Small Business, Smart Buildings

The technology mega-trends that are making smart buildings affordable for small businesses

New code revisions are helping make zero net energy buildings a reality. The key components for reaching this goal are smart sensors and monitors; end-use electrical equipment; and solar technology. Together, they can dramatically reduce the cost of powering buildings and businesses.

Imagine your store, restaurant or office building being zero net energy (ZNE), where the building’s annual energy consumption is equal to the building’s annual onsite generation of renewable energy.  Well, that future is now, with the 2014 launch of California’s Title 24 building codes revisions. These new building codes target mass adoption of ZNE building technologies that should generate cost-cutting economies of scale that will make ZNE affordable for every business across the United States.

 Sensors and Monitors

The first mega-trend driving down the cost of ZNE buildings is the rapid decrease in the price of their foundational technology, including building sensors and monitoring equipment. “Smart buildings” will optimize a building’s energy consumption, comfort and costs using forward-looking (or predictive) software systems that seamlessly pick the least-cost solution, whether it’s grid-supplied electricity, onsite solar generation, onsite battery deployment or shifts/reductions/curtailments of onsite electrical loads.

ZNE smart buildings will achieve cost savings results without impacting their use or comfort, and they’ll achieve targeted indoor air-quality standards and reductions in environmental impact.

End-Use Electrical Systems

The second technology mega-trend is in “smart and networked” end-use electrical equipment, such as lights and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Electrical equipment in a ZNE building will work together to harvest significant energy cost savings by buying electricity through real-time pricing tariffs that are increasingly being offered by utilities.

This is similar to how airlines price their tickets, with the price of a ticket (or electricity, in this case) being higher when the demand is high and lower when the demand is low. Smart electrical equipment will be networked through smart-building systems to minimize electricity consumption during higher-priced time periods.