While transportation and industry tend to come to mind when people think of the primary culprits of energy consumption, another sector globally actually tops that list: buildings. The buildings sector is the world’s largest source of primary energy consumption – nearly 40% – and ranks second after the industrial sector as a global source of direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions from fuel. According to the World Economic Forum, nearly half of all energy consumed by buildings could be avoided with new energy-efficient systems and equipment. Traditionally, preparing buildings for energy efficiency retrofits can be a complex, time-intensive, and expensive process which requires on-site energy audits and sometimes energy simulation analysis. These obstacles often delay building owners from pursuing the cost-saving retrofits.
– and in the age of COVID-19, could prevent progress altogether due to economic setbacks and restrictions on in-person work. However, advancements in the science of data-driven building energy analysis are overcoming these barriers by enabling building professionals worldwide to quickly target energy efficiency improvements remotely and at a lower cost.
In June, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Johnson Controls released the beta version of the Building Efficiency Targeting Tool for Energy Retrofits (BETTER) – a free, open-source web application available here.
By analyzing easily accessible building data and monthly energy usage and weather data, BETTER quickly benchmarks a building’s energy use against peers or a portfolio and quantifies energy, cost, and greenhouse gas
reduction potential. BETTER is then able to recommend energy efficiency improvements to turn this potential into reality. Additionally, the source code of BETTER’s modular, crossplatform analytical engine can be adopted, modifed and redistributed freely under an open-source license, allowing users to incorporate the tool’s analytical capabilities into their own software platforms and applications. Any enhancements to the code are shared, contributing to ongoing improvements to the tool.
In this unprecedented time of a global pandemic, BETTER’s analysis also can be completedwithout on-site audits or inspections, enabling energy efficiency workers to continue to plan and develop building retrofit and retro-commissioning projects. This can help preserve jobs during a time when nearly 400,000 U.S. energy efficiency workers have been left unemployed because of COVID-19. Moreover, because of the minimal data inputs and easy data entry process, BETTER fosters equity and energy justice by ensuring that detailed no-cost/ low-cost and capital improvement recommendations are available for buildings even in the most economically disadvantaged communities. An earlier version of BETTER has already been used by a variety of organizations, including public school districts, universities, and energy service companies. The World Resources Institute and other Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) partner organizations are providing technical assistance and training on the BETTER tool to the BEA network of 55 cities in 25 countries around the world. BETTER is just one example of countless innovations in energy efficiency science that are making it easier to meet our energy goals and drive job-creating investment. As leaders worldwide consider how to build back better, they should leverage these recent advancements to enable a faster, more equitable recovery and make the benefits of energy efficiency more accessible for all. Learn more about whether BETTER may be suitable to support your national, state, local, or organizational building efficiency goals here.
Carolyn Szum & Clay Nesler
• VP, Global Energy and Sustainability at Johnson Controls and Interim
President of the Alliance to Save Energy
• Program Manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory