Smarter Buildings

By on May 13, 2017 in Technology

Energy management software not only reduces waste and electricity costs, it can also provide responsive, optimized energy solutions for smarter, more efficient buildings.

For owners and operators of smart buildings, energy management data smarter buildingscan be an embarrassment of riches. The latest technologies allow for tracking of even the smallest detail, from occupancy averages to temperature adjustments of less than one degree. It’s what Matt Eggers describes as “savings by shavings,” and while the level of control can result in significantly smaller utility bills, information overload and lack of consistency can undermine even the most committed energy efficiency strategy.

“You can’t expect humans to be sitting at a computer constantly responding to 10th of a degree temperature adjustments and other minutia,” Eggers declared during a recent Realcomm Webinar on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, “but energy management software can handle the task.”

“Buildings are complicated, but in the future intelligent software systems will allow for really dramatic savings by optimizing building information for best performance.”

Data Captured Equals Dollars Saved

Many building owners and operators fail to take full advantage of the phenomenal amount of performance data available in relation to energy use and overall operations. The latest energy management software aims to make all those facts and figures easily digestible to enable the creation of individualized and effective energy efficiency benchmarks and strategies. The panelists agree we are headed into a new era of comprehensive energy data collection and management. All that information has already resulted in real, quantifiable savings, with some buildings reducing energy costs by tens of thousands of dollars.

“This [energy information] results in real dollars saved,” said Rob Hamon Director, Energy and Sustainability, Boxer Property during the Realcomm webinar. “Efficiency gains accumulate as we see connections amongst the data.”

“This isn’t the future, this is now.”

Using Data to Drive Outcomes

Smart building analytics begin with data collection and monitoring, says John Seaton, Director of RealFoundations. But as the low-hanging fruit of easy efficiency fixes were implemented, many building owners and operators can hit a cycle of diminishing returns.  In addition, data can be fragmented as information is collected from different sources without any consolidation or uniformity. The solution, according to Seaton, is to find a way to “do more with less.”

“What is needed is a balanced approach that takes into consideration environmental, financial and operation data,” said Seaton. “By centralizing core data behind your assets, historical statistics will allow you to see trends across your portfolio.”

More Than a Numbers Game

When asked if voluminous data should be the ultimate goal, Seaton averred, stating it is less about the amount of data and more about the value and viability of what’s been recorded.

“You want to focus on data that can be digested to provide the right analytics and deliver the right outcome,” he responded. “It is really about the quality of the data, not the quantity.”

“It doesn’t matter how green or efficient your building is if it is not being utilized,” commented webinar participant Mark Roush, a member of the faculty at Philips Lighting Application Center. “We currently have very little insight into what’s happening inside our buildings. We should focus on making smart buildings productive for us.”

“Simply bringing together all the data and communicating can help us all work smarter, not harder,” he added.

“Achieving new benchmarks in energy efficiency really depends on the people and processes involved,” summarized David Clute, VP, Intelligent Building Group, EDS. “By understanding what different activities are occurring, [along with] retro-commission and fault detection diagnostics allows real-time monitoring and active optimization.”

Lifecycle Management

According to Joyce Mihalik, VP, Integrative Design Svcs., Forest City Realty, considering the entire lifecycle of a building, from design to build to operation, bridges the asset management gap and sets the stage for quantifiable efficiencies. Mihalik and her teams accomplish this task by providing three layers of data: building performance, opportunity assessments and fault detection.

“We design our buildings using energy modeling to set performance benchmarks and use those goals and parameters doing our construction phase,” she said in the webinar. “Through the lifecycle of our buildings is how we get real efficiencies.”

The Software Solution

For Eggers, information alone is not enough. Instead, he argues that the best way to leverage data involves utilizing a portfolio of energy software systems.

“To try and manage all of a building’s equipment and systems without software to do the hard work is really challenging,” said Eggers. “We need to focus on using software to manage our buildings better, not with more data and more dashboards, but with advanced power tools designed to optimize building performance.”

“Current dashboard systems record data and provide feedback that an operator must interpret and act on,” he explained. “An active optimization system makes adjustments automatically so that each aspect of a building’s energy system is run efficiently. In the future, intelligent software systems will allow for really dramatic savings.”