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Commercial buildings account for about one-third of all California electricity consumption, at an annual cost of $9 billion. Although aggressive efforts by California to improve building design within the state have led to significant increases in commercial building energy efficiency over the past 20 years, the savings are still well below technical and economic potential.

A three-year public-private research initiative targeting substantial reductions in the energy costs of commercial buildings has been launched under the leadership of scientists from the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More than $9 million in research, development, demonstration and deployment funding has been committed by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research Program, along with the U.S. Department of Energy and private sector partners who will provide in-kind assistance. A team of 13 public and private sector organizations are carrying out the many tasks of the program.
The High-Performance Commercial Building Systems

  • The primary goals of the High Performance Commercial Buildings Program are to develop and deploy energy saving technologies, strategies, and techniques; to improve processes for designing, commissioning, and operating commercial buildings; and to improve the health, comfort and productivity of occupants.

  • The program's energy savings goal aims to mainstream the above strategies to cost-effectively achieve energy savings levels that were previously achieved only in aggressive research: 70% in new construction and 50% in major retrofits.

  • The program's economic goals are to strengthen the state's growing energy efficiency industry, providing jobs for companies in hardware, software, design and building services.

Five Program Elements

The High-Performance Commercial Building Systems Program will develop new technologies and design and operations practices in five areas:

Life-Cycle Tools (Element 1)

Integrated building performance management systems. Includes software tools, analysis techniques, data definitions and schema (e.g. performance metrics), data schema for interoperability, and benchmark databases for evaluating commercial building energy use and other performance issues.

Lighting, Envelope and Daylighting (Element 2)

Hardware and software to control and monitor conventional lighting and envelope devices for comfort and energy efficiency. Control systems operating on a low-cost building communications network, allowing for occupant-based and building-wide control of lighting and dynamic envelope elements (e.g. electrochromic glazings).

Low Energy Cooling (Element 3)

Strategies to reduce the energy consumption and peak demand associated with the cooling of commercial buildings in California climates. Novel space conditioning systems (e.g. displacement ventilation, evaporative cooling, chilled ceilings). Demonstration of proven low energy cooling technologies. New tools for design, commissioning and operation of systems.

Integrated Commissioning and Diagnostics (Element 4)

Reliable practices for commissioning buildings to operate as designed, and for fine tuning after occupancy. Procedures for diagnosing problems that prevent buildings from operating at maximum efficiency. Case studies to facilitate commissioning as standard practice. Advanced commissioning, including supporting software and sensors.

Indoor Environmental Quality (Element 5)

HVAC and indoor pollutant source control technologies; information that assists state agencies and utilities develop market programs for energy-efficient relocatable classrooms (RCs). Demonstration of improved indoor environments in RCs and documentation of impacts on student health and learning.