On May 17, 2023, NYSERDA’s Real Time Energy Management Program and Multifamily Program, in partnership with Building Energy Exchange, hosted an industry showcase of Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings, highlighting solutions for demand flexibility that leverage smart technology coupled with deep energy retrofits to reduce operating costs, meet climate objectives, and increase grid stability.

The Problem

Typical buildings are not responsive to occupancy or grid conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced this fact in late April of 2020: building occupancy in many of New York’s commercial offices dropped by about 95%, while energy use only dropped by 20-30% across the same sites.  This widely cited statistic renewed attention to the enduring disconnect between how buildings use energy, and how they are occupied.

This problem is further exacerbated since all electricity is not created equal. Periods of high demand drive more expensive and carbon-intensive electricity, while periods of low demand offer cleaner electricity at lower costs. While some building operators are equipped to react to these shifting conditions, few have the necessary controls and sophisticated analytics to forecast these conditions and automate load shedding or shifting to optimize energy consumption.

Panelist David Klatt, Chief Operating Officer of Logical Buildings, provided an apt analogy: “Imagine you showed up in a world where zero cars had a speedometer. You were driving, you had no idea how fast you were going, you don’t know how much fuel you have left in the tank. But if you’ve been commuting for a long time, you can pretty much feel it out, and get by. Now imagine, with Local Law 97, it’s like a cop with a speed gun on every street.”

With the emergence of regulatory regimes focused on building-based carbon emissions, and as hybrid work becomes the new normal, portfolio owners are looking for a speedometer, adopting data-driven strategies, referred to as Real Time Energy Management (RTEM), to optimize building energy use for occupancy, emissions, and costs, while maintaining comfort.

The Solution: Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings

Defined by the Department of Energy, Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs) take a data science-first approach, centered around RTEM, to turn buildings into grid-flexible assets. Panelist Cindy Zhu, who helped define GEBs at the U.S. Department of Energy, and now leads the development of Prescriptive Data’s Nantum building operating system, outlined three core components of a GEB: energy efficiency (e.g., reducing base load via improvements to building envelope, building systems, and operation and maintenance),  connectivity (i.e., bringing together typically siloed building systems via controls, sensors, and data), and modularity (i.e., ability to load shed and shift based on grid signals or other variables). Increasingly, this data science-driven approach incorporates machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide predictive analytics to forecast loads and enhance decision-making. Using communications protocols like openADR2.0, these systems can communicate directly with utilities, enabling automated demand response capabilities.

By adopting these systems—both software and hardware like controls and sensors—buildings become grid-flexible assets, taking advantage of variable loads (i.e., systems that can be strategically switched on and off without impacting comfort or functionality) to modulate energy use. Each GEB becomes a node in a cross-communicating network of “virtual power plants,” as described by Klatt, reacting to shifting grid conditions in harmony to improve grid resilience, particularly in times of high demand triggered by intense weather events.

GEBs are also well equipped at reacting to occupancy conditions. By integrating occupancy data, and trending patterns about when people enter, stay, and leave, building operators can automate systems to optimize for energy, emissions, and costs, while maintaining comfort standards.

The Future of Grid-Interactive Buildings

Rudin, a New York-based building owner, developer, and manager responsible for 5 million square feet of multifamily residential properties and 10 million square feet of commercial office space, was an early adopter of Real Time Energy Management strategies: in 2014, the company participated in Con Edison’s Smart Grid Demonstration project; in 2015, Rudin automated demand response strategies across their commercial portfolio to manage costs and reduce energy use.

Rudin’s Dock 72, Brooklyn Navy Yard. Photo Credit: Rudin Management Company.

With Local Law 97 in near sight, Rudin is now focused on leveraging this data-driven approach to manage carbon, developing real-time GHG emissions trackers that will be overlaid on their automated demand response and demand management systems to optimize for costs, energy use, and emissions.

As Luis Rios, Assistant Vice President at Rudin, highlighted, while Local Law 97 requires yearly reporting, historical emissions tracking may be too late. Building owners will need to be responsive to performance, course-correcting depending on current emissions performance relative Local Law 97 thresholds.

With increased focus on reducing building emissions, data-driven approaches like Rudin’s will be an essential piece of the Local Law 97 compliance puzzle, with the added benefit of increased energy and carbon performance transparency, cost and utility savings, occupant comfort, and, collectively, grid resiliency.

Stream NYSERDA’s Grid-Interactive Building Showcase here.


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  • Commercial
  • Multi-Family
  • Data & Technology

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