What Are Grid Interactive Efficient Buildings, and Why Do They Matter?

What does the next generation of high-performing buildings look like? There’s already been significant momentum around energy efficient building systems and building materials, and new advances in grid connectivity, renewable resources, and energy storage are pushing the potential of high-performing buildings even further. 

These advances in energy efficiency are converging at exactly the right moment. Regulators and owners have set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions and achieve zero net energy. To meet these targets, the new breed of high-performing buildings must combine energy efficiency and grid flexibility. That’s where grid interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) come in. 

What are GEBs?

GEBs continually optimize energy usage, communicate with the grid to shift loads, and reduce energy consumption by integrating smart controls, distributed energy resources (DERs), and analytics. As energy management grows more complex, GEBs will play a vital role in minimizing emissions, meeting future capacity needs, and optimizing occupant comfort and health.

So, what are the core qualities that make for a GEB? According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), GEBs are:

  • Efficient – High-performing building materials and systems, as well as energy-saving best practices, continually reduce demand.
  • Connected – Sensors collect and share data between devices, users, and the grid. 
  • Smart – Analytics and smart controls optimize energy efficiency, flexibility, and occupant comfort.
  • Flexible – Distributed energy generation/storage and flexible loads reduce, shift, and moderate energy usage.

How GEBs work

GEBs build on the capabilities of smart buildings by incorporating DERs and grid connectivity. Smart controls optimize HVAC and lighting based on occupancy and outdoor weather conditions, reducing consumption. With the availability of DERs (such as solar power and thermal energy storage), buildings no longer need to be completely reliant on the grid for power. During peak demand, the GEB can shift its load by drawing on its own energy sources. It can also reduce energy by dimming lights or minimizing HVAC energy consumption. Working in concert, these measures minimize energy waste and maximize renewables, paying off for everyone.

Benefits for building owners:

  • Reduced electricity bills and smarter demand management
  • Improved functionality and control over heating, cooling, and lighting 
  • Potential to sell electricity back to the grid

Benefits for the community and environment:

  • Achieve federal, state, and municipal targets for reduced carbon emissions and zero net energy
  • Decreased costs for utility providers through more effective balancing of energy loads
  • Improve capacity to meet demand as electrification adds new loads to the grid

Because of these benefits, the DOE has made GEBs a central component of their goal to triple the energy efficiency and demand flexibility of the buildings sector by 2030. And the California Energy Commission recently held a workshop highlighting how GEBs align with the state’s decarbonization goals.

Grid flexibility within reach: the NetZERO Building Platform

Are you looking to make your next building a GEB? The NetZERO Building Platform is a reimagined approach to commercial buildings that combines structural and mechanical systems into a single prefabricated solution. The thermally active building system can store energy that can be used throughout the day to cool or heat the building. 

The system reduces the cooling equipment needed, minimizes carbon emissions, and allows operators to shift and reduce energy loads based on demand. Learn more about the NetZERO Building Platform here.

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