With buildings in the U.S. accounting for as much as 40 percent of the energy usage in the country, industry leaders and stakeholders are continuously looking for ways to improve building energy efficiency, connectivity, and sustainability. To help achieve those goals, Danfoss hosted its 24th EnVisioneering Symposium, “Integrating Building Systems for Sustainable Energy,” on June 3. The event brought together 40 thought leaders for a day of presentations and roundtable discussions at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, District of Columbia.


Launched in 2006, Danfoss’s EnVisioneering Symposia help keep HVACR industry stakeholders apprised of the latest developments in U.S. policy and industry and provide forums in which they can share ideas and information. The June symposium featured presentations from seven individuals and included roundtable discussions on new building-grid dynamics, building connectivity, community-level regulation, and examples of leading communities — urban and academic — that have crossed thresholds in community-building energy efficiency, utility integration, and management.

Lisa Tryson, director of corporate communications for Danfoss, said the commercial building sector is facing significant changes. “The changes facing our industry, energy infrastructure, and commercial buildings will test our technologies, standards, and goals,” she said. “Buildings will become smarter, and the utilities of the future will become dramatically different providers than the ones of today.”

In addition to being informational, the symposium was a good networking opportunity, said Mike Schell, vice president of marketing and business development at AirTest Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of Wi-Fi communicating sensors for monitoring and controlling buildings and equipment. Schell attended and presented at the event.

“For us, it was a good way to educate people,” said Schell. “I think the collaboration that took place during the seminar was excellent. There were a lot of very high-caliber people there, including installers, contractors, academics, and researchers. It was a nice, well-rounded program.”


As technology improves and becomes more affordable, buildings are becoming more connected than ever before. Schell spoke to event participants about technology like AirTest Technologies’ Wi-Fi sensors and their impact on affordable remote building management, occupant comfort, and energy efficiency.

“This line of Wi-Fi communicating sensors significantly reduces the cost and effort of retrofitting state-of-the-art sensors into existing buildings,” Schell said. “While Wi-Fi technology is fairly widespread and well known, we’re one of the first to apply this to commercial HVAC measurement and control.”

One of the sensors AirTest has developed is a battery-powered, Wi-Fi-communicating CO2 sensor that can provide demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) to save energy. “You can ventilate to the actual requirements of the people in the space, taking into account varying occupancy,” Schell said. “We’ve been a champion of this approach for many years.”

The sensors can also aid in diagnosing faults in remote equipment, such as rooftop units and air handlers — faults that often contribute to reduced equipment efficiency.

“We found that, for some applications where we’re connecting to the rooftop unit [RTU], we now have a connected gateway in the air handler, and we can do fault detection in the air handler,” Schell said. “We have a portable kit with Bluetooth communicating sensors populated in different areas of the AHU [air-handling unit], and we can monitor what’s going on and have the cellular connection where we can immediately send out an email to the service organization to go out and do something about it.”

Finding ways to successfully and affordably retrofit existing buildings and equipment with connected technology will become increasingly important, Schell added. “At the best of times, only about 1 percent of the building stock is renewed each year. That means that, even if you’re looking 25 years out, if you took that 1 percent, we’re talking about only having 25 percent of buildings being relatively new and the rest being existing buildings. The real challenge we have is taking these buildings and bringing them up to speed.”


On a larger scale, Princeton University has set a goal of reducing its campus energy use by one-third and reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Tom Nyquist, executive director of engineering and campus energy at Princeton University, spoke to event participants about how the university is on track to achieve those ambitious goals.

“For energy conservation, we have a $45 million capital program, so we’re investing in technology that can lower our energy use,” he said. “We’re converting the campus over to LED lighting; we’ve put in a very large heat-recovery system in the combined heat and power [CHP] plant and put it at the tail end of the boiler, and it’s saving a lot of heat. We’ve replaced boiler pumps with more efficient units, and we’ve redone some of the controls on some of our chillers.”

Princeton also tracks and monitors the demand on the local utility provider and makes adjustments in order to reduce costs, which saves the university roughly $1.6 million annually.

Nyquist said he was pleased he could attend the symposium and discuss how institutions like colleges can lower their energy usage and carbon emissions. He would definitely attend the event again, he added.

“It’s great — it psyches you up,” Nyquist said. “You get into the day-to-day grind, and it’s nice to hear new ideas.”


Of course, progress cannot be known unless it’s accurately, consistently, and transparently measured and reported, said Marshall Duer-Balkind, program analyst for data and benchmarking at the Department of Energy and Environment of the Government of the District of Columbia. Duer-Balkind discussed how the District of Columbia is on its way to becoming the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the U.S. — and how building benchmarking and labeling ensures they are on track to meet that goal.

“We have a requirement that all large buildings measure their energy use and report it for public disclosure,” he said. “By collecting these data and making them public to the market, we can drive energy efficiency as people compare building performance and make selections when they want to go lease an apartment, buy a condo, lease office space — make selections for buildings that are more energy efficient. We’re already seeing this happen.”

“I really found it a valuable opportunity to present about the leadership that the District of Columbia is doing on energy policy,” Duer-Balkind said. “A lot of people think of D.C. as just the federal government, but we’re ranked No. 3 in the nation in terms of energy-efficiency policy.”


While the EnVisioneering Symposium helped attendees network, learn, and share information about building energy efficiency, technology, benchmarking, sustainability, and more, challenges still lie ahead. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, outlined some of the challenges to a national energy strategy during the symposium and discussed the importance of workforce development.

“A national agenda doesn’t need to be energy-source-specific,” he said. “We instead need to focus on a few things [like] workforce development to ensure properly trained and educated workers are available for the high-tech jobs in the clean-energy industry and the infrastructure of the energy industry — whether it’s demand-response technology or physical transmission assets.”

Kinzinger also called for a more streamlined regulatory environment that encourages new technologies. “Energy efficiency is great because it’s often a simple and affordable way to help meet the energy demands of our nation,” he added.

As technology evolves, industry leaders and stakeholders will need to stay ahead of the changes. Events like Danfoss’s EnVisioneering Symposia help ensure the industry is aware and able to proactively meet and exceed those challenges.

The next Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium is slated for the spring of 2016 in Washington, District of Columbia. For more information on Danfoss’ EnVisioneering Symposia, please visit http://bit.ly/EnVisioneering.

Publication date: 11/23/2015

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