Pratt & Whitney Sikorsky UTC Aerospace Systems UTC Building & Industrial Systems
"We must be committed to delivering on the bold, but essential, vision to build vibrant cities for tomorrow with the least environmental impact. And we’ll do it by ensuring that all the important pieces work together as a system."

March 28, 2011

7th International Conference on Green and Energy-Efficient Building & New Technologies and Products Expo

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by United Technologies Vice President of Integrated Buildings Solutions Sandy Diehl
Beijing, China

Click here to view PDF.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve been a regular visitor to China, and I’m always amazed when I return. There’s always some new, large-scale project in the works, bigger and bolder than the last. A new and improved transit system. A sparkling new skyscraper that pushes the limits of architecture. When you fly as much as I do, it’s hard not to look out the window and take note of how different the view can be.

In fact, I’ve come to learn that while flying into a city, you can make a number of observations that would be hard to do from the ground. While descending into Beijing, the city’s dense urban environment is readily apparent. And if you know the city’s history – that the Beijing of today grew out of a configuration that originated back in the Ming and Qing Dynasties when walls clearly divided the inner city and outer city – seeing the vast changes this city has experienced from this distance is even more striking. When you take a step back like this, with some knowledge of the history of a place, you can often gain a more profound and practical understanding of how an entire system functions. And this perspective seems particularly relevant to the projects being undertaken by many developers today, which are far bigger than the ones in the past. Rather than many small-scale developers creating single dwellings next to one another, individual developers are working on large-scale projects – projects that include multiple structures functioning together as part of a larger system. And in some cases, these projects are so big they are reaching city-scale – many with sustainability as a guiding principal. Thus the term eco-city has become quite relevant in the thinking about sustainability.

In China, there are numerous good examples of large eco-city developments. One great and pragmatic example I’m very familiar with is the Go-green Business Park in Nanjing, which is developing a 26-building, city-scale project. By considering energy efficiency, waste recycling, renewable energy sources, and optimization of vehicle usage, energy consumption is expected to be reduced by 45 percent, with a 58 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

And while on the subject of eco-cities – and thinking on a grander scale – I would also like to recognize Mr. Li’s Chinese Society for Urban Studies, where they’ve worked to build consensus and clearly define what an eco-city really is, by identifying 28 key indices and target values, which have been accepted by important members of the green building movement in China. These indices establish three important pillars for an eco-city to be relevant: environmental, economic, and social.

Under the environmental category, indicators include attributes like amount of wooded areas, water quality, percentage of renewable energy, and percentage of green buildings erected each year. And to simplify matters, they also came up with a series of entry requirements for all eco-city developments – to clarify what really constitutes a best practice for this type of development. It’s really the first research of this kind in the world.

So in light of this growing trend toward bigger projects – and a better understanding of sustainable development – I’d like to spend my time up here today talking about the importance of taking a step back to examine this bigger picture, highlighting a series of green solutions that makes sense when projects go beyond a single building and, in some cases, reach a city scale.

First, I’ll talk about the importance of taking a more integrated approach to building on the demand-side – by employing solutions in buildings to use energy that would otherwise be lost. Then I’ll talk about supply-side solutions, which involve using more sustainable approaches when it comes to supplying energy to cities and larger developments.

So, to begin with, it should be no big secret that the world is becoming an increasingly urban place to live, which is thought by most to be a positive force in the world. However, many are quick to note that 75 to 80 percent of the world’s energy and greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to cities. And it is, in part, the disconnectedness of multiple energy and building systems in cities that is responsible for this level of excess resource consumption – which also represents a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

After all, cities by nature are places where large densities of new technology exist – and significant energy savings can be achieved by capitalizing on this density through integration. Today, systems inside a building function in ways that are largely independent of one another, leading to unbelievable amounts of waste at the building level and, when looked at more broadly, at the city level. One very big opportunity is to connect these systems so that energy in buildings – and in entire cities – can be utilized on an as-needed basis. One example is found through building automation systems, which can use information about occupancy and behavior to further reduce energy consumption.

An employee enters a work site and swipes her badge. A computer identifies what floor she works on, and directs her to a specific elevator carrying others going to the same floor. When she steps off the elevator, the heating or cooling is adjusted to accommodate the number of people now present. And at the end of the day, when she swipes her badge to leave, the system ensures that lighting and climate controls are adjusted.

The result is a building that only uses energy that’s necessary at any given time, leading to significant financial and environmental advantages. That’s really the direction United Technologies is headed on the energy demand side, where we are thinking beyond single systems and products to the larger performance of buildings and sets of buildings.

While these solutions can make existing systems found in buildings far more efficient, additional environmental impacts can be reduced through the energy solutions chosen to power city-scale developments.

Many cities here in China, and around the world, have already developed systems that capitalize on the potential connectedness of urban density. For example, the Shanghai World Expo developed a district heating and cooling system, with the help of Carrier, that employs energy taken from the river using large scale river source heat pumps that are 26 percent more efficient, and saved 288,000 kwh during the Expo. This extensive use of renewable energy and the aggregation of heating and cooling loads at a district level begins to deliver the efficiencies that integration can enable. Other cities employ similar or larger scale systems, taking advantage of site-specific resources to address shared solutions, employing cleaner and more efficient technologies.

Similar technologies can also be used at the building scale with the same principles of integration. For example, smaller scale water source heat pumps can be used in a building system to heat the north side of the building and cool the south side simultaneously on a sunny but cool spring day when both functions are needed. This integration of loads and energy supplies moves to the next level of systems performance that we all seek.

Another example of a city-scale energy solution is a highly innovative technology being commercialized at United Technologies’ Rocketdyne business, which I find simply amazing. Rocketdyne, as the name suggests, has traditionally focused on rocket propulsion, supporting numerous space missions. However, their operating expertise in extreme-heat environments such as rocket engines has enabled them to also excel in developing a green energy technology few others have explored.

The power generating technology they’ve developed involves capturing solar power through the somewhat non-traditional use of molten – or liquid – salt. The technology uses thousands of mirrors that track the sun and reflect solar energy onto a receiver mounted atop a tower. The molten salt is circulated from a large storage tank into the tower, where it is heated to above 530°C (1,000° F). The energy stored in this molten salt can then be used to drive a steam turbine to create 50 to 250 MW of electricity. This technology has been exclusively licensed to a company known as SolarReserve in California, and is being deployed in commercial-scale projects all over the world.

But, of course, this is not the only alternative energy solution with exciting applications in cities. As is well known in China, interest in wind power continues to grow. In renderings of the cities of tomorrow, it’s not uncommon to see wind turbines in the background. And in some cities, this alternative energy source is already reality. Shanghai, for example, presently receives over 18,200 MW of power from wind, about one percent of the city’s power production with plans to generate 267 million kwh of electricity in the near future, powering 200,000 Shanghai households, while cutting the use of 100,000 tons of coal, and reducing carbon emissions over 240,000 tons.

Wind power has a number of environmental benefits. It’s renewable, doesn’t have C02 emissions, and doesn’t use water. It’s free, available in abundance around the world, and not subject to volatile pricing. Of course, wind doesn’t blow all the time, so today wind power is considered an intermittent power supply. However, it’s a good element in a comprehensive energy solution.

Finally, a more traditional integrated energy solution that’s also underutilized at the city scale is CHP, which stands for Combined Heating and Power. Large amounts of energy can be lost in a traditional power system where heat comes from a boiler, and electricity comes from a grid many kilometers away. CHP integrates these two functions, dramatically improving efficiencies of the processes.

CHP prevents energy loss in two ways. First, it reduces transmission and distribution losses. It’s estimated that up to 10 percent of potentially available electricity is wasted as it travels across the grid, and CHP solutions can avoid this wasted energy by generating electricity on-site. The second benefit is that it captures exhaust energy from electricity generation – which would normally go straight up the smokestack – using it to heat and/or cool a facility.

A large-scale example where CHP is being employed is New York City, where an estimated 79 percent of carbon emissions comes from buildings. The city plans to reduce emissions coming from electricity by generating 800 MW of power with CHP by 2030.

Of course, no magic solution can be employed to ensure the cities of tomorrow will be free of greenhouse gases, and operate in ways that fully maximize energy efficiency. However, as developers take on bigger projects, it’s clear that a different set of sustainable solutions can be adopted to ensure smart growth. This will be done by leveraging the presence of high densities of technologies in urban environments through integration. It will also be done by choosing alternative energy solutions best suited to the scale of projects being built. That way, when we do take a step back at the end of these very big projects, when we look upon the collection of elegant skyscrapers, elaborate transportation systems, and grand coliseums that have been created, the greatest value will be delivered to those who live, work, and play in our cities. We must be committed to delivering on the bold, but essential, vision to build vibrant cities for tomorrow with the least environmental impact. And we’ll do it by ensuring that all the important pieces work together as a system.