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Reducing energy use at low cost

Energy saving in buildings may be the most cost-effective and achievable strategy to address climate change. Collaboration between China and the US, writes David Hathaway, demonstrates that the best strategy is decidedly low-tech.

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In 2004, Tang Jianping proudly received an award for leadership in reducing building energy use. The prize, from the Association of Shanghai Property Managers (TASPM), was awarded after Tang achieved a 20% reduction in the energy used in his building: a large 27,000-square-metre office tower in Shanghai called the New Town Centre. He achieved these reductions entirely through no-cost and low-cost operational improvement measures. 

Tang’s achievements represent a mid-point in an evolving picture of how managing the energy used in buildings may become one of the world’s most cost-effective and achievable means of reducing energy and greenhouse gases over the next several years.

The broader story begins with the US ENERGY STAR buildings programme, a national effort led by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The initiative has worked with buildings in the United States since the mid-1990s to reward exemplary building energy performance, a voluntary programme model largely credited with transforming the way buildings are managed in the US. In 2000, the programme conducted research to compare buildings that had achieved the highest energy performance rating with other buildings in the market. The findings were surprising, indicating that the buildings with the best overall performance did not consistently have the newest or most efficient building technologies, but were characterised by aggressive building management strategies. This research became known as the “Class of 2000” study.

Several years later, as the EPA was designing an approach to assist buildings in China to reduce energy, a focus on operations became the natural starting point. Research EPA had conducted in China indicated that no-cost and low-cost operational strategies for improving building energy performance yielded similar opportunities as those already seen in the US. This was the beginning of the EPA’s “eeBuildings” programme, an initiative that eventually worked with 60 million square metres of building space in China, and provided training to more than 2,500 building managers from 2001 to 2008. Tang was one of the eeBuildings programme’s first successful participants.

His experience is a real world example of a much broader opportunity that is beginning to evolve in China and around the world regarding energy use in buildings. There has been a growing realisation that buildings may offer the best global opportunity for reducing energy and greenhouse-gas emissions quickly and cost-effectively.

  

SourceClimate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (The AR4 Synthesis Report). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Figure 4.2. Economic mitigation potentials by sector in 2030 estimated from bottom-up studies.” Page 59.

The growth in China’s building sector and its impact on energy usage have been well documented. For example, in recent years China has added approximately 2 billion square metres of buildings annually. According to China’s ministry of construction, building energy consumption has increased more than 10% each year for the last 20 years and now represents approximately 25% of all energy use in China.

However, efforts so far to address energy use in Chinese buildings have stayed largely in the design and minimum standards areas, and have not focused on empowering building managers to achieve higher levels of exemplary energy performance (as demonstrated by Tang and the New Town Centre). There has historically been a focus in China, and internationally, on designing new buildings that are assumed to use less energy. Less attention has been placed on the performance of existing buildings after they are built – a critical gap.

But there are signs that a shift in emphasis may be coming, both globally and in China. Following on the EPA study in 2000, newer research indicates that even buildings designed to be highly efficient may not be achieving expected savings. In 2008, in a study commissioned by the US Green Building Council, researchers found that among buildings certified by one of its programmes (LEED for New Construction), a full 25% of those buildings scored below 50 in the 100-point ENERGY STAR benchmarking scale for energy performance once they were operational. This finding is initial, but points to the idea that even buildings designed for high efficiency need to be operated using best practices or they will not save the energy they are designed to save – actual savings are seen once a building is under operation.

 
 

 Source: ICF International (2008)

In China, the results of the eeBuildings program in successfully targeting no-cost and low-cost operational measures did not go unnoticed. In 2007, the US EPA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese ministry of construction, now known as the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction (MHURC), to collaborate in further demonstrating and promoting building operational improvement strategy. In addition, EPA and MHURC agreed to collaborate on investing in the development of a building energy performance benchmarking rating system in China. A similar rating system developed by EPA for use in the ENERGY STAR buildings programme has been in place for the past decade and has been the basis for its building performance certification system. This benchmarking system provides a unified metric (a score of 1 to 100) that rates buildings in the United States on their energy performance, and is able to accommodate differences in location, climate, size and other characteristics through its analytic capacities, which means it can be used nationally in all locations. Currently, the EPA benchmarking system has provided building energy performance scores to more than 60,000 buildings in the US, providing a quick, easy, and cost-effective metric to the market for targeting where energy efficiency improvements are most needed. No such metric currently exists in China.

In 2009, US-China bilateral collaboration in these areas has expanded through two new successor programmes, both of which are working in coordination with the MHURC. A programme supported by the US Department of State is aimed at demonstrating the no-cost and low-cost approach to reducing energy use in up to 10 additional Chinese cities. A programme supported by the US Agency for International Development is developing a prototype building energy performance benchmarking rating system.

If this new collaboration is successful, Chinese policymakers will have a powerful set of tools at their disposal to design programmes that effectively target reductions in energy use across thousands of buildings in China. A benchmarking rating system can cost-effectively and quickly rate thousands of buildings to identify those with the poorest performance and greatest need for improvement. A national programme of organised assistance to buildings in reducing energy use through no-cost and low-cost measures would allow buildings with low or moderate performance to improve performance without the need for capital-intensive, or time-consuming, technology upgrades.

The confluence of experience, learning and collaboration that has gathered around this opportunity to save energy is instructive. The impetus for the collaboration was based on actual programme results from a large-scale national effort (ENERGY STAR), and did not bring untested ideas to a new market. An approach for the China market (eeBuildings) was developed that addressed a key barrier (the perceived need for technology and capital). Finally, the ability to implement sustained, long-term collaboration allowed the learning and experience generated through these initiatives to evolve organically to a point where it these might be successfully leveraged as a basis for a real national solution.

The core themes in this ongoing collaboration are likely to have utility beyond China and beyond developing markets. Green building initiatives will almost certainly be increasing their focus on existing building energy performance. Large corporations worldwide are also increasingly seeing the value of implementing approaches that target low-cost energy performance improvement over their large global building portfolios, as a more powerful energy savings alternative to the more limited focus on, for example, designing a single green certified headquarters building. Economies such as India face challenges that are analogous to China’s, such as the lack of a single building energy performance metric, and no organised support to help buildings reduce energy. These offer opportunities for parallel solutions, some of which are already underway.


David Hathaway is managing director of ICF International (China). Susan Wickwire, of the US Environmental Protection Agency, contributed to this report.

Homepage photo by Cory Doctorow

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评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

人的因素

正如文中所述,是建筑师,是“人”在建筑能耗中起到关键作用,无论是能源之星还是环保。早在1996年,能源之星的调查就反应了这一点,现在该是如何使人转向更加“节能”导向,而不是一味建设的时候了,但如何去做依然是一个问号!我非常喜欢这种向有环保意愿的人进行宣传的文章。
(田亮翻译)

People Matters

It has been vividly shown in the article, that the building operator, that is " people" play a key role in the energy performance of any building, may it be Energy Star or Green. The energy Star survey as early as 1996 has demonstrated this and not it is time to turn to how to make people more " energy Efficiency" oriented, rather the construction. But how is still a big question mark hanging !

I really like this kind of message to be disseminated to all who intend to be green.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

新建筑vs旧建筑(或半旧不新建筑)

政治影响力大的房产投机商倾向拆除旧建筑,造新建筑,而不是对旧建筑加以改善(他们也助长了经济泡沫)。
就算把制造和丢弃材料过程中耗费的能源计算进去,改善旧建筑消耗的能源和材料还是要少得多。

Translated by Michelle Li

New vs Old (less new)

Politically influential property speculators tend to prefer demolition and new building than building improvements. (They also help fuel economic bubbles.)

The latter (- building improvements) tend to be far less wasteful of energy and materials - including the energy needed to make and dispose of those materials.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

说得很对啊!

节能减排在很多时候在很多地方其实并不需增加大量投入,应用高科技术,很多矛盾都是人们臆想出来的。也许有些人本来就知道,但是却因为惰性不去做任何改变。习惯了就不想改变,没有动力不想去做,没有压力不愿去做。每个人和组织都很会寻找借口。其实到底谁更应该做更多努力,更应该从哪些方向着手。建筑节能多么好的方式,但是who care?最近有一个新的想法,用木桶原理来解释环保运动,企业、政府、社会所有利益相关者均是一块板子,如何将所有人紧密地固定在一起,才能盛得环境保护更多的水,缺那一个口,水平就只能到那一个位置。
哎!who care?!(YZHK)

Too Right!

In a lot of cases, reducing emissions and saving energy doesn't actually need heaps of extra investment or the latest high-tech innovations thrown at it; many of the problems involved exist only in people's minds. Perhaps a few people understand this, but mostly they're far too apathetic to do anything about it. Once you're used to something, why bother to change if there's no particular motivation or pressure to do so? Individuals, organisations, everyone's far too good at finding excuses for themselves. But the question remains: at the end of the day, who most needs to be putting in the most work, and how should they set about it? It doesn't matter how good the energy-saving methods you come up with are if no-one cares!

Recently, people have applied something called the 'cask principle' to the environment issue. Suppose all the different corporations, governments, and society involved were all planks of wood lining the sides of a barrel, with the water level inside representing the effectiveness of the environment movement. If there's one that's shorter than the others, the water won't be able to rise beyond that point.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

再谈管理

管理是非常细节的工作,事实上,绝大多数的全球环境问题归根结底都是管理的问题,或者是能源消费变革的问题。但是管理仅仅是一种无力的妥协,这是很多大公司不愿意看到的。

still management

Management is a very detailed job.
In fact, most of global environmental problems are deeply incorporated within management issues, or within the revolution of energy consumption. But many companies don't want this to happen. So management is just a kind of impotent compromise.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

环保不能光靠好的意愿

环保的效益是长期的,对于大多数人来说,有追求长期效益的意愿。但这种愿望往往在遇到短期利益的时候就退缩了。正如上两个礼拜一篇文章提到,对个人来说,环保是要付出生活成本的。因此并不是每个人,能将好的意愿付诸行动。

假如实现节能和环保能降低成本,并且不只是对建筑开发商,而是直接能让消费者经济上获益,那谁会不乐意接受呢?比如当你告诉我节能冰箱虽稍贵于普通冰箱,却能在以后使用的十来年中节省电费,大于我付出的多余成本,那我自然会乐意当下多掏钱包。

环保不能只靠人的良知和美好愿望。既然对采取环保措施的企业能有优惠政策,对采取环保行动的个人就不能有吗?

Protecting the environment needs more than good intentions

The benefits of protecting the environment are mostly reaped over the long-term. But while most people are very much in favour of long-term dividends in theory, their commitment tends to fall by the wayside when it runs up against more short-term interests. As an article a couple of weeks ago mentioned, individuals often have to pay a premium for an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Consequently, not everyone is prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

If saving energy and protecting the environment can lower costs so that not just commercial housing developers but ordinary consumers as well can benefit, then who wouldn't want in?

Say you told me that while an energy saving fridge might be a bit more expensive than a regular one, it would more than make up for the difference in terms of the amount of energy saved. Of course I'd have no problem forking out the extra bit of cash.

Protecting the environment can't rely on good intentions alone. Companies that take special environmental measures are rewarded with preferential policy treatment. Why shouldn't this be the case for individuals as well?