How Can Public Sector Buildings Improve Energy Efficiency?
During the summer of 2020, the United Kingdom’s government responded to substantial pressure from...
Building management systems (BMS) usage is rising between 15% and 34% annually. As the American Society for Industrial Security notes, this extraordinary growth is driven by “the demand for energy and operational efficiency and sustainability, increasing government regulation, and greater monitoring, control and operability.”
But while building management systems play an important role in improving efficiency and overall operations, a BMS alone is not enough. In practice, a BMS may overload you with data that creates new complications rather than greater visibility into your systems, making it difficult to optimize the performance of high-consumption equipment—like HVAC in commercial buildings.
To ensure your HVAC system is as efficient as possible, you need a comprehensive solution that pairs your BMS with advanced analytics to create a truly smart system.
HVAC in commercial buildings is a major source of energy use and utility costs. In fact, it typically uses more energy than any other system. It can also be a major source of maintenance headaches and occupant complaints.
Smart technologies can change that, and it begins with integration.
Using a powerful integration engine, like IOT Jetstream, a master system integrator (MSI) can unify all building systems. This doesn’t just apply to new construction; an MSI who specializes in open protocols and API connectivity can ensure successful integration of legacy systems along with cutting-edge IoT sensors and devices. An analytics layer is then added to give you deep visibility, new automation opportunities, centralized control, and better energy management capabilities.
A standard building management system can share the basics about connected equipment, but it can be cumbersome to create automated reports dedicated to specific systems, and smaller IoT devices or sensors are not integrated through a BMS. Furthermore, a BMS doesn’t have the ability to perform advanced analysis. For that, you’ll need to extend your BMS with an analytics system. to optimize HVAC in commercial buildings.
An analytics platform continuously collects, organizes, and prioritizes data from all connected systems, equipment, sensors, and devices. This continuous monitoring allows you to see what is happening in your building at all times. It also means that anomalies affecting your HVAC system, including unexpected changes in energy use, are detected as soon as possible. An advanced platform, like onPoint, will offer intelligent fault detection and diagnostics capabilities to identify the root causes of problems, prioritize alerts to avoid alarm overload, and recommend solutions to address issues. With a mobile-first interface, troubleshooting can even be performed in the field directly from the user interface.
These features can streamline maintenance and ensure that problems are resolved rapidly, often before malfunctions affect occupants, critical equipment requires costly repairs, or undetected underperformance increases energy bills. They can also help you look at the big picture and consider where changes need to be made in the long term.
In an integrated system, however, HVAC systems don’t operate in isolation. Rather, they can become part of a cohesive smart system that offers new ways to improve efficiency through automation.
Some form of automation is a standard part of virtually any HVAC system; at 8 A.M., the air conditioning starts up, in December the heat turns on. But analytics and IoT technologies provide new and better ways to automate HVAC functions.
In a smart system, HVAC settings can be adjusted automatically according to variables like occupancy and air quality. And when an analytics platform has machine learning capabilities, it can refine automation as it gains a greater understanding of your building and occupant behavior. This means you’re not relying on what a facilities manager, maintenance team, or occupant thinks the building needs, but on the actual conditions and patterns happening inside the building.
For example, air conditioning can be turned up in a room in anticipation of a weekly meeting or when occupancy sensors detect it’s filling up rather than cooling unoccupied spaces just because it’s 8 A.M. The heat can turn on depending on outside temperatures rather than the fact that it’s December, ensuring that energy is used when it’s needed—and only when it’s needed. Likewise, ventilation can increase when air quality falls below a certain threshold to ensure occupant safety, but it doesn’t have to be prioritized in spaces where air quality is already high or in rooms that will remain empty.
This type of smart automation allows HVAC in commercial buildings to be used as efficiently as possible while enhancing the occupant experience by attending to their needs preemptively and in real time.
MSI services are invaluable for deploying an integrated, analytics-driven building management system. An expert team can assess your needs and create pragmatic solutions in accordance with your operational goals using the best technologies available.
However, it isn’t just about designing and deploying technology. Optimizing HVAC systems and overall operations changes the way facilities function on a daily basis and transforms the roles of facilities managers, maintenance staff, and others. Thoughtful change management can allow all stakeholders to benefit from an integrated approach in the best way possible. This includes helping owners and operators navigate their options and providing software training to ensure correct, secure operations.
HVAC in commercial buildings is a major determinant in overall building efficiency, operational costs, safety, and comfort. With the right partner and the right approach, you can realize meaningful performance improvements and provide better experiences for occupants.
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.