We’re sure you’ve recently heard a lot about how now is the right time to invest in a plethora of technological solutions. The pandemic brought great awareness of cloud infrastructure, added cybersecurity, collaboration software, and employee monitoring. But we have one more category to suggest IT directors, CIOs, and building managers should start looking into: office building energy management.
Don’t roll your eyes — yes, this is another thing to consider, but hear us out.
By investing in commercial building energy management systems right now, managers can lock in savings for years to come, says Amy Jiron, the acting Commercial Buildings Integration program manager in the US Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.
“As building technologies become increasingly connected through the Internet of Things, IT & building managers will need to work hand-in-hand to ensure buildings and technologies are performing as intended,” Jiron says.
“Energy audits and energy ‘treasure hunts,’ whether performed internally or by hiring a third party, can provide valuable insights for cost-effective energy reduction measures.”
Jiron says properly maintained and operated buildings produce considerable building energy and performance benefits.
Recent data reported from DOE’s Smart Energy Analytics Campaign shows that doing this in concert with energy management and information systems produces whole-building energy and cost reductions that pay off in less than two years—and can even help facility managers with COVID mitigation by improving their understanding of indoor environmental quality.
Investing in energy management in office buildings as an IT org
According to Justin McCullough, Chief Product Officer, FSG Smart Buildings, your biggest energy savings are going to come from your HVAC schedules, lighting, and critical energy hogs such as refrigeration, compressors, etc.
“Facilities that go from no controls to implementing an energy management system (EMS) or Building Automation System (BAS) will often see a dramatic savings of 15 – 30%.”
McCullough says one of the simplest ways to implement an energy savings strategy is to implement a controls system for scheduling your HVAC system cooling, heating, and fan usage when not occupied.
Similarly, you can use simple controls to turn lights of when unoccupied or add a controls system for basic lighting control.
You could opt for a completely independent connectivity solution such as a Cradlepoint LTE device that never connects to the corporate network — an aspect IT tends to favor.
The other solution is to have an IoT network and VPN solution for securing corporate network infrastructure for the energy management devices.
Many of these systems have advanced features, data collection, sophisticated reporting and even AI or Machine Learning offerings.
“You could think of these as Cadillac’s with all the bells and whistles,” McCullough says.
“On the other end of the spectrum are less costly solutions that do most of the high-impact functionality. So if you want energy savings, seek the solution that can bring the greatest ROI in least amount of time – rather than feature shopping and being top-end if you don’t have clear needs for those advanced features.”
More information and some implementation models are available on the Better Buildings Initiative website.
Additional energy-saving tips from the US Department of Energy:
- Bi‐level switching. This allows you to turn off half of the lights in a room off when full illumination is not required.
- Occupancy sensors. Sensors detect the motion of room occupants, turning off lights in unoccupied areas and turning them back on when movement is detected.
- Daylight sensors. Leaving exterior lights on during the day wastes energy and money. This problem can be prevented by installing daylight sensors that turn the lights on and off automatically.
“In terms of approaching integrators, we have found that the ideal approach is to try and single source the solution, installation, 24/7 monitoring, and ongoing support,” McCullough says.
“This typically provides the best service and pricing while providing accountability and buying power.”
The conversation often starts with selecting either a Lighting Control System or an Energy Management System. But companies like McCullough’s FSG Smart Buildings will look at it holistically with lighting, HVAC and monitoring as a single optimized solution.
Other resources include the US Department of Energy’s technology specification and procurement guidance that can be tailored to each owner’s requirements for technology features and capabilities, data integration, and maintenance support.
The DOE recommends building managers that lease their office space should consider adding green provisions into their commercial leases to ensure incentives are captured by both the owners and tenants of buildings.