enable owners to continuously assess, predict, adjust and control the performance of building energy systems automatically (see Connecting building energy systems to the smart grid story).
By providing expertise and services with this three-pronged approach, NRC will help industry collaborators and clients address different and complex building systems as opposed to products only. Significant energy savings can only be realized by considering integrated systems rather than a host of components separately.
Critical to the rapid and widespread uptake of these new technologies will be the showcasing of technologies in real buildings to demonstrate and validate both their energy-saving potential and their cost effectiveness in various climatic conditions.
In launching this research and technology program targeting a key market opportunity, NRC is seeking collaborators from the building industry such as building owners, building controls and materials manufacturers, the energy utility sector, and government.