FMJ - May/June 2017

4 Trends to Watchin Building Energy Management

Steve Nguyen 2017-05-12 04:14:21

Predicting the future of any industry is practically impossible. There’s no magic crystal ball to gaze upon or tea leaves to read that will tell you what’s to come for the future of energy management within commercial buildings. Traditionally, this has been a space that is slow to change, however, there are certain trends that are building momentum and have the potential to shape the future of energy management — and here are four worth watching. 1 Digitilization of the physical world. The creation of digital models of physical objects is not a particularly new concept. However, the tech industry has recently kicked the idea of “digital twinning” into overdrive due to advances in virtual and augmented reality. While companies are still trying to figure out how to leverage this technology, advanced modeling has practical applications. It has become a standard practice for product design and can be used by the automotive industry to test wind resistance and other performance factors. The benefits to the energy management space are just starting to be realized. Creating a digital twin of a building can unlock previously unattainable insight into operations. It’s the key that will allow facility managers to be proactive — rather than reactive — as long as the digital twin is allowed to perform control. Digital twins don’t replace a building’s traditional building management system (BMS); instead, they help transform it into a very powerful IoT (Internet of Things) solution. Using data streams and variables such as occupancy, comfort, thermal properties, building characteristics, weather forecasts, and energy pricing, intelligent energy management platforms can use cloud computing and machine learning to gain valuable insights in predicting the behavior of a building. With the digital model in place, countless scenarios can be run against a building’s digital twin to come up with one optimized strategy for balancing comfort and energy consumption. With access to real-time data for performance measurement monitoring of key external variables, like weather, the model can be updated in near real-time to numerous variable changes, thus creating a responsive building design. This powerful combination — digital twin that governs a BMS — is a tremendous boon to the building industry and a significant trend worth noting. In addition to the advancements in modeling that will continue to be at the forefront of the tech industry, the need for the digitalization of buildings will also be promoted due to the evolution that the power grid is undergoing. The power grid continues to integrate renewables and the challenges of intermittency are no secret — the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. However, a responsive built environment can help overcome this problem. Power source and battery storage capabilities can be implemented into the modeling of a building’s digital twin. The digital twin’s ability to incorporate utility signals and power source data, and govern the BMS (in combination with unlimited scalability), makes it a viable solution for helping adjust to the changing needs of the grid. 2 Commoditization of hardware in the SMB market. Creating a digital twin relies upon using the BMS as a data stream and vehicle for control, which touches on the next trend. The implementation of IoT within buildings will change the role of a BMS, especially in the small and medium buildings (SMB) market. IoT-type BMS solutions have two key characteristics that were not part of the rationale behind the design of “traditional” BMS. The first is about the data. The BMS hardware still provides the function of controlling a space, but its modern purpose will be to generate and feed data for cloud computing, analysis and diagnosis — the digital twin. The second characteristic is a rebuttal of traditional BMS-think. The BMS will be controlled externally and used as a vehicle to implement changes within the building — counterintuitive to its original function. The BMS hardware becomes a vehicle for enacting change, virtually commoditizing the hardware. So how does this tie to the SMB market? Since the role of BMS hardware is changing to fit IoT, small- and medium-sized buildings have the option to skip traditional BMS solutions in favor of pure IoT configurations. Without legacy infrastructure, an onsite operations team or strong vendor relationships, it makes sense for these buildings to use IoT solutions to outsource energy management. Furthermore, for distributed portfolio holders, e.g., companies with many branches or corporate-owned franchises, a centralized operational view trumps energy savings at any one location. A pure IoT configuration also affords the benefit of scale to organizations with multiple locations that are similar in size, function and technologies within the building, such as branch offices, corporate franchises or retail chains. These companies have enough pressure from online giants, which puts enormous pressure on resources devoted to facilities. An integrated portfolio approach, that leverages energy as a data source, rather than an operating line item, can be particularly beneficial. With data from multiple locations added to one dashboard, operational anomalies, performance outliers, best practices and more can be identified from energy data. Augmented with light instrumentation, opportunities to save, streamline and optimize can be discovered, which would have been impossible to identify otherwise. 3 Unifying assets through agnostic, future-proof solutions. From day one on the job, facility managers for commercial buildings face a key challenge: inheriting the technology and mechanical solutions that are already in place. In most cases, it is a “work with what you are given” scenario. However, this can handcuff a building to the legacy players that have their equipment in a building. The choice of using the equipment that is in place could have been driven by numerous factors such as price or personal preference of a predecessor that is no longer present — oftentimes it can seem like there was no rhyme or reason. This can pigeonhole a building and limit its options in terms of upgrades and the use of new technologies. On a building-by-building basis, established mechanical system providers can be successful on an asset centric strategy for a limited time. The side effect of this strategy is that it is common to find multiple brands of mechanical infrastructures or BMS solutions within a portfolio of buildings due to years of changes, expansions and a patchwork of fixes. This presents challenges to managing facilities on a portfolio level, driving organizations to find an economic way to make older assets more energy efficient. The result is an inexorable movement to BMS agnostic, future-proof solutions that can unify assets. The world has entertainment-as-a-service (Netflix, Hulu), transportation-as-a-service (Uber, Lyft) and even groceries-as-a-service (Shipt, Instacart). Now the built environment has energy-as-a-service and comfortasa-service. These services have to be technologyagnostic and future-proof to be effective. They leverage data as any IoT solution would, and being software-based, they can be customized to the existing infrastructure of a building and upgraded with new features as needed. While the existing system retains its value, the data from the system along with new IoT hardware makes the overall system exponentially more powerful and beneficial to the owner. Software solutions that sit atop the existing BMS allow multiple buildings’ energy management to be taken to a cloud-based platform, providing a portfolio-wide view of energy efficiency, preserving investments in BMS assets and lowering capital expenditures. Think of it as a cooperative solution between cloud and BMS. While typically BMS analysis is constrained to thinking within the boundaries imposed by its own hardware and programming, leveraging the cloud removes these constraints and allows for energy to be viewed holistically as an asset. The additional step of separating the data analytics from the BMS results in the identification of, and solutions to, problems that impact the organization, and an ability by the owners to leverage the existing infrastructure as a tool to deliver comfort, lower operating costs and eliminate waste, regardless of the age or source of that infrastructure. 4 Role change: From facility manager to enterprise application manager Not enough hours in the day and the right size budget to go around: These are the hurdles facing every facilities staff . The emergence and continued acceptance of software tools and cloud-based services can help with this issue. Facility managers are already becoming more comfortable with the use of software based solutions and this will accelerate as a new generation – more tolerant of technology use – comes into the facility management workforce. The energy-as-a-service and comfort-as-a-service technologies described above are not meant to replace the facility manager. Technology should be used to enable facility managers to accomplish their duties as it is a mistake to undervalue the boots-on-the-ground talent. Facility managers will be at the leading edge of adopting tools that can augment their abilities rather than replace them. Their knowledge of the nuances of their buildings and the tenants they work with create valuable context that would be impossible to replicate through data by itself. Over time, cloud-driven BMS and BMS plus IoT solutions will be viewed as a true data system within an organization. As it becomes more of a data network, it will become more of an enterprise application and finally recognized as a system of strategic importance, in addition to being an opportunity for generating free cash flow. And who will manage this system? The next-generation facility manager. TRENDING TOGETHER These trends easily weave together. The role of the BMS will continue to morph from the brains of the building to a stream of data and a vehicle to be leveraged for IoT. This will enable wider adoption of managing buildings on a portfolio basis and the ability to create digital twins of current infrastructure. In turn, the daily role of the facility manager will also be influenced. Adoption of these trends won’t happen overnight, but it is clear that the energy management space is pursuing a data-driven future. STEVE NGUYEN leads product and marketing at BuildingIQ to bring a suite of cloud-based energy intelligence service to the commercial, health care, education and other building markets. Steve joined BuildingIQ from Bidgely, where he ran marketing and helped utilities to better engage consumers with their energy use through the power of disaggregation. Prior to Bidgely, he ran corporate marketing and embedded solutions product marketing at IoT pioneer Echelon, helping shape the market for today’s smart buildings and early markets for smart homes and the smart grid. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Brandeis University and Master of Business Administration from Boston College.

Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.

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