Building Energy Management

By R.W. Hurst, President, The Electricity Forum

Building Energy Management
Building Energy Management

Modern commercial and institutional buildings account for approximately 40 per cent of total energy consumption and contribute significantly to worldwide carbon emissions. More especially, commercial buildings comprise a large portion of this. In the United States alone, businesses spend about $100 billion on all forms of building energy. Also, economic growth in Asia where there is a shift towards service based economies will expand the need for the design and construction of more commercial buildings. This is an opportunity for substantial cost savings. For instance, it is estimated that smarter buildings could save between $20 and 25 billion in annual energy costs.

There are various ways that companies can reduce overall building energy consumption. It is true that buildings can be designed more efficiently at the planning stage, which while ideal, is not always an option. Most existing buildings can be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency - although this can be capital intensive and disruptive. Another option is to use building energy management software to ensure that buildings utilize energy more efficiently. Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) are computerized systems that allow building operators to monitor and control building energy systems including HVAC, power and lighting.

The opportunity for building energy management to produce energy savings is largely untapped today. Many building owners and operators are not completely aware of how data driven optimizations can reduce energy consumption. Building energy management software can help detect and address many sources of waste such as:

• Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) equipment that is simultaneously heating and cooling a given space due to a failed sensor or other fault.

• Technicians dealing with low priority or false alerts about building anomalies, while the notification system fails to highlight other issues of greater impact.

• Default configurations for all systems and pieces of equipment, meaning they run at suboptimal set points and are rarely updated after initial configuration.

• Lack of visibility and attention to energy waste on the part of occupants and building engineers.

• HVAC and lighting systems running at full capacity during periods when buildings are largely unoccupied.

Building Efficiency Meets Information Technology

Recently, most commercial buildings have been equipped with an increasing number of sensors, controls and other devices. Modern commercial buildings have built-in control systems, referred to as building management systems (BMS) or building automation systems (BAS), allowing building engineers and facility managers to control their infrastructure.

In this type of model, various building management systems and control panels are the access points to observe and manage building equipment, as illustrated in Figure 1 (left side). By introducing a smart building solution that provides an additional analytics layer (right side), a single data repository for all buildings is created and engineers are equipped with a powerful toolset to analyze data. In addition, this provides a foundation for tighter integration with a smart utility grid that manages energy supply and demand dynamically on a local or regional level.