Several years ago I had the opportunity to fly in an F/A-18 Hornet jet with the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron. My seat behind the pilot was a second cockpit with a full set of controls: black engine throttles on my left, a maze of instrumentation in front of me, a control stick between my legs, and a big handle on my right labeled EJECT. I had been given all the information that I would need by the Blue Angels’ support team during flight orientation: “Please do not touch any of the controls.” The exception was that seat EJECT handle, which I was to pull if ordered by the pilot.
Last week I was reminded of the plane’s cockpit while watching a presentation on energy dashboards at a Honeywell Building Control Systems conference. These dashboards can display a range of functions and building information in a way that evokes the idea of driving or flying a building. Video game creators are lending their expertise to the design of the displays so that users are not overwhelmed or distracted by the information. Instead they see only the actionable data for their needs.
For example, the key performance indicators for a plant engineer might involve HVAC fault detection. In that case, algorithms for monitoring various pressure, temperature and flow sensors sound alarms if preset signs of malfunction are detected. An energy manager might rely on the dashboard as a tool for analytics. In that case, the display highlights discrepancies between baseline and actual energy data and helps to pinpoint areas that might benefit from an efficiency upgrade. For building occupants, a dashboard display on a lobby kiosk need only be informative and designed to show how their behavior affects efficiency.
For building owners, the dashboards make energy a tangible commodity by providing feedback on consumption. Like the real-time gas consumption display on the Toyota Prius, which encourages efficiency in the so-called “Prius effect,” energy dashboards put building owners in the cockpit for controlling energy consumption.