Building automation systems can draw data from so many sources that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities for analysis.
Luckily, as your analytic ambitions expand, this versatile technology can follow suit. Hone your data-driven goals with these tips.
1) Start Small
Energy is the most common data stream to track, with HVAC and submetering increasingly dominating sources of energy data, says David Clark, vice president of Panoptix and Advantage for Johnson Controls. Panoptix is a building efficiency management system (BEMS), a separate engine for analysis and reporting that draws data from the BAS and additional metering systems. Some products package the BEMS and BAS together.
“The BAS is most commonly tied to all of the energy-consuming pieces of equipment in the building, and 60% of that is heating and cooling equipment,” Clark explains. “The metering system holistically looks at the building in terms of energy usage and gets behind lighting systems and plug loads.”
Examine building system components to see if any are using more energy than expected, recommends Ben Dorsey, senior vice president of marketing and communications for BAS developer KMC Controls.
“When facilities managers analyze energy data, they typically want to know how time is related to the building’s energy usage, as well as whether they can account for those trends based on things like occupancy and weather,” says Dorsey. “They’re looking at energy in relation to time, whether that’s time of day, time of week, or season of the year, as well as the big users of energy within their buildings.”
2) Build Bigger
Once you have a handle on energy itself, consider measuring other factors that impact energy consumption to get a more complete picture of how your building is functioning. Occupancy is a logical next step, recommends Dorsey.
“Occupancy is related to so many other factors. People want to know how many folks are in the building and when they’re there, which has a great bearing on things like air quality,” Dorsey explains. “As you see the data that’s available, you can gather occupancy information and make decisions about the building’s usage.”
From there, you can springboard to tying in carbon dioxide sensors and ventilation controls that measure the impact of increased occupancy, Dorsey continues.
“More people expel more carbon dioxide, which you have to account for,” says Dorsey. “What are you doing in terms of bringing outside air into the facility to remediate CO2?”
3) Visualize Trends
Will anyone besides your facilities department look at the data your BAS is gathering? The intended audience influences your needs for data visualization – the user-friendly charts and graphs that help viewers interpret the raw data coming from meters and sensors.
To find the best solution, you need to know what will happen to the data after it’s harvested. Are you looking for a system that only your FM team will use, or are you going to showcase your analysis (and potential savings) on a public display to bring building occupants on board with your energy-cutting goals?
“A BEMS is one part analytical engine and one part large data storage. Typically, they include some type of data normalization that lets them take data from many different buildings and compare it as if it’s similar,” says Clark. “These systems also have the ability to paint webpages or have some other type of user interface that presents information back to the building operator or owner.”
4) Target Problem Behavior
Have you reviewed the scheduling rules in your BAS since you created them? The timers attached to temperature management and automatic lighting shutoff after closing time, for example, may have been changed by a well-meaning occupant unbeknownst to you.
Those seemingly minor changes can wreak havoc on your plans for energy savings.
“The whole purpose of an automation system is to optimize scheduling. When someone manually changes things, you’re not getting the most efficient use of the equipment,” Dorsey explains. “Every once in a while, have the service contractor come in, look at the system, and make sure everything is in order.”
Janelle Penny email@example.com is associate editor of BUILDINGS.