Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Storage is the key to next generation energy

Storage is the key to next generation energy

Storage is the key to next generation energy

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 07:11 AM PST

Written by Catherine Bolgar*


The linchpin in making sustainable energy mainstream is power storage.

Renewable energy sources can't overtake carbon-based energy without good storage of energy for when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. Electric vehicles won't outsell gas vehicles until they have more autonomy and faster charging.

Batteries have become longer-lived, lighter, cheaper and safer, thanks largely to the boom in mobile electronics; new materials, nanotechnology and new understanding of electrochemistry are leading to more advances.

Batteries are an old technology, but people are really focusing on research and development now. I have no doubt that 10 years from now we will see some amazing batteries," says Charles Barnhart, assistant professor of Environmental Sciences at Western Washington University.

Batteries remain a black box on a molecular scale. "There's a tremendous effort internationally to understand in detail the processes during charging and discharging lithium-ion batteries," says Olaf Wollersheim, project manager of the Competence E program at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany. "It's really complex, because they are multimaterial systems."

Lithium-ion, or li-ion, batteries have been adopted by the car industry because they are 98% to 99% efficient. However, they can burn "if they're not treated with respect," he says, adding that the auto industry has learned to use them safely.

Dr. Wollersheim recently inaugurated Germany's largest solar power storage park at KIT, consisting of 102 smaller systems of 10 kilowatts each, with different orientations, module brands and inverter brands. The project aims to find the best combination for storage.

Energy plantOne avenue for improvement is software to control batteries. "A battery by itself is a stupid thing," Dr. Wollersheim says. "It stores energy and gives it back. To do that optimally, you need an energy manager—a masterpiece of software. It has to take into account all the specifics of the electrochemistry of the cells. KIT has software with 10,000 lines of code just to control the storage system."

Such controls can increase the battery's lifetime and the return on investment. If the battery charges while the sun is still rising, it might be full and waiting for discharge at midday. That isn't good for making the battery last. A control system might "charge the battery a little bit slower, in order to have shorter times of full charge," he says.

Research also is looking at how stored energy interacts with the grid. Dr. Barnhart compared five kinds of batteries—lead-acid, li-ion, sodium-sulfur, vanadium-redox and zinc-bromine—to calculate how much energy it takes to store the electricity, including building the devices, and the amount of carbon they emit during manufacture and operation. He paired the different battery types with wind-generated and photovoltaic electricity, and matched them up against the power grid average to find the optimum combination.

Lead-acid batteries have a low cradle-to-grave energy cost, because lead is abundant and the technology is well established. However, they last only 200 to 400 charging/discharging cycles.

By contrast, Dr. Barnhart said, li-ion batteries have higher cradle-to-grave costs but last 3,000 to 5,000 cycles, making them the winner among batteries when paired with both solar and wind sources.

The cheapest, cleanest way to store power, Dr. Barnhart notes, isn't a battery but pumped hydro—pumping water up a hill while the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, and then releasing the water to turn turbines and generate electricity when the renewable source isn't working. A similar technology pumps compressed air into an underground cavern to spin a turbine later.hydro storage

Pumped hydro is 99% of the storage on the grid today" in the U.S., says Dr. Barnhart. "These are simple technologies that last a long time and aren't subject to complex chemistries."

However, geography limits the easy options for pumped hydro. In Germany, "there is strong public opposition to converting nice valleys into storage systems," Dr. Wollersheim says.

The demand for electricity rose to 1,626 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2012 from 400 Mtoe in 1973, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA forecasts electricity demand to grow by more than two-thirds between 2011 and 2035, and for renewables to account for 31% of power generation by 2035, up from 20% in 2011.

A big shift toward electric vehicles would add a large load to the electricity network, says Suleiman Sharkh, professor of  power electronics machines and drives at the University of Southampton in the U.K. "We and others say this would also be an opportunity to reinforce the grid, because those batteries on the electric vehicles are available when the vehicles aren't being driven around. If we connect them to the grid, they could store energy from wind power or solar panels."

Such a system would require the system to know in advance the driving needs for the vehicle, to make sure it's charged enough, as well as information about electricity demand on the grid, he says. Costs would have to be calculated—perhaps car owners could charge for free or be paid for allowing their batteries to be used for grid storage, and for the extra wear and tear on the batteries.

With so much territory uncharted, the first applications of vehicles for power storage are likely to be municipal fleets, especially in China, where pollution concerns are accelerating a shift toward electric-powered transport, Dr. Sharkh says.

"It's something we think is going to be a good option in the future," he says.

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

Autodesk Inventor Suporte

Autodesk Inventor Suporte

Hotfix for Inventor 2015 Service Pack 1 Update 1

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 02:03 AM PST

This hotfix addresses an issue where there are no view lines in DWF files for drawings created through a batch process such as on a Vault job processor after the Update 1 is installed.

Please, read the Readme file for the Installation Instructions.

Hotfix for Inventor 2014 Service Pack 2 Update 3

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 02:00 AM PST

This hotfix addresses an issue where there are no view lines in DWF files for drawings created through a batch process such as on a Vault job processor after the Update 3 is installed.

Please, read the Readme file for the Installation Instructions.



3 Quick HSMWorks Tips (REV-1)

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 02:28 AM PST

A few HSMWorks tips that might make you CAM life even easier

Autocad Interface

Autocad Interface

The 2015 Autodesk Cloud Accelerator

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 04:34 AM PST

Autodesk's Cloud Platforms team is running an interesting "incubator" program to encourage software developers to create applications that leverage Autodesk's PaaS layer. (This currently includes the View & Data, AutoCAD I/O, Autodesk Fusion 360, Autodesk BIM 360 and Autodesk ReCap...

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Novidades GraphicSpeak

3D Systems to acquire Cimatron for $97 million

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:23 AM PST

Software from the CAM, mold, and tool-and-die software expert will be adapted for 3D printing. 3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) today announced a definitive agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of CAM software developer Cimatron (NASDAQ: CIMT) in a deal valued at approximately $97 million. Cimatron software support computer aided milling and manufacturing [...]

PTC wants its customers to come aboard with the Internet of Things

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:51 AM PST

Five billion Internet-connected objects by 2019, and PTC plans to be in the middle of it all. Tom Lansford reports from Stuttgart, Germany. By Tom Lansford PTC is a major player in CAD and PLM. However, the company’s strategic push continues to focus on fulfilling customer needs related to seven major forces impacting the manufacturing [...]

Cl3ver adds support for iOS

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:33 AM PST

Cl3ver introduces iOS support for its cloud-based presentation software.

Bentley Systems and Siemens PLM extend partnership

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 06:30 AM PST

Exploring expanded working relationship in manufacturing process planning and design. By Kathleen Maher Bentley Systems and Siemens PLM have been working together to improve the ways they collaborate on factory design projects. The two have run into each other as Bentley's products are used in factory design/build and Siemens is involved in supplying the factory's [...]

Monday, November 24, 2014

AutoCad Plugins

AutoCad Plugins

Autodesk University 2014 Survive and Thrive Tips

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 12:13 PM PST

via autodesk.blogs.com

Great post here from Shaan Hurley with tips for those attending AU!

Autocad Interface

Autocad Interface


Posted: 24 Nov 2014 04:32 AM PST

I've long been fascinated by stereoscopy, as I suspect is the case for most people lucky enough to have two functioning eyes. There's something magical about a device that immerses us in a three dimensional scene by hijacking that fundamental...

AutoCAD Insider

AutoCAD Insider

Tell Us How You Use PDFs in Your Workflows

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:30 AM PST

Pdf-logo copyThe AutoCAD team is conducting a research study about how you use PDFs in your regular workflows, and we'd like to invite you to participate. The feedback you provide will be used to help improve AutoCAD. The online survey will take about 15 minutes to complete, and your responses will be kept strictly confidential.  

To share your feedback and experiences, just follow this link: 



 If you are interested in participating please be sure to take the survey right away, but not after December 5, 2014. The survey is being hosted and reported by independent research firms: Cooper Roberts Research, Inc. and Decipher, Inc. 

Thanks in advance for your support!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Bentley announces Connect Edition

Posted: 21 Nov 2014 10:02 AM PST

The focus on mega-projects and infrastructure leads to a new generation of products better able to serve comprehensive project delivery, from initial design to decommission. By Kathleen Maher Bentley Systems is one of the lead­ing companies in software for AEC and BIM, and they've created a strong mar­ket for themselves by concentrating on the infrastructure [...]

Friday, November 21, 2014



The design of your world is changing, are you going to change with it?

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 06:39 PM PST

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…And to venture in the highest sense is precisely to become conscious of one’s self.”
-Søren KierkegaardThe design world cadcamstuff

If you are pretty set on holding on to your flip phone, and you are not going to improve your efforts at work because the tools you used in the past did the job just fine, this blog post is probably not for you.

I love the world we are living in. It is fast-moving and it seems like every day offers a new app or a software function you can't picture living without. It's change, and though change is good, many times it also can be overwhelming and a little frightening. Design and manufacturing companies are reinventing themselves every day. They are trying to be faster and more efficient; simply, to do more with less. This means that everything around us is changing faster than it ever has, and it has a cost: lots of information, choices and eventually pressure. Even the guy on the factory line is expected to reinvent and streamline processes in today's world.
How are we supposed to handle all this stress and responsibility? We know that the company we work for has to use the latest software programs and machines. We understand that it has to adapt and move forward. The company has to follow that mission statement and fight for the vision to stay in business. But it is also time for us to change; the times where the boss told us to push the green button and end our shift at 5pm is gone. But it's not just because we need to hold onto our jobs that we need to change; the human thought pattern has changed. As the companies we are working for are changing to streamline, working smarter and faster, we also have to reprogram ourselves, if not for anything else, to stay sane. The answer is to give ourselves a promotion. We need to "level up", be welcome to management and leadership: management and leadership of ourselves.

In the book The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber shares many tips and tricks, not just how to manage a business, but also how we can manage ourselves through change. See, the two entities have to follow one another; a business cannot change without the people changing.

The Problem: Why management doesn't work, and what to do about it
The fact is that regular, good old management methods do not work in our fast moving world. There are some new twists: one is the technological revolution, which is forcing us all to do more, faster; the other is the aftermath of reengineering, which is forcing us to do more with fewer people. Our problem is that we are still focused on the old ways where we believe we work for a boss (or we might even call him an Emperor), instead of realizing we are working for ourselves. Lead yourself, manage yourself. This will make you a better and happier employee, and function better as a person.

Via The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It:
Recognizing the myth of management, and the motivation of most managers, is a healthy step toward applying the entrepreneurial mindset to your job, that is: becoming an e-myth manager. But taking action and beginning to reinvent the work that you do is often the hardest step to take. The following rules will guide you in your quest to give up the drug of Emperor dependence. These are the rules that shape your life as an e-myth manager, and consequently, influence your relationship with everyone around you. I call them the Seven Rules of Management Independence. They are:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Know you have the power to get it.
  3. There can be no causes other than your own.
  4. If you cannot manage yourself you cannot manage anything.
  5. There are no simple answers, only complex questions.
  6. Before it gets better it is going to get worse.
  7. These rules must become the defining principles of your life.

In the book, Michael Gerber (The Emperor) is having a number of meetings with one of his employees. Jack is hard at work for Michael's company, doing what is asked of him. As many of us, he has pushed limits of his personal life to accomplish tasks that were beyond the duty of his job responsibilities. He gave up his time, often studying into the night and working long hours every day. But with an ever fast-moving world, full of changes, even the smallest bump in the road can turn to total unhappiness. When productivity is down in our department, profits are low, and the joy in our work is gone, it can hit us like a ton of bricks. Change becomes scary. The problem is that we many times have lost our way; we are living someone else's vision.
Let us explore a few of Michael Gerber's "Seven Rules of Independence".

Rule 1: Know what you want…
Start to dream; the truth is that we all get so easily caught up in our daily routines. We need to start dreaming about what we want, dream about what our job should look like, how our family should be; dream about who we want to be as individuals. Then, write it down on paper. Writing it down makes it a vision; this vision is our honest desire.
Our new vision does not mean that we have to quit our jobs. (It might make us do just that; but if it does, everyone is better off anyway.) Our vision is what is going make us jump out of bed in the morning. And our vision can most certainly go hand in hand with the vision of the company we work for. In my company, Autodesk, vision is to be a leader in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software. If my vision was to spend as much time as possible outside in nature and I hated interacting with computers, that would not align very well with Autodesk's vision, would it? But I love design and engineering; I am like a kid in a candy store when I get to play with the latest and greatest design software. My vision and Autodesk's vision align. I know what I want, and Autodesk is the perfect partner in my vision.

Via The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It:

You may be put off by the idea of having to know what you want, and it may take some a while to figure it out. But until you do, you will be no closer to owning your job, to managing your organization, or to increasing your enjoyment of what you do. To fulfill your potential, to be more than a mere reflection of someone else's vision, it is absolutely essential for you to learn how to match the boss' intensity, rather than reflect it. And the only way you can honestly do that is through the pursuit of your own vision.

Rule 2: Know you have the power to get it…
People hunger for purpose. Without our own, we are immediately distracted into the misguided belief that anyone's purpose will do.
We do not want to wake up one day and say to ourselves, "Who am I? Where am I? What happened?" This does not mean that we should totally disregard our company's strategies or goals; if we are going to keep working for our company, we should work on aligning our vision with our company's vision. If we are willing to change, we have an incredible power to also change things around us.

Via The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It:
Not only must you be certain of what you want for yourself, you must also be certain that you understand the importance of this statement: "Once you know what you want, only you can get it. You can't delegate the responsibility for inventing your own life."

Rule 3: There can be no causes other than your own.
[You have to read the book for this one]

Rule 4: If you cannot manage yourself, you cannot manage anything.
We have to start with ourselves. We have to create a relationship with ourselves as individuals; look at ourselves from above and change to who we want to be. We cannot control everything, but we can engage, connect and change our behavior.

Via The E-Myth Manager: Why Management Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It:

So to manage oneself, it is necessary to think in terms of standards, and before you can think of standards you must first have a Vision for yourself. This Vision should encompass who you wish to become–Not who you are. But understand, if the person you see in your Vision is the same as the person you are, only doing something different, it is not a Vision, it is a dream. Bill Gates doesn't dream about Microsoft, he envisions it. He envisions a Microsoft universe. Understand, I'm not talking about the content of Bill Gates' Vision here; I'm talking about the scale of it. It's the scale of one's Vision that shapes one's life. And so I bring you the idea that there are no small people, only small visions.

The task can seem overwhelming. We get another design change thrown at our already overflowing calendar, or our boss asks us to solve a problem with the new piece of equipment. But if we are on the edge, and things are piling up a little too fast in our world, it might be a good time to take a break for a few hours and find a quiet place to dream; to create a vision and make the right things happen in our own world.

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Strong AEC results propel Autodesk third quarter

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 06:44 PM PST

Revenue was $618 million, up 11% but net income dropped 81% on increased spending.   Autodesk today reported a strong third quarter, led by a 17% increase in revenue from the AEC business segment. Deferred revenue topped $1 billion for the first time, and total billings rose 25% from a year ago. For the third [...]

Ansys revenue up 10% in third quarter

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 10:56 AM PST

North America sales helped overcome soft results in Europe. Ansys continues to buy back its stock. Ansys has reported a "normal" third quarter—normal for Ansys. For the period ending October 301, 2014 revenue was up 10% from a year earlier, to $234 million. Net income for the period was up 5% to  $65.5 million. Breaking [...]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cristiano Ceccato’s 4 Key Lessons for Integrated Design

Cristiano Ceccato’s 4 Key Lessons for Integrated Design

Cristiano Ceccato’s 4 Key Lessons for Integrated Design

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 03:00 AM PST

Cristiano Ceccato, Architect at  Zaha Hadid Architects

Cristiano Ceccato,
Zaha Hadid Architects

During his keynote address at a recent Dassault Systèmes event in Japan, Cristiano Ceccato of Zaha Hadid Architects explained how techniques borrowed from other industries have been applied to some of his firm's innovative projects.

Tweet: How techniques from other industries are applied to @ZAHAArchitect's innovative projects. @Dassault3DS #AEC http://ctt.ec/26LcC+

Click to tweet: “How techniques
from other industries are applied
to Zaha Hadid’s innovative projects”

Ceccato also examined what happens when designers transfer digital data into the built realm, thereby moving away from the perfection of the computer into the "imperfections" of a real construction environment.

Here is his advice for the architecture community:

1. Build Like Boeing

During his cross-disciplinary research with Boeing, Ceccato saw that the firm was able to take on great risks to develop innovative ways of working.

Their 777 aircraft design required a completely new infrastructure; producing it required an entirely new way of thinking and they created it for a market that didn't yet exist.

How did they do it? In short:

  • Integrated models of information allowed them to have a much more contained risk envelope, and to produce products much more efficiently across the board.
  • Parametrics allowed them to stretch and shrink the aircraft to meet different markets.
  • A decentralization of components and location helped share risk among partners and bring the product to market more efficiently.

Architects—who are building custom structures one by one around the world—can learn from Boeing's approach, becoming more flexible and effective in producing solutions for clients.

When architects learn to better manage information and processes, they reduce risk and improve how people work together.

2. See the Pieces Within the Whole

Digital modeling allows for the more efficient production of highly complex projects through the repetition of simple elements. This works on two levels.

On the project level, consider the traits shared among projects. For example, towers as a group can be considered a "family" with an artificial DNA. Digital modeling allows designers to easily search through shared characteristics of towers—the need for privacy among units, certain zoning requirements, etc.—and apply specific solutions to a particular market.

On the component level, projects can be broken down into simple fabricated components that can be repeated in different ways to create the seeming complexity.

By working closely with fabricators, designers can create solutions that can be manufactured and assembled as a kit of parts. These kits can be repeated in a variety of ways to create an intricate end result that can be quickly and easily assembled onsite.

Information systems make it possible to define, correlate and repurpose simple parts on a massive scale.

Cristiano Ceccato, Architect at Zaha Hadid Architects

3. Maintain Interoperability

When using digital modeling platforms, interoperability—among components and tools used by the wide array of trades involved—is crucial.

Digital modeling requires strong managers who can invest time and energy resolving interoperability issues among models to make sure that the final result is a faithful translation of information among platforms and the final project.

This must be an ongoing process. The digital model is not a single, finite element. It must evolve to continuously progress the accuracy and level of development of information.

Tweet: Digital models must evolve to meet the accuracy of design information @Dassault3DS @ZAHAArchitect #AEC http://ctt.ec/P6ejQ+

Click to tweet: “Digital models must evolve to
meet the accuracy of design information #AEC”

4. Don't Underestimate the Human Element

One challenge of working with a distributed team is ensuring all partners are working toward the same design interpretation. Advanced 3D modeling technologies are increasingly enabling the project contributors to efficiently collaborate, iterate, and come to a consensus on the design intent.

For example, 3D tools help fabricators match the designer's vision by marrying early models with fabrication templates to ensure that what the fabrication team completes is a faithful interpretation of the original design.

And while mock-ups and site visits remain valid tools for incorporating owners into the design process, 3D tools build client confidence by demonstrating that what is proposed is possible within the given time and budget constraints—and will accurately meet the owner's vision.

Tweet: Cristiano Ceccato's 4 Key Lessons for Integrated Design @Dassault3DS @ZAHAArchitect #AEC http://ctt.ec/vdfe1+

Click to tweet this article: “Cristiano Ceccato's
4 Key Lessons for Integrated Design”

Related Resources

Zaha Hadid Architects

Collaborative and Industrialized Construction

Watch an 8-minute demo of the Dassault Systèmes Industry Solution Experience Façade Design for Fabrication

Autocad Interface

Autocad Interface

Project Memento now has direct handheld scanning

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 09:58 AM PST

Some exciting news from the Reality Computing team: Project Memento – which has been updated to v1.0.11.3 on Autodesk Labs – now supports direct input from the Artec 3D Eva scanner. You can scan a 3D object or scene –...

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Ansys releases its first update to SpaceClaim

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 11:45 AM PST

New features will appeal to both designers and those preparing models for analysis or 3D printing. Ansys today released the first update to SpaceClaim since it acquired the software earlier this year. Most new features continue the trend of editing and repairing existing models, although some new features are also suited for initial design work. [...]

Autodesk acquires Lagoa for cloud visualization platform

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 09:16 AM PST

For the second time Autodesk has turned to Brazilian Thiago Costa to jumpstart its visualization. Autodesk is acquiring Lagoa, maker of a cloud-based visualization and collaboration platform for product development. Autodesk is not commenting, but sources contacted by both GraphicSpeak and other tech news sites confirm the deal. The purchase price is approximately $60 million. [...]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autocad Interface

Autocad Interface

AU 2014 Handout: Using SensorTag as a Low-Cost Sensor Array for AutoCAD

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 01:31 AM PST

[This handout is for "SD5013 - Using SensorTag as a Low-Cost Sensor Array for AutoCAD", a 60-minute class I'll be presenting at AU 2014. Here's the sample project that accompanies this handout.] Introducing SensorTag SensorTag is a $25 device containing...

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Novidades GraphicSpeak

Webinar to explore workstation mobilization with virtualization

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:52 AM PST

JPR's Alex Herrera to moderate free webinar on how virtualization can empower high-performance visual computing. Jon Peddie Research Senior Analyst Alex Herrera will lead a webinar panel tomorrow, to discuss key business drivers and enabling technologies for graphics-rich remote visualization. The session, "Mobilize workstation users in an everywhere connected world," is sponsored by Teradici. It [...]

New 3D Systems ProX 400 offers high-capacity metal printing

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:03 AM PST

Sometimes, you just gotta have metal; the ProX 400 should debut to high demand. 3D Systems is introducing its latest industrial direct metal printing (DMP) system, the ProX 400. Designed for creating high-quality end-use metal parts, the ProX 400 can create parts up to 500 X 500 X 500 mm3 (19 11/16 inches each dimension) without the [...]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The beauty of renovation is more than skin-deep

The beauty of renovation is more than skin-deep

The beauty of renovation is more than skin-deep

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:52 AM PST

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

Renovating and retrofitting existing buildings can increase their longevity, reduce their energy use and beautify or modernize.

Building renovation

With commercial buildings that need renovation, "usually the target is to have a result that's aesthetically nice, healthy and at the least cost," says Marc LaFrance, energy analyst, buildings sector, at the International Energy Agency. "If somebody comes from that approach but says, 'I want the least-energy-consuming building possible within my budget,' that would lead to a different set of measures."

Buildings consume 40% of the world's primary energy and are responsible for 40% of carbon emissions. Designing new buildings to be both beautiful and energy efficient is great, but new construction is just a tiny share of overall building stock—only 2% in the U.S., for example. Buildings may last from 40 to a couple of hundred years. Their primary uses may change, and even where a house remains a residence or an office an office, the way people use the buildings keeps evolving. Retrofits tend to be "greener" than demolition for new construction.

See a video about Advanced Retrofit and Design Guides from the U.S. Department of Energy:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The challenge comes in turning a cosmetic facelift into a deeper change that will result in a building that's more energy efficient, healthier and—in the long run—cheaper to operate.

A deep renovation done all at once can have a big impact on energy savings. "If you do a system-level upgrade, with new insulation in the walls, new windows, new roofing, and at the same time put in new heating and air conditioning, you can significantly reduce the size requirements for the mechanical equipment," Mr. LaFrance says. "Doing the entire building at the same time can be very economically viable."

Why don't more property owners retrofit? "One of the classic barriers to adoption is split incentives," he adds. "The building owner isn't occupying the space, so the energy bill is paid by the renter."

Mandating energy efficiency standards is one way to get incentives aligned. "Anybody who puts in new equipment today is buying something significantly more efficient than 20 years ago," he says. "There is still room for improvement in that policy."

Building codes have led to more efficient new construction, but sometimes renovations aren't held to the same requirements. A roof replacement might not be required to include added insulation that would bring it up to the latest codes for new buildings.

The European Union has set a goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the building sector by 2050 to 88%, to 91% of 1990 levels. Key to achieving that goal is "nearly zero-energy buildings," which not only use renewable energy but also have lower energy needs for heating, cooling and hot water.

Similarly, "net-zero energy" buildings produce as much energy as they use over the course of a year—in other words, their utility bills over a year add up to zero. Only a few buildings are so highly efficient as to fall into this category.

Click here to see a map of net zero buildings around the world

The potential market and payoffs are great. Energy-efficiency retrofits in the U.S. alone could come to $279 billion, generating a 10-year energy saving of over $1 trillion, or a 13% compound annual return on investment. On a different timeline, to 2050, the European Union estimates €937 billion of investment for deep renovation, with net savings of €8.939 trillion.

Here are a few techniques and new technologies for energy-efficient retrofits:

  • Building envelopes: In hot climates, reflective roofs and walls with special coatings or materials can significantly cut the need for air conditioning. Green roofs, which use vegetation to insulate and add beauty, can cut air-conditioning demand 75% in the summer, as well as reduce storm-water run-off. Exterior insulation finishing systems add a layer of insulation to the outside of a building, which is then covered by stucco or other finishes. Integrated façade systems and integrated roof systems place photovoltaic panels over the façade or roof, shading the roof while helping to power the building.
  • Windows: Low-emissivity (low-e) coatings and films on windows block heat—up to 96% of infra-red radiation—without blocking views. Curtains and shades, especially ones with a honeycomb structure, can insulate windows from sunshine, but it's far more effective to block the sun's rays outside the window, by using shutters, awnings or overhangs , which allow natural light to come in, but indirectly.
  • Lighting: Since lighting can consume 30% of total energy and since investments pay for themselves in just one to three years, lighting upgrades are a popular first step. New LEDs are replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs, which use only 5% of the electricity they consume as light. Cooler lights mean lower air-conditioning requirements. Better controls and sensors turn on lights when people are around and off when they leave.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC): With buildings that are sealed more tightly and that use passive techniques to absorb or avoid heat from the sun, depending on the climate, property owners often find they can install much smaller HVAC systems. A building that has uncontrolled air leakage means air is seeping in through "all the cavities of the building, which might be home to insects, or decaying animals," Mr. LaFrance says. "If you have a tight building and control fresh air with ventilation, it's much more desirable, not just for energy savings but also for indoor air quality."

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.