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As an owner or a property manager of a commercial building, the cost of energy consumption for building operations will always be one of your primary concerns. After all, energy costs likely constitute some of your largest operating expenses.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that commercial buildings in the U.S. account for 18% of total U.S. energy consumption, leading to energy expenditures worth $190 billion each year. And the impact isn’t just economic; buildings sector Co2 emissions account for approximately 826 million metric tons annually.
Optimizing energy consumption in your building not only gives you opportunities for cost savings, but helps you meet federal efficiency standards and minimize your environmental impact. The first step to achieving these goals while also enhancing the occupant experience is understanding the building energy consumption breakdown.
Effective Building Energy Management can be challenging, especially when occupant comfort must remain a priority. However, efficiency and comfort are not competing goals. By understanding the energy consumption breakdown in your building, you can develop smart strategies to improve both energy efficiency and building performance.
Major factors to consider when breaking down energy consumption in a commercial building include:
According to Department of Energy estimates, the average energy consumption of a commercial building in the United States is 22.5 kilowatt-hours per square foot. The primary sources of this energy use are:
Detailed insight into the functioning of related equipment is necessary to evaluate efficiency and identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption.
Energy consumption and associated costs are heavily influenced by time of day, seasonal changes, and local climate. For example, a commercial building located in Arizona is expected to use more energy for cooling operations than one in Boston. In most of the U.S., energy consumption is typically higher during summer and winter than spring and fall due to more extreme temperatures. When it comes to determining peak hours, the specific industries housed within your properties play a key role. Food service facilities or hospitals, for instance, may have significant energy needs around the clock. In contrast, energy use in a school will primarily occur during the day and drop dramatically in the evening.
Eliminating unnecessary heating, cooling, and lighting by taking into account how, when, and why your building is being used is an important strategy for reducing waste. Depending on the needs of your occupants, this may include limiting overnight or off-hours energy consumption for non-essential building operations and aligning energy use with occupancy.
Benchmarks can be invaluable to understanding and evaluating the energy consumption of a building. While utility bills can give you a general overview, they don’t tell the whole story and they don’t provide meaningful insights into the complex operations within your building. An external benchmarking report that compares your building’s energy consumption with that of similar buildings can give you a better understanding of performance. This can be a useful way to identify areas of weakness and help you set realistic energy consumption goals. Internal benchmarking, however, is critical to evaluating and refining operations.
With internal benchmarking, your building’s current performance is compared to its own past performance based on historical data collected from your building’s network of equipment, sensors, and devices. This allows you to see the impact of maintenance and improvements in underperforming building equipment while pinpointing opportunities for future improvements.
Identifying the variables in your building energy consumption breakdown is a critical first step for optimizing efficiency. However, neither utility bills nor a standard building management system (BMS) can give you the clear guidance you need to find the best solutions to reduce costs while enhancing the occupant experience. In part, this is because they do not account for the multitude of variables that inform energy use and demand, such as building occupancy. Advanced analytics are needed to truly understand energy consumption patterns and make pragmatic decisions about the future of your building.
An advanced analytics platform allows you to see your building energy consumption breakdown and gain meaningful insights into how your building behaves. Through customized reports and user-friendly visuals, these platforms give you a detailed look at the functioning of individual machinery and can highlight areas of potential improvement to help you achieve your goals.
onPoint, a comprehensive software-as-a-service (SaaS) package, analyzes data from a full range of building equipment to identify key energy-consuming building operations and determine the efficiency of related equipment. This advanced analytics platform takes into account variables like energy demand, consumption trends, and occupancy patterns to identify cost-saving opportunities, even during peak hours, without compromising occupant comfort. onPoint uses machine learning algorithms to continuously mine data, detect deviations from historical patterns, and alert you to excess energy consumption and equipment vulnerabilities, allowing you to take corrective action as early as possible—often, long before malfunctions become evident to occupants. This historical data also lets you set appropriate energy benchmarks that act as robust assessment tools, whether you are tracking your own goals or ensuring your building meets efficiency standards.
As a building owner or property manager, you might not be interested in all the details of big data in building energy management. But using advanced analytics to break down building energy consumption patterns allows you to address some of your most important concerns: improving operational efficiency, realizing cost savings, and offering the best occupant experience. Optimizing energy consumption with the help of analytics ensures that you make decisions that benefit not only your bottom line, but the overall quality of your operations.
Jon Schoenfeld, PE is Buildings IOT's Vice President of Energy & Building Technology. He's been developing advanced algorithms for building automation applications for more than a decade and he applies his tremendous building expertise as he oversees the team of building scientists creating the onPoint platform.