02/07/2012 | By Carisa Chappell
Commercial property owners are throwing around words like "smart" and "intelligent" liberally to describe their efforts to improve energy efficiency. They're talking about their buildings, however, not themselves.
As energy efficiency enhancements for commercial property become more sophisticated, some building owners are starting to emphasize "smart grid" technology to help create "intelligent buildings."
Smart grid refers to self-regulating electrical systems. The systems self-adjust based on feedback from the surrounding environment in which they're operating.
"We've been talking about smart building for 10 years," said Darlene Pope, president and CEO of Cor Advisors, an energy management and intelligent building systems integrator for commercial and corporate facilities, during a February webcast. "Now, we finally have an application that's going to allow you to make money by implementing a lot of these technologies."
The benefits of smart grid technology include reliability, increased power grid efficiency and cost effectiveness, according to Greg O'Brien, a vice president with commercial real estate advisory firm Grubb & Ellis Company who also participated in the webcast.
By connecting a so-called intelligent building to smart grid technology, the building can adjust its energy needs to meet fluctuating demand. Intelligent buildings are those with networked systems combining features such as security, lighting, and heating and air conditioning on a single platform. The aim of an intelligent building is to be fully automated and operating at maximum efficiency.
O'Brien said smart grids are in the early stages of being implemented in buildings, but they're generating enthusiasm. He said building owners can see a payback for their investment in smart grid technology in as little as two years.
"A two-year payback is something that gets their attention," he added.
However, Pope said many building aren't equipped to integrate with smart grid technology. Additionally, building operators and owners often lack the awareness and education to bridge the gap between the building and the grid.
"In order to make the smart grid successful and take advantage of it, the value proposition needs to clearly be shown to building owners and operators," Pope said.