Game-Changing Report Launch -- Greater than the Sum of its Parts: The Case for a Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency

Release Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Report Describes a Major Shift in Traditional Thinking about Buildings Efficiency that has been heralded as a Game Changer by Industry Partners

Washington, D.C., May 11, 2016 – There is growing consensus in the buildings industry that focusing on building systems—a combination of equipment, controls, operations and interconnections—will become increasingly necessary to achieve future meaningful and cost-effective energy savings in buildings. The Alliance to Save Energy and its partners released the Systems Efficiency Initiative (SEI) Year 1 Report at the 2016 EE Global Forum in Washington, D.C. The report, entitled Greater than the Sum of its Parts: The Case for a Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency (Sum of its Parts), describes a major shift in traditional thinking about buildings efficiency that has been heralded as a game changer by industry partners.

Sum of its Parts explores the significant untapped energy savings available through a systems-efficiency approach to building design, construction and operation. The report considers interactions within various building systems, with a focus on mechanical and lighting systems. It also explores interactions among multiple systems within a building, and discusses challenges and opportunities for implementing a systems-level approach to building efficiency.

Sum of its Parts is the product of collaboration among more than 50 stakeholders—including manufacturers, designers and builders, electric and natural gas utilities, efficiency advocates, and national and state government agencies—to focus on defining ways to achieve the next level of efficiency in buildings by optimizing building systems.

 

Sum of its Parts identifies five strategies for promoting a systems approach:

1. Break down silos. Shifting from a “piecemeal,” component-level approach to a systems-oriented approach will require creativity and a new level of collaboration across a range of stakeholders—including architects, engineers, designers, developers and building operators—as well as between the building industry and policymakers.

2. Integrate systems. Integration both within and among systems operating in a building is vital to maximizing efficiency gains and opportunities.

3. Optimize operations through technology. Smart technologies and controls are key for improving the efficiency of many types of systems.

4. Consider all phases of the building life cycle. A systems-level focus is important during building design and construction, as well as during the operations and maintenance phases.

5. Think outside the building. Further opportunities for systems approaches exist beyond a building itself, across multiple buildings, and between a building and the electric grid.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, Alliance to Save Energy senior vice president of policy and research and SEI steering committee co-chair, said, “We are thrilled to release Sum of its Parts to help build the case for a systems focus throughout the industry. We are confident that this report will serve as an invaluable guide and reference for stakeholders who are blazing new trails with innovative and forward-thinking approaches to building design, operation and maintenance for the 21st century.”

Kathryn Clay, vice president of policy strategy at the American Gas Association and Systems Efficiency Initiative steering committee co-chair, said, “It’s an exciting time to be involved with a brand new process for energy efficiency—an untapped opportunity to proliferate the benefits of efficiency across industries. As we look beyond familiar energy-saving measures and move to the next level of buildings efficiency, I believe that Sum of its Parts and the work that is continuing under the SEI will provide a strong set of guidelines to ensure that the transition will be smooth, leading to the most energy-efficient future possible.”

Building on the report, the Systems Efficiency Initiative will continue to share its findings with stakeholders and policymakers to gain further insights to shape the work ahead, including the development of a roadmap for moving the market toward a systems approach to building energy efficiency. The roadmap will include recommendations for changes necessary to drive energy efficiency improvements at the building systems level.