NBI study reveals how CRE can reduce energy costs

High-quality automated shading reduces the energy consumption of the lighting and at the same time increases the comfort of the residents. Modern LED lighting with advanced controls also significantly reduces the energy consumption of the lighting and provides excellent results. These are among the most important research results of the New Buildings Institute (NBI) based in Portland, Oregon. The findings are intended to provide commercial property owners and operators with the key to implementing lighting and shading retrofits in today’s commercial buildings.

In 2017, NBI led a large research project that was taken over by the California Energy Commission. The project, entitled “Leading in LA”, addressed the critical need to provide cost-effective, scalable means to drastically reduce energy consumption in existing commercial buildings throughout the Golden State. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and well-known energy efficiency companies participated in the four-year project, which included laboratory tests and field demonstrations at two locations.

Critical takeaways

One of the main results of the research was that automating window shading can bring a number of benefits. The problem with traditional treatments – from traditional corded blinds to fabric roller blinds – is that they are operated manually. This means that their benefits – including combating direct sunlight, glare and overheating – depend on being opened and closed manually by the building occupants.

Too often these residents are not bothered or forgotten to take on the task. The result is glaring screens, indoor temperatures warmer than they should be, and missed opportunities to connect with nature through lines of sight into nature.

The pre-programmable fabric hangings available today can, however, be raised and lowered automatically depending on the amount of sunlight. These preprogrammed functions free employees from taking over the work and ensure that benefits are achieved.

A second insight made it clear that today’s LED lighting systems are equipped with advanced controls that are so precise that they automate individual luminaires, drastically reduce the energy consumption of the lighting and produce excellent results.

Modern innovative lighting systems for office buildings are dominated by LED lighting, which can be fine-tuned to automatically dim or turn off individual lights within the system, depending on the needs of users in the vicinity. During COVID-19, those who work remotely got used to being able to adjust their lighting at home. After returning to work, they should be able to override the lighting system and adjust their own assigned luminaire to suit their needs and desires.

One of the two leading LA demonstration locations was Welch Hall at California State University’s Dominguez Hills. The central plant and energy manager Kenny Seeton found the residents there to be very positive.

“Almost everyone was super happy,” he says. “I wish there was a fortune meter so we could quantify it. We made it more convenient for people because we gave them control over their lighting conditions that they never had before. Now you can set the lights where you want. “

Post-COVID relevance

Automated shading and lighting received a new focus during the pandemic and will continue to be a major concern afterwards. Not using automated systems would mean that the energy in a building would remain fully switched on from early morning to early evening, regardless of whether there are a thousand or ten people in the building.

The switch to hybrid HR work, in which employees can work from home one or two days a week, has made integrated lighting and shading even more important in order to position the lighting exactly where it is needed. A trend in the post-COVID world is the propensity of building owners to upgrade lighting and HVAC systems at the same time to create a healthier work environment after the pandemic.

“Integration is really key to today’s technology,” says Cathy Higgins, NBI’s director of research. “Owners and facility managers should proactively consider several systems at the same time in order to make the building as contemporary, efficient, comfortable and attractive as possible.”

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