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Take Control Of Building Operations Using Analytics

Take Control Of Building Operations Using Analytics

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, March 28, 2017

Building automation systems generate vast amounts of data about how building systems perform. Taking all of that data and making it useful can be a challenge, but using analytics can avoid potential problems, reduce costs, and increase performance. A free ASHRAE webcast, “Take Control: Using Analytics to Drive Building Performance,” delved into the benefits of analytics. The presenters discussed some of the aspects of analytics that they will explore in the webcast.

Why have analytics become so crucial to building performance?

Based on available information, many buildings consume up to 30% excess energy (beyond their original design expectation). Recently, many states and cities have passed benchmarking, disclosure, and “tune-up” mandates as part of their climate action plans. Therefore, many building owners are being compelled to make their buildings more energy efficient. Existing building improvements have traditionally been performed through existingbuilding commissioning, which is perceived by many as costly and not ensuring persistence of energy savings over time. Real-time or near real-time building analytics can solve both of these issues by lowering the cost and continuously maintaining the building systems at peak efficiency.

Another impetus for building analytics is the ease of access to “raw” data from the existing building automation systems and other data sources. Building analytics can also alleviate potential problems by integrating advanced energy systems such as photovoltaic, battery and thermal storage, electric vehicles, and other advanced building technologies. Building analytics (properly configured) can reduce energy consumption while improving occupant comfort.

When using analytics to drive building performance, what is the most difficult barrier to overcome?

Because analytics by nature requires access to data that can be converted to actionable information, not having easy access to data has been the most common barrier. Once the data access issues are solved, the next barrier to overcome is validation of data (e.g., how frequently should the data be collected, how to validate the sensor reading, what data should be collected). Finally, there is a need for validated algorithms that can be used to detect and diagnose operational problems or identify energy savings opportunities. Because it is unlikely that individual building owners are going to perform building analytics on their own, they will likely rely on third-party energy service providers who will need remote access to their building automation systems. This requires adherence to cybersecurity best practices, so the building’s IT network and infrastructure is not compromised.

Finally, analytics as it is deployed today can only identify opportunities. Unless these opportunities are acted upon, savings will not be realized. This requires building owners and building operators to be more proactive in implementing the identified corrective actions.

What role does commissioning play in controls strategies and analytics?

Building owners generally rely on existing building commissioners to validate the control strategies and to improve building performance. This approach is generally a one-time effort that requires periodic revisits to ensure the persistence of efficient and optimized building operations. Recently, existing building commissioning agents and energy services providers have come to rely heavily on building analytics to improve building operations. The buildinganalytics process can be viewed as a “continuous” commissioning process, which ensures persistence of efficient and optimized building operations.

The webcast, “Take Control: Using Analytics to Drive Building Performance,” was held in April 2017. Its presenters were Mark Gallagher, Associate Member ASHRAE, Srinivas Katipamula, Ph.D., Fellow ASHRAE, FASME, and Jim Meacham, P.E., Member ASHRAE. Opening remarks are by ASHRAE President Timothy G. Wentz, P.E., HBDP, Fellow ASHRAE.