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Request for Participation for Field Validation of Zero Energy and Zero Energy Ready Buildings (Text Version)

This is the text version for the "Request for Participation for Field Validation of Zero Energy and Zero Energy Ready Buildings" video.

>>Rose: All right, everyone. Let's get started. Hello, and thank you for attending today's informational webinar about NREL's recent request to participate in a field validation of zero energy and zero energy ready building. This is Rose Langer from NREL, and I will be kicking off today's call. The agenda for this call is to go over the request goals, objectives, and outcomes, participant and candidate building qualifications. We'd like to walk through some example technologies and solutions, talk through the response submission process, and leave significant time for Q&A at the end. Before we begin, a few quick announcements. This webinar is being recorded and will be posted to the Request for Participation website. A link to our website is provided on this slide. Additionally, all attendees are muted.

If you have questions throughout the webinar, though, we do encourage you to type them into the chat box, and we will address them during the Q&A session after the presentation. Today's presenters include myself, Rose Langer, and my colleague Paul Torcellini. We are both research engineers in the commercial buildings research group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is located in Golden, Colorado. For this webinar, I will be covering the first set of slides describing the request goals, objectives, and outcomes, as well as participant and candidate building qualifications. Paul will then describe the types of technologies and solutions we are looking for, and will walk you through the response submission process.

I'd also like to mention that we have Teagan Fast on the webinar from NREL's communications team. She will be collecting your questions throughout the presentation, and helping Paul and I with the Q&A session later on. In addition, we have Sarah Zoleski from the Department of Energy on the line. Sarah is our DOE sponsor for this entire project, and I'd like to invite her to give some broad, overarching comments on our efforts through this project to move and accelerate the market to achieve zero energy and zero energy ready status. So, Sarah, if you'd like to give us a few remarks here?

>>Sarah: Great, thanks so much, Rose. Good morning, good afternoon some of you, and thanks for tuning in this morning to learn more about this opportunity. So, one of the reasons that we're pursuing this, and decided to invest a bit in doing some of this field validation is that we know – we've been working in the zero energy and zero energy ready space for some time with NREL as well as a number of other entities, and what we've come to notice is that one of the big barriers towards the adoption of greater zero energy, zero energy ready building is really perceived cost. Not always real costs, but what folks perceive as a high cost premium.

We've also seen that risk aversion and kind of knowledge and skills around both the design community and the trades have been barriers to, you know, the further deployment of these buildings. So, in reaction to this, we've done a number of initiatives here at DOE, funded a number of initiatives, including the Advanced Energy Design Guide that we do in conjunction with ASHRAE, which publishes them, along with a number of other organizations. And then some other more focused work in different areas of schools and offices and multi-family building.

But throughout this, in our work over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to see a number of these ultra-high performance buildings, kind of in the flesh, in person, and toured them, and I've been very impressed by the design approaches that I've seen employed, the technologies, the bundles of technologies, as well as the plans to collect data around these buildings, understanding that they are some of the best in class buildings, and really wanting to learn from them. So, we came up with this opportunity as a way to learn from some of those really great projects out there, and bring together the expertise we have throughout the national labs in their analysis to these projects, and to see what we can learn, and how we can share those technologies and strategies, and hopefully some of those solutions. So, that's kind of why we're here today. Thank you for your interest in this opportunity, and I'll hand it back over to Rose and Paul to take it from here.

>>Rose: Great, thanks so much, Sarah, for giving that overview from DOE's perspective. And now to get into it, I'll be providing an overview of the actual field validation goals, objectives, and outcomes. First, a few definitions. A zero energy or zero energy ready building is a building that has an energy consumption so low that on-site renewable energy could offset the total energy consumption of the building. Note that the term zero energy is also referred to as zero net energy, net zero energy, and net positive energy in industry. And in good national lab form, we'll insert an acronym here. We'll be using ZER as our abbreviation for zero energy and zero energy ready.

The key to achieving ZER – a ZER building is a very low energy use intensity, which the acronym, of course, is EUI. And this, as probably many of you know, is the measurement of the total building energy typically in KBTUs, divided by its total square footage. So, why are we focused on ZER and ultra-low EUI buildings? Well, the number of buildings that are achieving such low EUIs is growing, thanks to new technologies and better application of those technologies, and in many cases, as Sarah was mentioning, the integration of different technologies together to multiply their output. However, there are a number of barriers to achieving ZER performance.

One of the barriers that we often hear is that no one wants to be the first in adopting these technologies, or new technologies. There can be too much risk associated with it – cost and also performance data and information on practical aspects of using the technology and how to effectively integrate it. That's often lacking in industry. So, this project will be focused on providing these – or analyzing these newer, innovative technologies to provide performance, cost, and use-case data. Using data from buildings that have actually taken this leap into adopting the newer innovative technologies and solutions that have not yet been studied in-depth.

So, through the in-depth analyses of these technologies and solutions, which will be provided by the national laboratories, we will be able to better understand what these risks and barriers actually are, and how we can overcome them for successful implementation. Zero energy and Zero energy ready buildings are the future, and I would say critically need to be much more prominent in the more immediate future, and to get there, we need to better understand what these barriers are to wide-spread adoption. This request is targeted at finding ZER buildings that would be willing to participate in the field validation study.

Multiple national laboratories will be engaged in the actual field studies, and they'll be conducting the in-depth analyses on the innovative installed ZER technologies and solutions where there is either limited data already available or limited analysis on the performance. We're also looking to explore these integrative approaches for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and how multiple building systems can operate in an optimized manner together. With this, we can learn more about how these technologies and solutions can reduce energy consumption and demand, increase resiliency, and improve the opportunities for load flexibility.

So, by explaining the participant and candidate building qualifications, we'll dive deeper into our intent of what we're looking for. First, I should mention that we were a little hesitant to call these actual qualifications, but more simply, we're looking for building owners, facility managers, or design teams of ZER buildings to provide information about possible candidate buildings for the field validation study. As outcomes of the field validation, our goals are to better understand the current operation of installed ZER measures, identify operational improvements to enhance energy performance, and increase the potential for load flexibility, and, of course, learn best practices for energy data analysis to ensure continuous high efficiency performance.

For candidate buildings, we are looking for buildings that have achieved or are close to achieving ZER energy performance with at least one year of recorded energy data. We're looking for engaged facility managers or responsive facility managers, and I should note here that the amount of time commitment, not a time commitment from the facility manager will be up for discussion once we choose these projects. We'll be working with the building teams and the facility manager. It will require some time commitment, but the much heavier lift will be on the laboratories in leading the project and conducting the data analyses.

So, moving on, we're also looking for buildings that can grant lab employees access to some major energy data for research purposes or potentially be willing to instrument the building technology or systems for further energy data collection. Note that the labs will work with the building owner or facility manager to appropriately scope these projects within acceptable parameters of the building and its occupants. This will start with conversations on how much data is currently being collected, and whether additional instrumentation would be beneficial. The scope and project goals will be agreed upon by all parties, and in addition, note that the labs will not share energy data outside of the project or publicly without permission from the building owner.

Lastly, we're looking for buildings that feature innovative technologies or strategies that have significantly contributed to the building's low EUI or ZER performance, and have not had in-depth data analysis. And, again, we're looking to produce performance data and information on the practical aspects of using the technology or solution and how to effectively integrate it into our building operation. We'll also be looking at the cost side of things as well. And we're looking for technologies or strategies that possess high potential for widespread adoption by other buildings, and technologies or solutions that feature the potential to synergistically integrate with other technologies, strategies, or building end uses. So, Paul is going to talk more about what we mean by this and provide some examples in upcoming slides.

So, in this last overview slide that I'll be giving, I'll talk about some additional goals here. We are also going to be looking at identifying the value propositions building owners for investing in ZER technologies and solutions, what are the pathways to push these technologies and solutions into the mainstream market, identify or determine weaknesses where future research could be needed that could help address limitations in design, technologies, or operations, and identify pathways for the widespread adoption and successful performance at scale so that we can actually get there. And with that, I'm going to hand over the webinar to Paul, who will talk about example technologies and solutions, how to submit a response, and lead us into the Q&A discussion. Paul?

>>Paul: Okay, thanks, Rose. Let's go to the next slide. And so, as we look at this request for participation, we have provided some ideas in a list on the website. You don't need to feel obligated to respond in all of the categories. What is of particular interest is what are the most important things to get to zero, and how are those technologies integrated. So, how do things come together in order to achieve superior whole building performance? And, some subsets – again, this is not a comprehensive list, but things around envelope measures, looking at HVAC technologies, looking at advanced controls and technologies around lighting and plug loads, and then being able to put all of these pieces together into the building to perform as kind of a single unit.

I like to think of this as when you buy something like a car, it's tuned to operate as a single product, even though it's made up of a lot of pieces. We're moving that direction in a lot of these buildings that are getting to zero, and we really want to understand how that is happening. Next slide. And so, looking at some examples that we have here, and, again, this is kind of digging a little bit deeper into some of the ideas, but it could be being able to show that you have substantially reduced cooling capacities based on some other sub-systems, perhaps lighting reduction, daylighting, and envelope examples. You know, we have often seen buildings that are these very low energy buildings coming in at things like 1,000 square feet per ton of cooling capacity, where the typical building might be – have three times or four times as much air conditioning capacity.

And that, you know, helps with the business cases, and putting that building together, and we wanted to see how those are performing. You know, can you actually operate a building with very low tonnage of cooling and still meet all the performance goals of that project? You know, how has energy storage been integrated in this? And even though energy storage by itself may not be a energy saver, it does have the ability to downsize, shed, and shift loads, but maybe that ability to downsize a physical plant because of energy storage enables a lower cost overall for the project. And, again, looking at the performance pieces around that. A big one in buildings is air cleaning systems and bringing in fresh air to meet occupant needs, and in order to dilute pollutants that are in the space. What are some of the alternatives to that?

How does that, then, impact HVAC energy and the comfort of people in the space? And then, integrating passive design strategies that don't need maintenance. One of the things that we hear out of a lot of buildings is that they really want to simplify the buildings. They want to simplify the controls. They want to simplify the mechanical systems. That could be done by perhaps enhancing the envelope, and looking at some of those pieces. But there's others that also come into play, you know, like electrical distributions systems, and how that can be improved in that. And so, those are just some examples, and we hope that, you know, the creativity of the industry, in order to really meet these, you know, very aggressive energy goals, you know, will start to come out, and we can get more ideas added to this list, and we can start helping the industry, you know, learn about these ideas and have them become more mainstream in their thinking. Next slide.

So, the last piece of this is how to submit a response, and kind of get your name on the list of the request for participation. And so, let's go to the next slide. So, the first piece is that there is a deadline on Friday, March 6th. There is a website that is specially set up to handle these requests. That is shown on the screen now. In that, you will get the complete information about the request. If you want to be considered for the request, there is a web-based form to fill out, and that link is on this piece. The questionnaire is relatively short. There are a couple of questions, seven or eight questions in there, that do require a little bit longer response in terms of, you know, what does your building have, why would it be of interest for this type of project. Next slide.

So, you know, some of the things that we're asking for in here are things like the energy use intensity of the building without renewables. Again, the focus on this is really the energy efficiency side of the building, and being able to describe what you think are the most impactful strategies, technologies, and methods that are being used. We'd like some information on what level of data is being collected, and how that data is being collected. You don't necessarily have to be doing anything with that data, but it is important to know kind of what is being collected or the types of information that's out there, and can that data be shared with the researchers at the national labs. A piece of it is being able to access the site by the researchers. Obviously, this would be done in coordination with the building owner and the occupants of the building, but it is important to kind of come in an look around, and being able to kind of sense, you know, what's going on in the space in order to, you know, start with a research plan.

The other is do you know of other reports and publications on the performance of the building, or other aspects of kind of the design of that project that are available, and getting us that information really will help us evaluate what is being done in that space currently, and how we can provide value added to extending the knowledge from what we would learn. Next slide. And with that, we have plenty of time for some questions. And, again, feel free to comment in the question box on the screen, in the comment box on the screen. If you have other questions, feel free to contact Rose at the email address that is on the screen currently.

>>Rose: Great, thanks, Paul. And, yeah, I think we can dive into some Q&A. So, once again, please type your questions into the chat box, and we still start answering them. And Teagan will help manage those questions as they come in.

>>Teagan: Hi all. While we're waiting for your questions to come in, we can go ahead and start with a few we got through email. So, the first question is is this RFP looking for buildings with technologies already in place and already working towards net zero energy? Or, is this an opportunity for DOE to help owners find viable candidates in the portfolio for deeper analysis, helping us to find a pathway?

>>Paul: This particular project is really geared toward buildings that have been built or will be completed in the very near future that have some of these innovative technologies that have already been selected. And one of the questions, you know, we would ask is how, you know, why did you pick those technologies, and then evaluating them. It is certainly possible that as that gets evaluated, we will learn something from it, and are perfectly happy to share maybe what some extensions are and some directions with that. But this is not a design assistance program for buildings that have yet to be designed and constructed.

>>Teagan: Okay, I have another question coming in. Are any studies on zero energy readiness being applied in the context of servicing poor people, such as those who rely on low-income housing for rental or ownership purposes?

>>Rose: So, I think that –

>>Paul: Can you read the first part of that again? Oh.

>>Rose: Yeah, go ahead.

>>Paul: Read that again, Teagan. I want to make sure I captured the first part of that.

>>Teagan: Yeah. Are any studies on zero energy readiness being applied in the context of servicing poor people, such as those who rely on low-income housing for rental or ownership purposes?

>>Rose: So, I was going to say we are open to multi-family submissions to this request, and that could encompass affordable housing solutions. And I think that that is actually a great candidate of buildings to explore here because there is a lot that you can do to really lower the energy consumption plus the energy expenses of these buildings, and see how that can really translate to support the lower-income community. Paul, is there anything else to add to that?

>>Paul: Yeah. I think that – I echo that. This is a, you know, this is a field that's very ripe for this, and a lot of the property types you just mentioned have very complex financial models with them, with funding coming from multiple sources, government, NGOs, etc. And, often, energy kind of gets thrown under the bus in a lot of cases on these projects. And if somebody has a project where they have successfully done that, understanding how that was done on the financial side, but also showing the performance, right? Ideally, and, you know, we do have papers out there that talk about the ability for zero energy buildings to be built at very low or no additional incremental cost is important. But what's really lacking are good case studies and firm data that talk about the EUIs and what technologies are appropriate so that you can take that to housing authorities and others and say, look, it makes sense to building these very low-energy buildings, and it reduces the burden of expenses to the home owners and also these funding sources. Many of them are also non-profits, and struggling to make these projects work.

>>Teagan: All right, I have another question. We have a building with a year's worth of energy use data, but the PV panels were installed after the building was in operation, so there is not yet one year's worth of data. Would the building still be a good candidate, given that the focus is on EUI without renewables?

>>Paul: Absolutely. So, again, this is really focused toward the energy efficiency strategies. You know, that zero energy ready kind of approach. You know, we would like to kind of hear what that EUI is. You know, if you've designed the building and it, you know, it kind of just meets code with the EUI, and you're talking about making it zero y having a lot of PV panels on it, that probably has lower interest than something that has, say, a 50 percent reduction from code. What we're really trying to get at is what energy efficiency strategies are going in the building to achieve those very low EUIs. PV is kind of the gravy, and a lot of times it does come after the fact. I know many buildings, even with the PV design, that PV doesn't come online until several month after occupancy of the building. But, you've got a good start there, because you've got data, you're collecting it, and it sounds like there's some analysis already going on with that data. So, that's an excellent start, and I would encourage you to enter that into the request.

>>Teagan: Great. Another question is are you looking for a near net zero, or only measured net zero or better?

>>Rose: We would certainly consider –

>>Paul: I think that's similar – oh, go ahead.

>>Rose: Yeah, yeah, we would certainly consider that. So, we do encourage you to submit a building that might be near net zero or close. But we're, as Paul was just saying, we're really targeting these low EUIs and high performing buildings, and we are curious how the buildings go there, what are the technologies installed, which ones are really pushing those buildings to achieving that high performance. Yeah, so thanks for that, and definitely submit that building into this request.

>>Teagan: Another question is the State of Washington has funded several 45-unit, approximately, multi-family building meeting a net zero standard. We collected cost and benefit data at the design phase, and as built. Does this have interest to this project, or are you looking only for commercial buildings?

>>Rose: So, again, I think the multi-family sector is a great sector to explore. It kind of bridges between the residential and the commercial building sectors here. Typically, commercial multi-family are multi-family buildings over three stories. So, I would maybe focus more on the above three story line here. But, if you have something that's bigger but maybe not quite four stories there, I think we would potentially consider that as well. Paul, anything to add?

>>Paul: Yeah. So, this is a, you know, this is kind of a vague line in what is, you know, kind of fits under residential building codes versus kind of commercial building codes, because even – you could have a two-story apartment building that is steel-framed brick that, you know, would be classified as a commercial building, especially if you end up in an elevator or something in it. But a set of kind of row homes could be very long, you know, is really considered residential, falls under residential codes. I would say in something like this that we would want to look at it. I know that in this state, we are very interested in dealing with ventilation air from these units.

So, again, if it has a central ventilation system, it kind of looks more commercial than if, you know, every building has an exhaust fan in it, or every unit has an exhaust fan in it, and they're really kind of little houses stuck together. So, it's, you know, you can certainly enter and say, you know, again, kind of look at it in the spirit of this. What part of this project, what technologies are there that when put together really made this hit low EUIs. Another one, just to add on that, that also comes out, is hot water. You know, does it have central hot water, or distributed water where each unit is really autonomous, so it has less interest. But we're also seeing a lot of kind of hybridized solutions, right? How do you get heat pump hot water heaters into a central system, and make them work successfully and realize savings? So, again, that looks more commercial than kind of individual residential.

>>Teagan: Great. Another question is if additional instrumentation is required for data collection above and beyond what is already installed, who would be expected to fund that installation, NREL or the building owner?

>>Paul: That is an excellent question. It depends on what that is and what level of information is needed to really analyze that piece of equipment. I have seen buildings that have such a mish-mash of electrical that if you tried to end-use meter, say, even lighting loads, it would be very, very expensive, and I'm not sure we have the budget, nor the building owner has the budget to really parse that out. If the interest were lighting loads and it has a dedicated lighting panel, and you don't happen to have that sub-metered, for us to install a sub-meter on that is relatively easy to do, certainly with the building owner's permission. And, you know, that could happen.

So, I think it does come – I would still encourage you to submit the project, and tell us what you do have instrumented, and as part of that, what you don't have instrumented that you think would provide valuable information and why. But we also do have limited budgets, and I'll tell you if we have to spend a quarter of a million dollars on instrumentation for a particular building, that's probably not going to happen. But if we need to put some electric metering in or perhaps even some flow metering in around hot water, something that's not typical, you know, we can discuss that, you know, with a successful project. Do you want to add anything to that, Rose?

>>Rose: I think you covered that. That is a great question there, but, again, you know, the scope and what needs to – what we plan to do as far as data analysis, instrumentation, and also what would be shared at the end of these projects, that will all be discussions between the national lab representatives and the building owner, facility manager to make sure we're all on the same page on what the project plan is going to be, and what the outcomes are going to be. So, yes, there is room for lots of discussion around all of those topics within reason of budgets.

>>Teagan: So, another question is what level of effort would be needed by the building owner?

>>Rose: So, again, we covered this a little bit during the webinar, and similar to the last comment that we just had, this is going to be kind of a work in progress to understand what the building is offering, what kind of technology and solutions, how much data is already available and easy to just analyze, how much will we need to supplement with additional sub-meters or implementation. So, I think that time commitment will really unfold after we have the initial discussions on what buildings are we choosing, what's already there, and what do we need to do to get to the outcomes that we want to see. Paul, do you have any follow-up on that?

>>Paul: Yeah, I think there's a lot of variation – yeah, there's a lot of variation in that answer. We have done, you know, instrumentation projects in the past. Some owners are very engaged, and they want to learn everything they can about it. Usually a facility manager will want to help out, want to learn, want to then use that information to better their building. There are other buildings that we've looked at, especially smaller buildings, smaller commercial buildings, that have very limited staff, the owner is like, yes, I'm interested, but I'm not an engineer. I'm a business manager. I run a store. You can use this building, you know, kind of for scientific research, but I really don't know anything about it, and I really don't have the bandwidth to try to understand a lot of what you're talking about. But, here's a set of keys, and you could use the building as you need to use it. And so, it will vary quite a bit. It takes a little bit more involvement if you've got an energy management system, and we're trying to extract data from that. Having somebody knowledgeable with that system is certainly helpful.

>>Teagan: So, those are all the questions we have so far. I would just encourage everyone, if they haven't yet, to submit any additional questions they have.

>>Rose: And if questions come up down the road here, before we close this request, again, you can email me, Rose Langer, at Those questions can come at any time.

>>Paul: And these have been great, thoughtful questions that it's very encouraging to me, you know, that level of interest, and, you know, thinking about how this process might, you know, unfold as we move forward with it. So, thank you very much.

>>Rose: Great. So, I guess if there's no more questions, I do want to thank everybody for calling in today and listening to this informational webinar. We really hope that you submit some great low-EUI, high-performing buildings to our request, and we look forward to hearing from you all. So, thanks for attending today.

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