- The Internet of Things (IoT) is driving more energy efficient and comfortable buildings.
- The market for electric vehicles and distributed solar energy continues to grow significantly.
- Human centric lighting uses advanced controls to mimic the Earth's natural daily light cycle.
Commercial buildings are becoming more efficient, according to the latest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) statistics. This is driven in large part by innovative research and development, and by building owners and operators who see the value in lower operating costs, increased comfort and productivity. Strides are being made in alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy as well. Here we share a few of the latest trends to keep your eye on in the coming year and beyond.
1. Buildings get connected
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already here, and it’s growing. Business Insider predicts that the number of devices connected to the internet will grow from 10 billion in 2015 to 34 billion by 2020. In the case of commercial and industrial buildings, connected ‘things’ include sensors and controls. IoT is behind the creation of a new breed of smarter buildings that deliver more timely, useful and accurate information. As a result, business owners and facility operators can save energy, increase occupant comfort and productivity, while improving operations.
2. Electric vehicles charge ahead
The market for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to grow, with an estimated 490,000 vehicles sold as of August 2016, according to the DOE. This growth has been enabled by the development of cheaper lithium-ion batteries, which have fallen in cost by an average of 73 percent since 2009.
Improved and expanded charging infrastructure will maintain the momentum for EVs, according to the DOE. There are now more than 35,000 public and private charging stations in the U.S.
Looking ahead, continued cost reductions and performance improvements of EVs, combined with new technologies such as wireless charging, should contribute to continued EV sales growth.
3. Solar energy continues to shine
Installations of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in homes and businesses are growing rapidly. More than 3.1 million gigawatts of distributed PV was installed in the U.S. in 2015, a 34 percent increase over 2014. Overall, there are nearly 12 gigawatts of distributed PV installed, enough to power 1.1 million homes.
The rise in installations has been driven, in part, by a 54 percent reduction in installed costs since 2008. Technology innovations, as well as federal and state policies, have also contributed. This growth is expected to continue, as falling prices (16 to 33 percent through 2020) and innovative financing will help make distributed PV available to a wider array of customers.
4. Lighting for the people
Human centric lighting (HCL) may just be the next big wave in the lighting industry. People have evolved over time to match the Earth’s natural lighting cycle — dimmer and ‘warmer’ light in the morning and evening, and brighter and ‘cooler’ in the middle of the day. Most indoor environments, by contrast, have the same light level and color tone all day long.
Dimmable, color tunable LEDs with advanced controls can be used to mimic the level of sunlight throughout the day. HCL can save energy, but the benefits don't stop there. Research shows that it can help improve alertness and mood, and increase visual acuity and performance. Among the many benefits for businesses and building owners are increased worker productivity and a better customer experience.
Technology is always changing. These and other innovations will continue to help make buildings more efficient and comfortable, increase energy independence and improve the environment.