Published on October 29th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci2
NREL Software Could Cut Commercial Building Energy Audit Costs 75%
These days, there’s an app for pretty much everything. From gaming to home energy management, tasks are done on handheld devices through the cloud. So why are energy audits still stuck on clipboards and pencils?
Good news – by next year, commercial building energy audits will finally join the 21st century thanks to the simuwatt Energy Auditor, a new tablet-based software package developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and software company concept3D that could cut audit costs by up to 75%
It may seem like insignificant news, but simuwatt could streamline this laborious process through computer modeling, find new ways to boost energy efficiency, and save commercial buildings millions of dollars every year.
Make Energy Audits More Efficient To Make Buildings More Efficient
Commercial buildings in America represent 7% of the world’s total energy consumption and use roughly $134 billion in electricity to power all those computers, heating and ventilation systems, and lights.
All that power means commercial buildings are huge targets for increased energy efficiency, but until now the process of finding the right upgrades for each building has been inefficient, with audits for many buildings often costing more than potential savings from energy improvements.
Enter simuwatt. Energy auditors will now be able to perform audits on mobile tablets and upload results into cloud-based servers for advanced energy modeling results and recommendations in almost real time. “Its software-guided workflow allows customers to double their audit capacity,” said Oliver Davis, CEO of concept3D. “More audits mean more retrofit work, more revenue, and more efficient buildings.”
Combining The Best Of NREL & DOE Technology
The software seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the result of NREL combining several ideas already in use across federal government facilities. NREL has traditionally conducted audits for the Defense Department, State Department, and National Park Service, and simuwatt combines the best results of years of practice.
For instance, the Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus tool is integrated to run simulations that determine energy flow, while NREL’s OpenStudio combines with concept3D’s geometry capture software to create a detailed 3D model of each building as auditors walk through it to analyze energy savings from potential improvements.
A user could pose the question: “Does it make economic sense to retrofit windows in this building?” The response from simuwatt Energy Auditor might be something like “Yes, if it is more than three stories high and at least 40 years old and if you use these kinds of windows.” If that’s not in the budget, then the user can change one parameter and see what difference it makes for the bottom line.
The software can also help lower solar soft costs through features like assessing the capacity of a roof for adding solar panels or perform additional time-saving tasks like calculating the value of replacing lighting fixtures all in one program, instead of farming work out to multiple contractors.
Defense Department Testing Before Full Launch
NREL will now test the software in real-world settings by using it to audit 18 buildings across 6 Defense Department bases in Colorado, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Florida.
Once those results are in, analysts will have a better sense of simuwatt’s potential to make auditing and commercial businesses more efficient. and will release the software to the energy auditing industry. “The hope is that by lowering costs, you can not only get deeper savings but also get into more buildings,” said Andrew Parker of NREL.