The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: The Case for a Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency

Share this Post:

“Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts: The Case for a Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency”, released by the Alliance to Save Energy, is the “Systems Efficiency Initiative (SEI) Year 1 Report”. The report characterises the potential benefits of a building systems approach and prioritises areas for further technical and policy research.


The document explores the significant untapped energy savings available through a systems-efficiency approach to building design, construction and operation. It considers interactions within various building systems, with a focus on mechanical (Heating, Ventilating, Air-Conditioning, and Refrigerating -HVAC&R systems encompassing the equipment, distribution ducts and pipes, and terminals that provide heating, potable hot water, fresh air ventilation, or cooling and humidity control to a building) and lighting systems (luminaires, fixtures, sensors, controls, software, interior design-surfaces, furniture/partition layouts, colours and textures- and windows or skylights). Moreover, it explores interactions among multiple systems within a building, and discusses challenges and opportunities for implementing a systems-level approach to building efficiency.


The Report identifies five strategies for promoting a systems approach:


  1. Break down silos. A systems-oriented approach will require creativity and a new level of collaboration across a range of stakeholders—including architects, engineers, designers, developers, and building operators—as well as between the building industry and policymakers.
  2. Integrate systems. Integration both within and among systems operating in a building is vital to maximising efficiency gains and opportunities.
  3. Optimise operations through technology. Controls and smart technologies are important for improving the efficiency of many types of systems.
  4. Incorporate systems strategies through all phases of the building life cycle. Strategies to incorporate a systems approach should be applied during building design and construction, as well as during the operations and maintenance phases.
  5. Think outside the building. Further opportunities for systems approaches exist beyond a building itself, across multiple buildings, and between a building and the electric grid.


The full report is freely accessible at the Alliance to Save Energy webpage.