Green building movement gains urgency

On the heels of the ISO 50001 standard taking effect in mid-June, Johnson Controls has released the results of its fifth annual study into building and facility energy efficiency — showing record numbers of energy management and reduction projects are going on around the world.

The latest Energy Efficiency Indicator, which covers nearly 4,000 building owners and operators, show that energy costs remain the main motivator these projects, not altruism. Johnson Controls reports that eight in 10 of the respondents expect double-digital energy price increases over the next 12 months. The respondents are trying to combat those increases with an average reduction target of 12 percent, the survey data show.

Notes Dave Myers, vice president and president of building efficiency for Johnson Controls:

"This year's survey clearly shows that there's growing urgency in making buildings more energy efficient and large strides have been made with the help of government incentives. However, building owners continue to tell us that access to capital remains the top barrier for improving energy consumption."

Other survey findings:

That last statistic is particularly interesting, as a new standard for measuring building energy efficiency, ISO 50001, bursts onto the scene earlier than anticipated. When was the last time you heard of a specification or framework emerging EARLIER than expected?

I reported last week about how Schneider Electric is working with the energy management framework for one of its buildings in France. I also just spent some time chatting about the specification with Ken Hamilton, director of global energy and sustainability services with Hewlett-Packard. Hamilton said ISO 50001 offers a highly effective way to keep better tabs on energy management projects. It provides a best practices approach that actually could help towards a certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. While LEED gives points for energy efficiency, it doesn't really detail how to do it.

Hamilton said that one of the most compelling things about ISO 50001 is that it has proven to be effective in both large companies as well as smaller organizations. He cites the results of several ISO 50001 pilots that were run by the U.S. Council for Energy-Efficient Manufacturing. One of the large companies involved in the two-year initiative reported 17.9 percent savings in energy consumption over that period of time, according to Hamilton. A smaller operation realized 14.9 percent savings, or $260,000, which made the difference between its plant being profitable. Or not.

"Any size company can benefit from an energy improvement program," Hamilton said. And if everyone banded together and did something, it could make a big difference in the amount of energy used: ISO believes energy management systems in buildings of all types could affect up to 60 percent of the world's energy usage.

One of the things that Hamilton likes most about the ISO 50001 standard: it will help performance whether or not a company focuses on earning a badge. "We like to stress performance over conformance," he said.

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