We understand the need to manage the energy consumption in buildings. We're okay with the concept. Too often, however, we question our own ability to accomplish such a task. Many have discomfort even discussing the plan . . . should one even exist. According to the United Nations, buildings account for 40% of global energy use, 30% of energy-related GHG emissions, approximately 12% of water use, and nearly 40% of waste. We know these facts.
Building optimization makes a building more functional, more effective. Many building optimization methods use an optimization “engine” based on real-time building data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can represent key building blocks. There has been a tremendous advancement in newer techniques of building optimization designed to create zero energy buildings, decrease environmental impact and create a sustainable environment.
The complex web of control systems (mechanical, electrical, environmental and plumbing) challenge building owners and facility operators. The operation of these systems and applications encounter difficulties because of their dependence on various factors – both external and internal to the buildings. A building includes a dynamic, constantly changing environment, which demands optimization.
The traditional method of building optimization involved independent analyses of separate building components such as air-handling units, cooling towers, chillers, RTUs, ventilation rates, and air quality. These methods suffer due to the absence of a consolidated real-time view of the entire building.
Modern methods have a proactive approach. They take into consideration multiple factors such as outside temperature, occupancy trends and load performance. This information can help establish optimal set-points for HVAC equipment. Newer optimization strategies use real-time energy management, which considers multi-variable interactions between CO2, humidity, pressure, occupancy, and temperature. Significant reductions in overall energy use result. Modern methods build on a foundation of real-time analytics for forecasting, modeling, and measurement and verification (M&V).
But isn't my existing control infrastructure sufficient?
No, unfortunately. Typical control infrastructures such as a Building Automation System (BAS), Building Management System (BMS), or Energy Management System (EMS) are configured at the time of commissioning. The set of sensor data made available to the BAS, BMS or EMS remains limited to the sensors installed during construction of the building. An incomplete data set results.
Modern building optimization requires more sensor data, period. The more comprehensive and granular the sensor data, the better the building optimization results. The Internet of Things (IoT) drives building optimization because it makes previously untapped sensor data available at a fraction of the cost of upgrading existing control infrastructures. In fact, IoT unleashes the true potential of artificial intelligence (AI) through Big Data and analytics.
But isn't a building optimization program complex and expensive?
Building optimization represents a process. The value proposition relates to where you are now. The first step on the journey of building optimization must include visibility. All too often we hear that "you can't manage what you can't measure."
Begin with real-time visibility of your building. Are you aware of the current conditions in your building? Have you identified the operational efficiency of critical HVAC assets? What is the energy consumption profile for all parts of the building? If you don't know the answer to these questions, then building optimization begins with obtaining real-time visibility. You need anytime, anywhere access to this data. IoT brings cloud-based visibility into the real-time operation of your building now.
A real-time dashboard will enable you to quickly identify the most egregious causes of inefficiency and waste in your building.
But isn't a building optimization program an optional extra?
A building represents a complex collection of systems and devices designed to run a building through changing environmental conditions and changing tenant expectations. What seems like a better description of a building? A living, breathing, high-functioning organism, or a static, electro-mechanical machine?
Its "health" must be monitored for peak performance. Unfortunately, its natural trajectory is to greater levels of disorder and disrepair. To accept building optimization as an optional extra is to accept sub-optimal building results. If you concede this high ground, you will accelerate the building's demise and diminish its overall asset value.
Building optimization is as necessary as your financial concern for the bottom line. Don't neglect either one.
Different buildings are impacted by different driving factors. Some buildings are driven by more environmental factors, while some by economic factors. Whatever the case maybe, building optimization is the key. The most quantifiable benefit of adopting newer building optimization techniques is an increase in energy savings, reduced maintenance expenses, and higher customer service effectiveness.