RASEI Fellow Gregor Henze Studies Strategies for Integrating Large Commercial Buildings with the Electric Grid

Gregor Henze, Ph.D. RASEI Fellow Gregor Henze, Ph.D., approaches his research in energy not by studying its supply side, but by studying the interplay between supply and demand. This for him, as an architectural engineer, means he studies ways to reduce the amount of source energy that large, commercial buildings consume, both through high-performance building design and advanced control strategies.

"Commercial and residential buildings consume approximately 40 percent of the energy in the U.S., which is more than both transportation and industry," says Henze, who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering and teaches architectural engineering at CU-Boulder. "My research deals with introducing elasticity into commercial building electrical demand to make buildings part of the solution to grid innovation needs," he says.

At the heart of Henze's research is understanding how to integrate a building with the energy grid and allowing the building to manipulate the daily supply and demand patterns of electricity. "If we can devise an optimal building control strategy that is based on electric grid pricing and emissions signals ahead of time and communicate that strategy to the building's automation system, the building will respond appropriately, and our overall demand for source energy can be reduced by improving both building site and supply side efficiency, particularly when scaled up from individual buildings to large portfolios of commercial buildings."

Henze is also involved in designing high-performance low-energy commercial buildings, particularly, those involving combinations of mechanical with natural ventilation and low-energy cooling approaches. One challenge of these novel buildings is to devise good building operation strategies considering the increasing role of human behavior. "We have to know first how people behave in terms of opening and closing windows and shades, and then develop appropriate strategies in both design and robust building control to find the best balance."

Henze values the vibrancy of the different energy research activities on the CU-Boulder campus and the important commercial building work being conducted at NREL. "As a RASEI Fellow," he says, "I hope to facilitate a dialog between NREL and CU-Boulder that leads to a collaborative, stimulating, and synergistic research environment, engaging students, researchers, and our constituents, including the Department of Energy and our cleantech and building efficiency industry."