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Improving Efficient Energy Management in Commercial Buildings

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Clint Bradford

Going green is a top-of-mind strategy for many facilities managers today, and for good reason. While it’s essential to hit and maintain standard business norms concerning occupant comfort, not to mention preserve status levels for electricity-dependent services of all kinds, it’s also essential to minimize energy costs. Without the right tools, finding a balance between these goals is far from easy.

Fortunately, buildings don’t have to be designed to be green from the start. Efficiency-enhancing technologies can be added at any point and yield impressive benefits. By leveraging top-tier analytics capabilities for energy management in commercial buildings, facilities managers can substantially reduce electrical consumption and maintenance costs while creating outstanding occupant experiences.

Optimizing Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

When improving energy efficiency, the best place to start is probably not in your building, but in your perception of your building. While it’s tempting to think of the building as a monolithic entity, better results will emerge from looking deeper. The overarching idea should be to preserve comfort and service levels while also detecting and reducing wasted energy wherever possible, and that requires getting granular.

Consider, for instance, the surrounding context of the building’s location, seasonal conditions, and local weather patterns. Peak demand will vary across different times in the year, and utility providers typically use a billing structure designed to reduce that demand to ensure overall energy delivery to the community. This means facilities managers should incorporate such environmental factors into the optimization strategy from the start; that kind of local information is essential to ensuring modern analytics solutions deliver the highest value over time.

Within your building, you should look at different classes of energy-consuming assets and ask questions like: 

  • Where is money unnecessarily spent? 
  • Under what circumstances is waste created?
  • When does it tend to escalate? 
  • Are there hidden trends and patterns that, once discovered, could be integrated into power management systems?

Answering these questions may seem daunting and complex, but analytics solutions can help. Advanced analytics platforms aggregate data from all connected building systems, mine that data for trends, and help you identify optimal configuration or management strategies for achieving your goals. When an analytics platform includes machine learning capabilities, it will continue to expand its knowledge for your building and provide the ongoing insights needed to refine your original strategy, allowing energy management in commercial buildings to become more effective and efficient over time.

Most facilities managers will find that via smart analytics, applied to different asset classes under different conditions, they discover far more waste than they imagined possible. And once it’s discovered, it can also be minimized—if those analytics are deployed and leveraged over time in accordance with proven best practices.

Analyzing Assets 

Let’s consider several different asset classes and how analytics can play a key role in optimizing a building’s energy efficiency in each case.

  • Heating/cooling. In nearly all cases, HVAC systems rule the roost as energy consumers. Optimization must take into account an array of variables, ranging from real-time changes in external temperature and fluctuating occupancy to seasonal concerns and maintenance processes.
  • Large appliances and machinery. If facilities managers fail to consider assets such as pumps, water heaters, and refrigerators, they create a blind spot in their energy efficiency strategies. Over time, that blind spot can and will lead to needless costs and operational risks.
  • Lighting. This is an area where analytics can really play a key role. Dimming or deactivating lighting according to changing conditions such as the daily business cycle may have a significant impact on energy use while simultaneously enhancing occupant experiences. Historical patterns and real-time demand levels may also play a part.

These asset classes, though seemingly disparate, can be logically unified by smart analytics tools that draw data from all of them. Facilities managers can use analytics to discover energy-reduction opportunities for every type of asset while also maintaining key service levels, such as maintaining a business-appropriate temperature even in summer or winter.

However, for ideal results, facilities managers will need to do more than just manage assets in a piecemeal way. True energy optimization means integrating building systems and making smart changes across all relevant assets. It means incorporating and analyzing data drawn from the complete range of assets, finding trends and patterns in consumption and waste, and rolling out a comprehensive strategy driven by smart analytics.

Creating an Effective Energy Management Strategy

Improving efficient Building Energy Management can be a complex process that requires the deployment of cutting-edge technologies. An analytics expert who offers solutions that are easy to deploy and swift to yield impressive results will be your best partner as you begin.

Consider the case of the Woodlands Mall in Woodlands, Texas. Spurred by changes in peak-demand pricing by the local utility provider, this site’s owners were looking for a new energy-efficiency strategy focused on HVAC optimization. Spearheaded by Buildings IOT, a custom peak demand reduction test system using advanced analytics was designed and deployed swiftly. Within three days of deployment, Woodlands Mall experienced a 100 kW energy reduction, and monthly reduction continues to exceed 5000 kW. Via ongoing refinement of the strategy, a 30% additional cost reduction has been achieved compared to the initial rollout.

Woodlands Mall demonstrates the promise of analytics-driven energy management in commercial buildings. By unifying and optimizing not just HVAC and lighting systems but the complete range of energy-relevant asset classes spanning your entire infrastructure, you can create a powerful efficiency strategy and realize an impressive return on investment—without compromising the comfort of the people within your building.

Curious about how much you could save by implementing an energy efficiency project?

Click here to download the Energy Management Project Calculator to estimate project payback and savings.

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