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Attendees learned about building optimization and demand management in this event hosted by the Commercial Office Committee.

On July 25, USCBC National Capital Region’s Commercial Office Committee hosted a panel discussion at the LEED Gold Haworth Showroom on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The topic, “Building Optimization and Demand Management: Reducing Energy Use and Costs at Commercial Buildings,” was presented from three perspectives: the public sector, the private sector and energy management providers. Moderator Jamie Donovan, a local energy consultant, kicked the event off and spoke of the need to raise industry awareness for how (high) fixed energy costs can be mitigated with the right tools and team.

Public sector perspective

The first panelist, Zach Dobelbower from Department Government Services (DGS-SE DC), opened with a view from the public sector. The D.C. Municipal Building portfolio has 500 buildings covering 40 million square feet, 41 percent of which are schools. The remainder are offices, shelters, police stations, libraries and fire stations. This building portfolio generates $95 million in utility bills annually.

DGS has created an energy management strategy that relies on accurate, open-source energy use data and aims to reduce energy use while providing a high level of service to building occupants.

Municipal energy data, much of which is publicly available at, is at the foundation of the city’s smart building programs. Using a combination of interval electricity data, billing data and solar and wind data, the city is implementing the following initiatives:

  • Building benchmarking
  • Constant and retro commissioning
  • No- and low-cost building optimization
  • Demand response

Highlighting DGS’s effort to modernize its controls and building automation systems, Dobelbower shared advances for HVAC scheduling that are tailored to actual tenant occupancy. Turning off T&V equipment, water coolers and lights can greatly reduce loads and garner savings. Knowing the schedules of building occupants and creating occupancy profiles that consider peak room usage provides the data for zone mapping—which, when tied in to peak load management, will automatically turn off appliances and close blinds.

Download the DGS slide presentation (PDF).

Attendees at the Haworth Showroom in D.C.

Attendees at the Haworth Showroom.

Private sector perspective

From the private sector, Lee J. Dunfee, Managing Director, East Region Lead, Engineering Operations for Cushman & Wakefield, shared his perspective on how understanding client (building occupant) priorities is his number one goal, because the occupant experience is key in the commercial building market.

Dunfee said that what differentiates private sector real estate from the public sector is that since energy is not being aggregated, there is no way to check the bottom line for energy savings. It is also a much more transient market, with tenants coming and going with great frequency. He suggested that building operators leverage the systems they already have in place, and best practices he recommended for realizing low- to no-cost energy optimizations included:

  • Determining equipment run times
  • Limiting simultaneous heating and cooling
  • Standardizing set points
  • Conducting lighting audits
  • Completing night-time walk-throughs

Nighttime building walkthroughs with building engineers is a great way to capture savings and to see what is drawing energy in an unoccupied building, said Dunfee. Hot water heaters often cycle on and off all night when hot water is not needed. Adjusting summer and winter building energy start times is another easily achievable way to save.

Download the Cushman & Wakefield slide presentation (PDF).

Provider perspective

The final panelist was Martin Griffin, Business Development Manger with EnerNOC, a software company that works as an energy management advisory on demand response programs worldwide. EnerNOC focuses on coordinating electricity transmissions to ensure grid reliability.

Griffin described the energy market as operating much like the stock market. End users, by agreeing to be on standby, can earn money by acting as a resource for grid emergencies. EnerNOC works with PJM, a neutral, independent third-party manager of a large electric grid and wholesale electricity market. Wholesale energy prices fluctuate hourly, and customers generally pay an average cost. Demand response programs provide utility end users with a way to manage their energy use using real-time response to fluctuations in the wholesale market. By participating in emergency demand response programs, customers can reap the following benefits:

  • Have less risk of outages
  • Earn more money
  • Lower energy prices

Download the EnerNOC slide presentation

Special thanks to the Haworth Showroom for hosting this event and to e4h (Environments for Health Architecture) for sponsorship.

The Commercial Office Committee of USGBC National Capital Region has more events planned in the fall, starting with a tour and panel discussion on net zero buildings.

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