Buildings of the future will operate from models that look at all the factors – outside temperature, the temperature desired inside, how many people are in the building and a number of other set points – to heat and cool buildings in the most energy-efficient manner possible.
That was the crux of a recent presentation by Mary Ann Piette, director of the Building Technology & Urban Systems Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
In addition, clusters of buildings will work together to take one building’s excess heat or cooling and share it with another.
Piette made the presentation at a Sidewalk Labs Idea Tour: Building the Energy Efficient Neighbrohoods of Tomorrow, held in New York City. Piette was one of five speakers exploring emerging technologies and design innovations that can lead to more sustainable cities.
Sidewalk Labs, Google’s sister company, is an Alphabet funded urban innovation organization. Its goal is to improve urban infrastructure through technological solutions, and tackle issues such as cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.
Buildings consume huge amounts of energy – more than cars or any other entity – and designing energy-efficient buildings in the future will greatly reduce a city’s and a country’s energy consumption overall.
Interestingly, the history of shared energy systems like Piette described started in New York City. Developers found it made more sense to build big boilers for groups of buildings, which was safer and more efficient than managing lots of small boilers.
“When we have buildings in clusters – offices, homes, schools, etc. you put those together and you can have very efficient heating and cooling systems,” Piette said.
Piette went on to discuss:
- Universities – including Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Merced, which are aggressively building systems of the future right now. Stanford completely eliminated its combined heat and power system and is moving toward an all-electric, no fossil fuel dynamic. Stanford is also utilizing tanks that make both heated and chilled water, at the same time, and use Model Predictive Control (MPC) technology that predicts how much energy they will need over the next few days.
- UC Berkeley is planning to use an ambient loop technology in a new future campus where district energy pipes can deliver ambient temperature water to meet the majority of heating and cooling needs. These are among some of the most energy-efficient systems around.
- In Switzerland, geothermal heat pumps are used for seasonal storage because the earth’s temperature is consistent, provides for thermal storage, and provides better coupling than outside air where temperatures change with the seasons. The Swiss government is spending $25 million a year to create these systems.
Today, building operators turn the heat and cooling on and off and pay the energy bill at the end of the month.
“In the future, with Model Predictive Controls, the building system will look at the outside temperature, the desired temperature inside, how many people are in the building, the price of electricity and more,” Piette said. The building owner will be able to use a model to optimize all the set points of the building and make sure it is continuously running as efficiently as possible.
“This is a very exciting time in the building controls area,” Piette said. Industry and government research organizations like Berkeley Lab are creating open source tools that can be used at the room, building, campus and district level to make sure we’re not wasting energy and are being as efficient as possible.
“We’re changing from simple controls to adaptive, grid-aware, Model Predictive Control (MPC) for buildings and communities,” Piette said.
Five experts, including Piette, who are “pioneers and practitioners” in building technology discussed concepts that can help cities meet their energy goals: district energy, microgrids, smart building standards, predictive building software and Passive House design.
See all of the presentations and find out more at: https://sidewalklabs.com/blog/building-the-energy-efficient-neighborhoods-of-tomorrow/
Find out more about Piette’s research at https://eta.lbl.gov/people/mary-ann-piette