April 2012

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The Future of Enterprise Energy Management

A holistic approach to merging user-friendly technology with the building and its operation.

Mike Putich
Mike Putich,
Climatec – Building Technologies Group

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At the dawn of the DDC (direct digital controls) building automation revolution in the 1980’s, system manufacturers decided for building owners the who, what, and how of the building operator interface. Limited by available technology, most system displays were no more than text point lists that provided a window to elaborate time clock systems, almost all of which were closed and proprietary. As we moved toward the new millennium, technology encompassing “open protocols”, system standards and something called the “world wide web” started to become more commonplace in the market; giving building owners more choices and transparency into their building operation. The remaining problem, however, was that while the systems were more “open” and accessible via the Internet, in most cases the design of the operator interfaces was still determined by the system manufacturers and limited to their systems as installed. Because no legacy or integration options were available, budgets and education were, and remain limiters to widespread application. It is not unusual to walk into a building engineering office today and see four to six disparate building systems; all running on their own computers and networks, performing related building functions independently, with none of them able to leverage the combined information to run the building efficiently or holistically. It is not uncommon for a commercial building to have separate systems to control the HVAC building automation system (BAS), Tenant Activity (card access, after hour billing system), Lighting Control, Fire & Life Safety, Video surveillance, and Work Order Management.

Today building owners, managers and operators are being asked to improve the performance of their assets by lowering operating costs, improving tenant satisfaction and implementing sustainability efforts while being good stewards of the environment. They are being asked to do this in an economic climate that offers limited, or no access to capital for improvements, and with limited staff and systems capabilities. 

A recent article by Property Magazine indicated that a survey of 2,220 office tenants found “An average of 50 percent of those who have taken the poll said that green building programs are taken seriously when leasing a commercial office building.” The article also shared that “building’s energy and water efficiency or conservation programs are top factors tenants in most polled countries are looking for in green building programs, followed by waste reduction and indoor air quality.” Further, the story pointed out how transparency and ability to communicate your efforts to stakeholders are key to the ability to meet the “new norm,” when addressing the needs of current and future tenants.

There are many options in today’s marketplace to provide building owners with the tools they need in order to meet some of today’s challenges.  Unfortunately, many of these systems only address a specific function or subset of the challenges at hand; leaving it up to the end users to knit various solutions together in order to gain leverage between systems. Trade show attendees today will see many new products proclaiming fresh features, such as “dashboards” and “optimization software.” Many of these software packages do a decent job delivering as advertised, but as with any area of technology, some do better than others.  The greatest challenge with many such solutions is that they are “bolt-on” or “out-of-the-box” applications that provide a limited view-only interface into another system without providing the ability to integrate back through the system to control the issue(s) at hand.

A new product called Axcess-EEM (short for Enterprise Energy Management), converges related subsystems into a scalable, easy-to-use, secure and web-accessible user interface, where users from executives to engineering managers are provided with customized software toolsets tailored for their specific needs.  A key aspect of Axcess-EEM is a holistic approach to merging user-friendly technology with the building and its operation. The customized, scalable interface meets most building application requirements and allows for budget-friendly growth. Implementation of a holistic building technology provides a strong framework for a Continuous Building Performance Improvement Cycle for maintaining efficient building performance over time.

Continuous Building Performance Improvement Cycle is comprised of five key steps:

Five Key Steps

Control (Optimized and Adapted based on Data Intelligence)

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Monitor (Building & Energy Use)

Report (Gather & Present Data)

Analyze (Gathered Data for Patterns)

Detect (Identify Anomalies & Faults)

Advanced Features of the Axcess system offering include:

Customer-focused dashboards can provide relevant KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) useful for everyday tasks. Separate dashboard strategies can be customized and deployed for different users; including executives, energy managers, facility managers, and building engineers. The system can also include a view of facility information catered to tenants, employees or the general public. Typical information viewed at the user interface includes utility usage (electric, water, natural gas, photovoltaic, or wind), performance versus budget, costs / square footage, and energy density. The system may be customized to represent user-specific variables such as customer satisfaction, occupancy, or work order management metrics.  Any metric that includes a date or time stamp and is of value to the user’s businesses can be incorporated into an intuitive and easy to understand view to track and compare success of specific measures and identify cases where improvements are needed.


Further, Axcess-EEM offers an educational / kiosk mode which allows building owners to provide transparency into building sustainability efforts and actual building operating results to their tenants, employees and general public. Kiosks can be set up in lobbies on big-screen monitors, mobile kiosks, personal computers or mobile devices with a touch-screen interface.

Building Automation System
Due to the proliferation of open systems and third party drivers, Axcess-EEM can connect varied systems such as building automation and lighting control systems into a single common graphical interface, allowing access to what were formerly separate systems in a single graphical environment. Further, the system, through integration, provides two-way control of the connected systems. By normalizing system data and providing a standardized graphical interface, users can reduce staff training requirements and provide for a common platform for custom programming of energy management strategies without the need for special software or hardware.

Building Automation System

Fault Detection & Diagnostics
In Fault Detection & Diagnostics (FDD), the system analytics assess how a given system is performing as opposed to a simple alarm condition identifying whether a system is functioning or outside of a preset operating condition (e.g. space is hot or a demand alarm has been exceeded). Such performance-based faults indicate where systems are operating but may be doing so inefficiently, thus contributing to unnecessary consumption and cost. For example, the generation of a fault in a case where a chilled water coil is enabled when cool outside air is available. Typical causes of such a fault include programming errors, a failed outside air damper actuator, or a manual override. Effective analytic software will look at a combination of historical and real-time data (i.e. temperatures, flows, pressures, actuator positions, on/off status, etc.) and analyze the information against industry standards to identify potential faults, as well as possible diagnosis of the root cause. The system can identify, prioritize and monetize faults to allow users to focus their efforts accordingly.

Fault Detection

Tenant After Hour Usage & Sub-Metering
Tenant after hour usage may be one of the most undervalued subsystems in the industry today. Proper management of tenant after hour activity can provide an offset to energy and operating costs, and is often a reliable source of revenue generation beyond the monthly lease revenue. Logical sub metering of specialty tenant systems can control and track use of HVAC and lighting and provide smartphone access and automated billing.

Systems Integration
Accessibility to, and proper representation of data is key to the success of any business intelligence system. Sometimes the data that comes from other related business systems are crucial to a complete understanding how the facility is performing.  In many cases, key data comes from accounting systems, work order management systems, human resources, weather data, or customer service systems. Whether it is a one-time import of data or an ongoing import via secure FTP, business data provides benchmarks and often proves to be the difference in judging how your buildings are performing. It’s all in the data!

 Connect with your mobile devices – anywhere in the world!
Connect with your mobile devices – anywhere in the world!

What is the first step?
The first step is always to understand or develop, in some cases, your company’s corporate commitment to building performance improvement initiatives. Start with a survey of your existing systems, energy performance and capital expansion plans.

Next Steps
As outlined in the Continuous Building Performance Improvement Cycle above, getting access to information in a flexible, user-friendly environment is only one of a series of required steps in the cycle. Success in managing and improving commercial buildings includes analyzing available data and implementing required changes. A constant analysis of and adjustments to the facility is an ongoing process and it should be incorporated into daily operating routines. Enterprise Analytic information should be monitored, reported, analyzed, detected, and controlled on a continuous basis.

Energy Star figures indicate that it is increasingly common to see a 20-30% reduction in energy usage in advanced, intelligent buildings, further the most efficient buildings are currently performing at up to 50% better than conventional properties. The good news for facility owners and operators is that truly integrated analytic software offerings are now available from providers who are well-versed in implementation for all facility types. The time has come for true technical convergence, the future is here!

Forward all inquiries and requests for demonstration to – axcessinfo@climatec.com
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About the Author
With over 20 years of experience in the building automation industry, Mike Putich has proven experience in various roles in the industry. From service sales, construction/retrofit sales, line management and now advanced software technologies, his tenure includes companies such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and Electronic Systems USA (ESUSA); where he gained the knowledge of third party systems integration.  Currently, he is in charge of the design, development and commercialization of cutting-edge technology; the Axcess business for Climatec – Building Technologies Group. He resides in Orange County, California with his wife and two young children.


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