Energy monitoring and management in commercial buildings, while a great idea, isn’t so easy. Or at least it hasn’t been. But now many energy management software platforms are making it easier for building managers to access, understand and use all the data that can be collected from energy management systems — and make their buildings smart buildings. I got a look at several systems and services at the recent Greenbuild Expo in San Francisco, where energy management ease was a big theme.
“The last few years, customers don’t have staff and resources to manage increasingly complex building management systems,” says Laura Farnham, vice president of Building Technologies and Services for Johnson Controls, a giant in building management systems. “They’re asking how to automate that. And now customers finding ways they can tap into that data and use it.”
Johnson Controls Panoptix
Johnson Controls’ Panoptix platform, available as a Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription, is designed to make accessing and using that data a lot easier. It can collect and manage data from disparate building management systems, meters, and the weather—and it offers cloud-based apps that can track carbon and more, some from third parties.
One of those Panoptix apps will be from energy management software company BuildingIQ, which can sit atop a building automation system and collect weather forecasts, occupancy patterns and energy prices in order to optimize HVAC energy. This “Predictive Energy Optimization” creates a model of how the building uses energy and marries that to a forecast plan, and writes commands back into the automation system so the building can run itself,” says BuildingIQ CEO Mike Zimmerman.
Monitoring company Lucid Design Group, whose attractive Building Dashboard has been used in lobbies of dormitories and other buildings so occupants see their energy usage, is coming out with a new BuildingOS that offers building managers trends, features, and deep analytics. The system will be in customer’s hands in beta form in December and is set to launch in January. And if ever there was an online video that made building management look like an action movie trailer, here it is—though it reveals nothing.
Many of these software systems are widget-based, with interfaces that can be somewhat customized, depending on what information is most valued. DGLogik’s DGLux platform, for example, can create dashboards for equipment and safety screens, energy, facilities, retail and data centers, via drag and drop programming. It can talk to any systems in BMS, then drop in widgets for a fully customized dashboard, via graphics files imported from Illustrator.
Schneider Electric StruxureWare
Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare is designed for aggregating data from smart meters and BMS systems with a widget-based dashboard that sits atop of a BMS system, and it features a rate engine that Schneider says covers about 99 percent of utility rate tariffs. The system can be used across multiple buildings to compare usage.
“There’s been a change in thinking from operations to metrics,” says Chris Davis, vice president of Schneider’s Global Strategic Alliances Buildings Business. “People want data because it helps their bottom line, so you have to meter and monitor.”
Schneider also partners with Cisco’s EnergyWise system that enables users to measure devices plugged into it and allows port- and plug-level control. “We’re not just dealing with HVAC and lighting,” says Davis. “Now we have ways to turn those plug loads off. People don’t know you can do something about these things, and a lot of this little stuff adds up.”
Crestron Fusion EM
Control company Crestron is getting into the building automation and energy management fray with its impressive Fusion EM software that can work with its Fusion system and existing building management systems through BACnet protocol. Crestron, which works a lot with audio/video systems, touts its ability to control and automate A/V in conference rooms or classrooms, as well as lighting, monitor energy loads on its network and through other circuits in a building, and enact controls to shut off devices.
You can program the interface for all A/V assets in rooms, see HVAC energy, and use occupancy sensors to shut off projectors and lower the temperature. Meetings can be scheduled and a room’s equipment prepped for a meeting through Outlook. And systems can be retrofitted via Crestron’s wireless Green Light Power Pack.
Real-time energy reporting is great. But how should companies looking to make investments in energy-efficient technologies assess their options? EnergyPoints Analytics software gives businesses and enterprises a way to analyze their energy usage of fuel, water and electricity. It converts all resource use to the energy required to produce a gallon of gasoline, and can compare potential investments in energy efficiency initiatives to see what will have the greatest impact.
Cost savings is not the only thing, EnergyPoints CEO Ory Zik says. But performance is something that needs to be monitored. An EnergyPoints Analytics app is available for Johnson Controls’ Panoptix system.