Making Smart Energy Decisions

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Are you listening to what your building is trying to tell you? Buildings are a living system of lights, air quality, occupants, and a constant stream of energy. The building’s data holds the key to optimizing quality of life and as the industry shifts to digitization, sensors in connected buildings provide insight to functionality and optimization. The Internet of Things (IoT) and software programs are enabling the interpretation of this information—telling the story behind the data.

This digitization has largely been led by the need to do more with less. Energy managers feel pressure to improve productivity, reduce costs, and work with staff resources for everyday building management, comparing information that ranges from one singular building to a portfolio of connected buildings. However, the challenge is to not only read the data, but effectively communicate to buildings owners how small inconsistencies in a single building could impact the performance of a whole system.

Beyond interpreting historic data, energy managers are looking to predict future maintenance and energy trends. Proactively addressing predicted outcomes lowers costs over time and makes progress toward sustainability and energy efficiency goals. Connected technology has the potential to transform productivity and efficiency—driving corporate growth for the future.

As building owners increasingly focus on total cost of ownership and a clear return on their investments, including when to sell, energy managers can look to the data to tell this story. Intelligent sensors are creating a database to advance reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance and greatly reduce buildings’ energy consumption, which starts with understanding the data now to make better decisions in the future.

Measuring Successful Outcomes
What does success look like for your building? Each building is unique, as are its goals for success, which means understanding its performance and the level of quality for occupants is key—the overall comfort of hotel guests, employees in an office, or students and teachers in a school leads to increased productivity, engagement, satisfaction, and attendance. By identifying the high level outcome you want to achieve first, you’re able to align tactics and strategies to it and measure more accurately.

The physical systems in buildings—the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, lighting systems, and escalators and elevators—are where some of the key analytics can be found to identify anomalies in system function. Recognizing these problems through the data of your building energy management system (BEMS) can easily help energy managers see the issue and work to fix it.

Successful building performance can be measured in many ways, including reduced energy use, reduced peak demand during the day, eliminating inefficient system operations, increasing uptime and reliability, and lowering life cycle costs for building systems.

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Credit: iStock/AndyOdo

Intelligent Buildings
Using intelligent services to collect data through sensors and software can provide a roadmap of energy use, whether in just one building or across a connected campus of buildings. Intelligent sensors create a dashboard of intuitive data that energy managers can analyze for flaws in the existing system. These dashboards chart key performance indicators specific to each building, tailored to compare cost, comfort standards, peak energy use times, or other custom metrics relevant to the building owner’s goals. Comparing inconsistencies can help energy managers communicate the most urgent upgrades or predicted maintenance to building owners in order for them to make informed energy decisions for the long-term health of a portfolio rather than addressing equipment upgrades individually.

The current approach to energy management is to work off of a baseline of accumulated data or look to historical data from government services, such as Energy Star, to compare efficiencies within peer groups. We are beginning to see a greater consciousness of buildings as a major component of energy consumption compared to other sectors like transportation. Residential and commercial buildings use about 40% of total US energy consumption according to the US Energy Information Administration. Building owners are more invested in the long-term energy outcomes and are asking for tools to calculate the environmental impact of energy use.

Intelligent sensors paired with customized software widgets can track and inform energy managers about environmental impact in quantifiable ways, from numbers of trees to gallons of gas saved because of their energy conservation efforts. These statistics, in turn, predict future energy decisions and as we are now seeing, can have a large impact on sustainability goals over time.

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Credit: Trane

Ensure Effective Communication with Decision-Makers
The final stage in leveraging data has less to do with the energy and data itself and more with communicating the information to building owners who are looking at the outcomes as well as the bottom lines. Although owners are more aware of environmental impact, they rely on energy managers to evaluate which systems need attention and how certain upgrades improve the health of a whole connected campus. Energy managers see beyond the numbers to understand not only how to save on energy costs but to address occupant comfort, create the optimal environment for students taking tests, and adjust energy use to the number of people in a building.

The data collected from the building tells a story and it’s important for these outcomes to be communicated when making decisions for an individual building or across a portfolio. This not only enables a conversation on the retrospective results, but opens the door for more accurate and customized planning for the next quarter or year ahead.

Predicting Energy Use for the Future
Connected buildings and IoT will play a larger role in the sustainability discussion around energy use in buildings. Energy managers are adapting to predictive maintenance, analyzing past data to determine the probability of future system upgrades. Proactively mapping out future energy use over time allows building owners to look ahead to necessary investments and incorporating sustainability measures for greater impact over time.

This dual approach is the future of energy use and management, and is also a direct reflection of the data buildings communicate. Listening to and learning from your building is a continuous journey, and aggregate data over time can transform operations for a long, healthy life cycle. De Bug Web

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