- Developed and led initial first-of-a-kind Smart Neighborhoods integrating countless new technologies to demonstrate and research hyper-efficient construction and community-scale energy technologies.
- Developed industry-leading real estate retrofit company and delivered first project with 70% energy savings of a 1970s vintage multifamily property.
- Published author
- Featured on national prime time news and interviewed on live national news
- Board Member of ASHRAE
Field of expertise:
I have spent my entire career working in areas related to energy and energy efficiency from several different perspectives. My specific expertise lies in all areas of energy use related to buildings: HVAC, lighting, building envelopes, water heating, renewables, utility rates, etc. This is grounded in the engineering analysis of these technologies and includes the modeling, application, operation, and financial analysis as well. I have covered energy use in buildings from a contractor, practicing engineer, and research perspective; as such, I find it extremely important to look at issues from multiple perspectives.
Describe your journey to where you are today.
I became interested in energy efficiency and decarbonization during my time in Research and Development for Southern Company, one of the country’s largest electric and gas utility holding companies. Prior to Southern Company I was a mechanical contractor where I repaired and installed HVAC and water heating systems, and I was able to leverage this experience to improve these systems in an R&D environment. During my time developing new HVAC, water heating, and other building energy systems I grew a deep understanding of the impact buildings have on utility consumption and the significant role these energy systems play in reducing the energy consumption of buildings. During my decade-long tenure in the R&D area I furthered my education with a MS in mechanical engineering and a PhD in civil engineering where I broadened my perspectives and appreciation for new technologies. However, during my time leading various sales teams at a major electric utility, I began to understand how rare it was for a building owner to actually implement these technologies. So, when I was introduced to Peter Merrigan and Taurus Investment Holdings, a global private equity real estate firm, who wanted to take control of their assets and actively become part of the climate solution, I was all-in.
What does your company do, for whom, and how does it fit into the bigger picture of solving global issues with clean tech?
RENU Communities works on the transition to sustainable alternatives by specializing in delivering decarbonized energy retrofits to existing real estate assets across the multifamily, office, and industrial sectors. According to the EPA, existing buildings account for nearly 40% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and approximately 50% of buildings that exist today will still exist in 2050. Almost 14% of direct global GHG emissions coming from the US. To address the real estate carbon footprint, RENU evaluates numerous key factors, breaking down the building’s energy consumption, identifying where energy efficiencies can be applied to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of existing buildings, future proofing assets while also addressing volatility in energy pricing. However, RENU Communities goes further than just analysis: we oversee the implementation of the decarbonization improvements and track their impact over time through energy management solutions.
What do you think is the most important thing we can be doing in terms of clean tech solutions?
While buildings in the US account for 28% of energy consumption and produce 35% of emissions, it is clear that the solution to the climate crisis does not lie solely within this sector. Transportation accounts for 37% of energy consumption, producing 36% of emissions and industrial accounts for 38% of energy consumption, producing 29% of emissions. The smartest way to bring the nation and the world toward a sustainable future is to work these viable solutions in concert with one another. Combining efficiency, retrofits, electrification and onsite renewables can make more than enough room in the existing electric capacity for decarbonization of the electrical grid and electrification of the transportation sector. Collaboration among industries (real estate, academia, construction, utilities, etc.) will absolutely be key to ensuring we are able to meet our climate change and carbon reduction goals as no one group can do it alone. The recent introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act further confirms that a clean energy policy is critical component for society and our environment. As the reality of the climate crisis slowly begins to take center stage, collaboration and responsiveness will be key in addressing current and changing needs.
LinkedIn: Chris Gray