PEER: A Certification Program Helps Buildings Be Better Grid Citizens

In addition to PEER, USGBC is looking at how LEED can reward buildings that incorporate technologies and strategies that optimize their impact on the grid. The LEED v4.1 update released earlier this year in beta looks at energy management from a holistic perspective with a specific aim of reducing energy use. In particular, the demand response credit has evolved to have a focus on grid harmonization to better reflect the capability of DER to make energy generation and distribution systems more efficient, increase grid reliability and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In addition, USGBC and the New Buildings Institute, Portland, Ore., are working to develop Grid Optimal, a tool to assess grid citizenship and guide project teams toward more integrated implementation of DER.

The Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters is the first in Maryland and the first public safety headquarters to certify under PEER. PHOTO: Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters

The Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters is the first in Maryland and the first public safety headquarters to certify under PEER. PHOTO: Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters

Reliable and Resilient Grids and Grid Citizens

PEER-certified systems demonstrate how power systems and electricity infrastructure can be designed and built to exceed basic expectations of day-to-day reliability by helping to strengthen systems in the face of catastrophic events.

In 2017, Schneider Electric, Andover, Mass., and Duke Energy Renewables, Charlotte, N.C., built an advanced microgrid to ensure more resilient and efficient power at the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters. The project included onsite solar and natural-gas power generation that enables the facility to operate reliably during emergencies. The islanding capability of the microgrid enables the facility to separate from the electric grid and continue to operate at, or near normal, capacity during outages. Through a public-private partnership with the county, the microgrid is helping to develop a roadmap for more efficient, reliable and resilient energy systems in communities.

Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, NYU Langone Health experienced significant challenges related to its utility services and operations, including being forced to close its main campus in New York City for nearly two months. Since then, the organization has implemented comprehensive adaptation and resilience measures designed to ensure operational continuity in case of future events and prepare for the risks associated with climate change. PEER provided NYU Langone with an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of work to-date, identify areas for improvement and benchmark progress against other world-class campuses.

High performance, green architecture, resiliency, healthy interiors and energy management are key focuses for NYU Langone’s Real Estate Development & Facilities team and are integrated into the institution’s GreenFirst program. Energy-conservation efforts and efficient operations have created $29 million in net savings since 2008. These savings were delivered through energy audits, retrocommissioning and facility design. Key infrastructure on the main campus includes an 11 MW CHP, or combined heat and power, plant that serves the majority of electrical loads on campus in parallel with the local utility grid, district steam and district cooling systems, as well as comprehensive backup electrical generators for all critical loads and essential services. CHP also provides additional cost savings to the institution that can be put back into optimizing performance and enhancing clinical care.

After Superstorm Sandy, NYU Langone worked to harden the campus, elevating critical utility and IT infrastructure above a projected 500-year flood level adjusted to account for sea-level rise from climate change. It also put into place significant campus perimeter protection and flood- prevention measures. Redundant and backup systems help the campus maintain preparedness for the likelihood of increased extreme heat and weather events in coming years. The implementation and performance of these integrated measures helped NYU Langone Health earn PEER Platinum certification.

Making the Case

The PEER-certified NYU Langone Health Main Campus sits on the East River in New York.

The PEER-certified NYU Langone Health Main Campus sits on the East River in New York. PHOTO: NYU Langone Health

Reducing carbon emissions across the building sector is imperative as companies and governments work toward sustainability and climate-change goals. Integrating DER, like building-scale renewables, batteries and thermal-energy storage will go a long way to help energy systems decarbonize. Ultimately, though, what those systems look like and how they operate will vary depending on location. For instance, California’s solar capabilities will cause a building in Los Angeles to have a drastically different approach to integration of DER than a similar building in Houston. Nonetheless, core strategies exist that can help owners and designers take the necessary steps in most buildings to prepare them to be valuable as- sets in a carbon-free future.

The environmental benefits of decarbonizing buildings are not the only reason to consider how a building is impacting a grid. There is a significant financial argument to be made when companies consider the cost associated with a power interruption. According to an independent survey by Grafton, Mass.-based research and consulting firm ITIC, 98 percent of respondents estimated that downtime costs their companies more than $100,000 in a 60-minute period. For large companies, this goes up significantly.

During the past 10 years, Dublin-based energy-management company Eaton has been tracking blackouts in the U.S., and its latest report showed a slight decline in the number of outages but the people affected by those outages more than doubled. According to the report, the average duration for an outage was 81 minutes.

The impact of a building’s energy system has serious environmental and financial implications. Looking beyond those factors, outages and disruptions can even impact a brand’s reputation and customer perception. Ultimately, the argument for doing a comprehensive assessment of building energy systems can be made from many sides and it provides a significant leadership opportunity for building designers and operators.

To learn more about creating buildings that are well-positioned for a more sustainable, resilient and reliable future, email [email protected].

About the Author

Brendan Owens
Brendan Owens is a senior vice president at the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C. He oversees strategic development and integration of rating systems, such as LEED and PEER.

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