Thirteen ways to meet energy-efficiency goals in buildings

Based on engineering focus, here are several ways to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability goals

By Amara Rozgus February 7, 2024
Courtesy: Brett Sayles, CFE Media and Technology

Efficiency and sustainability insights:

  • In the quest for sustainable and energy-efficient commercial buildings, the pivotal roles played by mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineers are crucial.
  • The integration of these engineering disciplines, coupled with advancements like variable refrigerant flow systems and LED lighting, offers a significant opportunity to optimize building performance, reduce environmental impact and spearhead transformative change in the new year.

To meet sustainability and energy-efficiency goals in commercial buildings, mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) and fire protection engineers play a pivotal role. The coming year presents another opportunity for professionals to elevate their practices, incorporating innovative technologies and methodologies to enhance energy and resource efficiency.

The convergence of these engineering disciplines can yield significant gains in optimizing building performance and reducing environmental impact. Manufacturers are meeting and exceeding efficiency goals, making it less difficult to provide the right system to building clients.

Mechanical engineers:

  1. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems: Consider implementing VRF systems, which offer precise control over heating and cooling, resulting in energy savings of up to 30% compared to traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

  2. Energy recovery ventilation (ERV): Integrate ERV systems to recover and reuse energy from exhaust air, improving indoor air quality while minimizing the energy required for conditioning fresh air.

  3. High-efficiency boilers and chillers: Specify boilers and chillers with high-efficiency ratings, ensuring optimal performance and minimizing energy consumption in heating and cooling processes.

  4. Building automation systems (BAS): Implement advanced BAS to enable real-time monitoring and control of HVAC systems, allowing for proactive adjustments based on occupancy, weather conditions and other variables.

Electrical engineers:

  1. LED lighting systems: Transition to energy-efficient LED lighting systems, which consume significantly less power than traditional lighting technologies, while offering superior performance and longer lifespan.

  2. Power factor correction: Integrate power factor correction devices to enhance electrical system efficiency by reducing reactive power, resulting in reduced energy losses and improved overall power quality.

  3. Smart grid integration: Explore opportunities for smart grid integration to optimize electricity consumption, leveraging real-time data to adjust loads and minimize peak demand.

  4. Renewable energy integration: Evaluate the feasibility of integrating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, into the building’s electrical system to offset conventional energy consumption.

Plumbing engineers:

  1. Water-efficient fixtures: Specify water-efficient fixtures and appliances, such as low-flow toilets and sensor-activated faucets, to minimize water consumption and contribute to overall building sustainability.

  2. Greywater systems: Explore the implementation of greywater systems, which recycle nonpotable water for applications like irrigation, reducing the demand on the municipal water supply.

  3. Rainwater harvesting: Integrate rainwater harvesting systems to collect and store rainwater for nonpotable uses, reducing reliance on traditional water sources for landscaping and other nondrinking purposes.

Fire protection engineers:

  1. Water mist systems: Consider water mist fire suppression systems, which use significantly less water compared to traditional sprinkler systems while maintaining effective fire suppression capabilities.

  2. Occupancy-based design: Employ occupancy-based fire protection design strategies to optimize system efficiency, focusing resources on areas with higher occupancy and potential fire risk.

The collaborative efforts of MEP and fire protection engineers hold the key to achieving greater energy and resource efficiency in commercial buildings. By embracing cutting-edge technologies and adopting a holistic approach to building design, these professionals can contribute substantially to the global imperative of sustainable development. The new year presents an exciting opportunity for these engineers to spearhead transformative change in the way commercial buildings are designed, ensuring a more sustainable and resilient future.

This content was enhanced with ChatGPT. Due to the limitations of AI tools, all content was edited and reviewed by our content team.


Author Bio: Amara Rozgus is the Editor-in-Chief/Content Strategy Leader