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Dig In: The Promising Field of Energy Efficiency Tech

Over the past year and a half, O’Brien & Company, along with several industry leaders and community partners, helped the Smart Buildings Center (SBC) advance the understanding of how emerging technologies are changing the way building owners and operators approach energy efficiency. SBC is a project of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC). Through a series of rapid demonstration projects, over 20 different technologies were deployed and evaluated, with the goals of clarifying how different features and functionalities of new technology can change the pathway to improving building performance, while offering a safe proving ground for new solutions and an opportunity to create reference customers for emerging products. Findings from these projects are available on the SBC website.

In 2014, O’Brien & Company managed the team selected to conduct SBC’s inaugural project, the Virtual Energy Assessment Technologies (VEAT) Demonstration Pilot Project. The project kicked off with a survey of over 60 virtual technologies that provide a similar kind of information as generated from onsite baseline and audits, but using remote functionality to gather the information. The team then narrowed in on a select group to further test in real life demonstrations, and paired the technologies with a diverse group of buildings representing commercial, multifamily, and institutional sectors. The deployments yielded findings relevant to both individual buildings, as well as portfolio scale applications.

A key part of our work involved finding a common language to use to describe the different functionalities and features that the different technologies offered, and then assessing how those features benefited the building owners and operators they targeted. As an outcome of the research, deployment, and evaluation, we prepared a suite of materials that building owners and operators may find useful when trying to navigate the ever growing market of technologies; including a Technology Quick Guide that matches functionalities with common energy challenges, a Market Snapshot that offers a high level look at the current state and future of how technologies are shaping the energy efficiency market, and four case studies detailing the demonstration project findings by sector. Furthering this groundwork, the CommonAgenda team has mapped out the landscape of technologies by different features, available now through their online portal of case studies and resources.

Our work continued in 2015, supporting SBC’s Accelerated Technology Deployment (ATD) program, which brought together some of the region’s best energy management, engineering, and measurement and verification firms to deploy and evaluate a much broader swath of energy efficiency technologies in a regional test-bed. The ATD program also included research on evolving strategies to saving energy, such as demand response, the use of public facing dashboards, and culminated in a wealth of case studies and reports.

Improving the performance of the built environment is central to O’Brien & Company’s vision. We were thrilled to participate in an exploration of how new approaches and methodologies can help both our clients, and any building owner or operator, work towards that same vision. We were also encouraged by the leadership of so many participants in these demonstration projects, highlighting the interest and desire for finding different ways to solve persistent energy challenges. We look forward to continue to build the industry’s capacity to further assess where and how technology can play a new role in helping building owners, operators, and occupants identify and commit to making the changes needed to improve their energy efficiency and overall building performance and quality.

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