Use of Energy and Big Data

Jiri Skopek


Posted by:
Jiri Skopek
Energy and Sustainability


Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of the NEST thermostat enterprise, (whose retail sales have only been approximately $2 million) is an indication of the monetary value of big data. The data, which describes how and when customers use energy,  could soon become valuable information for utilities as they tackle a mountain of challenges such as falling costs of distributed energy resources (DER); development of new DER technologies; regulatory and political aspects of demand side management; government incentives for renewables; the declining prices of natural gas; a slowing economy and rising electricity prices.

One utility company which appears to have interest in what is happening behind the meter is the Texas utility NRG, led by the utility industry rebel, CEO David Crane.  NRG is already developing a series of distributed energy generation products and services with a view to managing their customers’ energy supply at their homes and selling any excess to the grid. For this it will be helpful to have the consumer behaviour information.

What does this mean to real estate industry? Real estate professionals are the trusted advisors to their clients. They are also close to information about how the clients use energy and water. While the information industry and the utilities fight for dominance of big data related to utilities, we in the real estate industry can start analyzing  our clients’ big data so as to provide them with the best advice on available options. To do so may require some adaptation of energy and sustainability benchmarking tools to collect and analyze real time data on a statistically significant sample of buildings. This approach is within  reach.

Sustainability: It’s About Time



Posted by:
Bob Best
Energy and Sustainability Services

We have been wasting our time … literally. 

 While everyone has been connecting sustainable workspace with energy savings and improved recycling, we have missed the biggest impact of all … time.

 Research into sustainable workspace and its impact on worker productivity has been going on for years, but it’s finally coalescing into a concept that will fuel the next leap forward for green office space.  The impact of such things as day-lighting, temperature control and indoor air quality on worker productivity may have economic impacts – as much as 100 times greater than energy savings.

 A 2003 study by the Heschong Mahone Group shows that giving office workers access to windows boosts the speed of workers in call centers by 6-10 % or improves the performance of office workers on mental acuity tests by 10-25% .

 A 2010 study from Michigan State University compared employees moving from a conventional office building to a  “green” office buildings and calculated a 2.6% productivity improvement among the employees who participated in the study.  While it sounds like a modest gain, the impact of 2.6% of total employee compensation has an enormous impact on the bottom line.

 And, there is more research every day showing the same impacts. 

It seems a workplace that is green is also more productive … and far more profitable, too.

Government publishes revised strike prices


Posted by:
Dane Wilkins
Renewable Energy Capital, UK

DECC recently announced onshore wind and solar support levels under the new Contracts for Difference (“CfD”) support mechanism will be revised downwards from 2015-16 by £5/MWh compared to the draft strike prices issued earlier in the year. In contrast the offshore wind industry has been rewarded with the offshore wind strike price not being tapered so drastically in 2018/19 as was previously planned.

This revision of the draft strike prices for onshore wind and solar remains politically sensitive but these latest reductions will significantly affect future prospects for both the onshore wind and solar development industries especially once the Renewables Obligation (“RO”) support mechanism is withdrawn in 2017.

The reduction in support levels is driven on the principal assumption that capital costs will continue to decrease and benchmark project returns can be trimmed to reflect a lower risk return profile under CfDs. But for onshore wind a £5 strike price cut is equivalent to a greater than 10% ROC cut which is a big drop and means much will depend on the realisation of further capital cost reductions and the emergence of other operating efficiencies. 

Regular review of tariffs is right to ensure they continue to reflect project economics but these latest reductions have been pinned principally on the assumption costs will fall compared to today’s prices. The ability of these technologies to meet these targets is linked to their maturity. Solar has achieved 50% cost reductions in the last 2-3 years but for onshore wind these reductions have been much more modest.  This begs the question – how much further will costs drop and at what rate?  It is reasonable to assume that the rate of turbine and panel cost reduction will slow; whether these technologies will be viable under 2017 strike prices is uncertain.

In contrast offshore wind, after a concerted lobbying campaign, has secured a reduction in the tapering of offshore wind support of £5/MWh in 2018/19 compared to the original proposals. On the surface this may be seen as a little gain a long way out but this change is there to undo a perilous position offshore wind developers may find themselves in – in which they have invested large sums into projects that then become unviable because of falling support levels.  This is in part because lead times to develop offshore wind are much longer than for other technologies. 

Ultimately these projects will make big contributions to the government’s 2020 15% renewables target so the failure of projects such as the Atlantic Array to come forward could put a big dent in the deliverability of these objectives.

Extreme Makeover: Commercial Construction Industry, GREEN Edition



Posted by:
Dermot Roe
National Construction Lead 


Many wondered if the U.S. commercial construction industry would ever recover from the darkest days of the recession, particularly in late 2009 and early 2010. Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) 2013 Construction Outlook finds that “Extreme Makeover” couldn’t be more appropriate for the commercial construction industry comparing 2009 to present. Just a few years after the recession brought the U.S. commercial construction sector to a standstill, the annual report paints a picture of a recovering, more diversified industry with less risk and revived funding.

“Cautious optimism” is the pervading sentiment among construction industry leaders. In August, the Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks projects in planning stages, surged 11.1 percent from the second quarter of 2013. Likewise, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture Billings Index – based on inquiries for new projects and construction spending – reached 52.7 and regained momentum lost during the first quarter of 2013. The Construction Backlog Index (CBI) also demonstrated steady improvement, rising to 8.2 months of contractor backlog.

According to JLL’s Construction Outlook, sustainability is one of four key factors affecting the recovering construction industry. Before the recession, green building features were incorporated upon request, but were generally viewed as expensive and “nice to have” luxuries. In today’s environmentally-conscious economy, sustainable features are viewed as table stakes by owners and developers, and attention to green building materials is considered a core competency.

LEED v4 formally launched this month and introduced new changes to enhance green building standards. Major new provisions in LEED v4 include expanding property type-specific designations, weighing points more heavily on optimizing energy performance, and a new “cradle to cradle” component. The cradle to cradle provision seeks to ensure that the products and resources used during construction are safe and designed for recycling or composting, and that the manufacturing process for construction materials manages its carbon footprint.

We anticipate that most projects will strive to be certified under LEED 2009 until 2015, when it will be phased out. Others may seek IgCC certification – and it will be interesting to see these two standards collaborate and compete in the future.

Check out the full 2013 Construction Outlook for more details on how sustainability is driving commercial construction.

Philly’s Smartest Office: Raising the bar for energy efficiency and open office design


Posted by:
Michael McCurdy
Market Director, Philadelphia


When deciding to move to a new Philadelphia office, JLL had a fairly concrete vision of the workspace they wanted —collaboration-ready spaces, a LEED certified design that achieved energy savings goals, and a multi-functional office that both conveyed and inspired innovation. 

By July 2013, this ambitious list of expectations was met and exceeded, completely raising the bar for energy efficiency and open office design. The project received LEED CI Platinum certification with 85 points, the highest score in the state of Pennsylvania for a LEED CI project. More importantly, employees reported overwhelming satisfaction and pride with their new sleek workplace, proving that offices don’t need to sacrifice aesthetic value and functionality for smart sustainable design.


The path to this space’s creation started with a bold decision that certainly had the potential to reinforce the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen.” JLL partnered with four firms to complete this project, but what actually resulted was more of a ballet. Each firm brought their own specialties to the table: Re:Vision Architecture’s forte was sustainable design, In Posse contributed its experience in net-zero-energy and deep green projects, Lam Partners brought its expertise in energy-efficient lighting design, and Lutron manufactured and implemented advanced lighting controls.

The 10,500-square foot space reflects this harmonious blend of cool and casual, elegant and cutting edge; it now even doubles as a local Lutron showcase project. This week, you can see the JLL Philadelphia office in person as part of Greenbuild’s Green Building Tour. Register here!