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A Building Like a Smartphone?

Posted by
Roger Chang, August 04, 2015 at 12:00 am

What if a building were like a smartphone?

For those of us who travel a lot, we usually have a pretty good handle on the battery life left on our smartphones. I can struggle to make it through an entire day without plugging my phone into an outlet, especially with heavy use of the internet or the installation of an app not quite optimized for battery life. Thanks to great discussion boards, as well as information within the Android OS that allows you to see what is drawing battery life, adjustments can be made to squeeze out a day’s worth of use. With the recent announcement that Tesla would start developing battery technology scaled for residential use, I realized that we would probably be more judicious with building energy consumption if we knew we only had a certain number of kwh to use before we lost our ability to stay connected. The feedback mechanisms currently available to us for commercial buildings are not rapid or personal enough to enact rapid change. Even the concept of a site net zero energy building on an annualized basis is not enough for most people to feel engaged to change their behavior on a day-to-day basis.

If we looked at our energy use on a personal or workgroup level within a 24 hour period, might we better self-manage our use over time? What if the battery meter on our laptop or smartphone was actually a battery meter for the building we were working in?

Let’s imagine a world where our energy was rationed on a 24-hour basis. What would we do differently? What technologies would we need to be successful? If we exceeded our energy budget, what would be the penalty? Well, maybe the penalty would be a blessing in disguise and we’d have to disconnect from our technology and spend more time with our colleagues, our family, and our friends. We’d be paying homage to a time before we used man-made energy and just to energy of sun and wind. That said, technology is here to stay – let’s leverage it to better manage our precious resources.

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