Harnessing Energy Efficiency in “Intelligent Buildings”

Viewing lighting and HVAC controls under the same lens leads to advances in building automation systems.

Credit: LutronAutomated window shades are coordinated with lighting controls.

Credit: Lutron
Automated window shades are coordinated with lighting controls.

Concluding this series on energy efficiency and building automation systems, author Ed Ritchie discusses evaluating multiple systems’ performance and BACnet controls’ interoperability—the capacity and function of advanced controls to simultaneously analyze multiple building systems.

Furthermore, Ritchie cites company examples where that information is utilized in daily operations to make informed end expeditious energy management decisions. Through data analytics, systems integration and multifaceted energy management approaches, facility managers of commercial buildings can harness energy efficiency gains and cohesively manage multiple energy systems in an effort to reduce power consumption through optimized energy solutions.

A New Era of Energy Efficiency (Part 5) By Ed Ritchie

BACnet protocol allows HVAC control, lighting control, access control, fire detection systems, and other associated equipment to all speak the same language.

With so much data available from meters and other devices such as lighting and HVAC controls, the opportunity for data analytics is growing, says Brent Protzman, a lead architectural engineer in Energy Solutions at Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, PA. “We’re talking about the collection of data as intelligence, but there’s so much data and a lot more that needs to be done in managing it optimally for the long-term,” he explains. “At Lutron we’ve been collecting lighting controls data for years, but until now building managers generally weren’t that interested in seeing this data, in part because there wasn’t the ability to see multiple systems simultaneously without being overwhelmed by the information.”

When managers can see the data in a comprehensible format, the efficiency gains are impressive. “In the lighting world, we have automated window shades that can let light in which reduces the power needed for lighting,” says Protzman, “and with the right intelligence, instead of separately optimizing HVAC at the plant and separately optimizing the lighting with daylight harvesting and personal control, it should be done all together.”

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Along the lines of BACnet and interoperability, Protzman notes that it’s important to consider ongoing performance and how the systems integrate to each other, along with the fact that these are not static technologies.

“Lighting is usually considered as secondary to the HVAC system in terms of advanced technology,” he says, “but now we’re understanding that by bringing the other systems into an overall encompassing energy and operational management system, we’re going to start to see some useful, intelligent buildings as we move forward. However, things are always changing and the technology must be designed to be easy to use, because the turnover in facility management is very high. The new management comes in and doesn’t know what to do, because certain systems have been disabled or sensors aren’t working.”

The advances in LED lighting technology will contribute to both energy efficiency and simplified BAS controls, according to Scott Roos, Vice President of Product Design for Juno Lighting Group, Des Plaines, IL. “This technology has just scratched the surface in terms of its evolution,” says Roos. “We went through a phase where there were very large gains in the efficiency of the LED light source and also in terms of the quality of light, and in general, we see that the LED source is getting more efficient and the light-emitting surface of the source is getting, in some cases, smaller. The smaller the light-emitting surface, the better opportunity to precisely control and distribute the light what you want.”

Roos notes that controls are advancing to a new field of lighting that’s called “human centric lighting.”

“If you go back to 2002, there was a whole new set of photoreceptors discovered in the eye that we didn’t know about before,” he says. “These have nothing to do with vision and everything to do with regulating our circadian system in our body, and this is based on how lighting makes us feel rather than just how it looks. So far, there’s been enough research to start documenting certain things like exposure to bluish lighting at night and how that can negatively impact your sleep cycle. Also, [there are] links to cancer and breast cancer for shift workers, such as nurses working the night shift. Then [there is] depression of the immune system, anxiety, and all sorts of problems that we’re just beginning to understand. So the ability to have a light fixture that can control the light and change during different times of day will impact our health and well-being.”

With benefits to health and well-being, plus energy savings and efficiency, the BAS industry looks poised to make a substantial impact beyond the simple task of reducing energy consumption. And the role of the BACnet standard is obvious to BACnet’s McMillan. “It speaks to a larger issue, which is the growing importance of information and information infrastructure in the building automation world,” says McMillan. “In the past, building automation was about control, and information was a side issue. But now it’s migrating rapidly to the point where building automation is about information and control is a necessary tool of that process.” BE_bug_web

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