February 2008

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The Energy Revolution is here!
Let’s understand something: The Energy Revolution is happening around us, it is starting right now, not by this author, not by Al Gore, not by environmentalists, but by the realities of the changing energy paradigm.

Anto Budiardjo
President & CEO,
Clasma Events Inc.

Contributing Editor

The closing days of 2007 is telling for the outlook for 2008. Here are the highlights: $100 oil is nearly upon us; a new Energy Bill is passed by congress; Al Gore wins the Nobel prize (and an Oscar); the Climate Change conference in Bali made significant progress; $2 billion is invested in clean energy start-ups; China becomes the number one contributor of GHG (Greenhouse Gases); LEED dominates new buildings; and two demand response companies go public reminiscent of dot-com days.

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None of these facts are trivial; any one of them is major, but taken in combination they are spelling a very significant shift in how we think about energy in the U.S. and throughout the world.

This is no 1970s or 1980s oil shortage that came and went. The impact of these trends is now or will soon affect every person on earth, every country, every city, every business, and thus, everything we do. This is a change that no person alive has ever seen and one that will require some effort from every one of us.

Imagine the world during the life of Charles Dickens, the world before electricity. Homes and industry were heated by open coal fire, lit by candles, cooking was done by wood fires, and the streets were lit by those gas lamps one only sees in old movies and museums. That age was replaced by the 20th century world of electricity, the birth of the incandescent lightbulbs, mass production factories, and the internal combustion engine—the world that most of us now live. This change, seen towards the latter part of the 19th century, was significant and created the modern world in which we now live, based principally on fossil fuels.

We know now that fossil fuel is extremely harmful to our world, partly because it is a finite resource and seems to be found in hostile parts of the world, and partly (or more importantly) because it has proven beyond any doubt that fossil-based energy is causing climate change that will, if not successfully handled, cause unimaginable damage to the earth and thus, to us humans.

As significant a change that occurred in the 19th century will occur in the next few decades as the world starts to turn from fossil-based energy to a renewable, non-fossil based energy and economy. In a few decades, the world will be as unfamiliar to us today as the automobile would have been to habitants of Dickensian London.

This change is not going to happen overnight, but there is no doubt that it is starting right now, arguably last year in 2007 with the events outlined at the beginning of this paper.

So what!

Let’s understand something: The Energy Revolution is happening around us, it is starting right now, not by this author, not by Al Gore, not by environmentalists, but by the realities of the changing energy paradigm.

Walking around the AHR Expo in New York and talking with many building automation experts, when the word “energy” was mentioned there was often a “so what!” response. Comments such as “building owners aren’t asking for it”, or “energy cost is still very small”, or “not critical to a project’s success”.

These comments have an undercurrent that building automation does not have any relevance to climate change, a sentiment that this is mainly about oil, gas prices, maybe an issue for utilities and automobile manufacturers, future hydrogen research, and so on.

Let’s get another thing clear: Buildings matter in this equation - they matter a great deal!

Buildings (commercial and residential) contribute more GHG than transportation and industrial sectors. Buildings are one of the greatest sectors where a change from fossil to non-fossil fuel will unfold, although in buildings it’s not as obvious since buildings don’t have a gas tank that we have to fill with gasoline!

Contributing to GHG, buildings use significant amounts of energy, most of that for lighting, heating and cooling. Any cursory review of almost any standing building will find significant ways to reduce energy usage by at least 20 percent, and a deeper analysis of many buildings will produce savings far in excess of that.

With decades of focus on comfort, building systems today have become very inefficient. Of course the low cost of energy in the U.S. hasn’t helped this, but that will soon change, the writing is on the wall.

New approaches to building design and construction will help strengthen this view. Architects and a new pedigree of energy consultants are looking at the construction of new buildings, led in many cases by LEED and increasingly by C-level (CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.) mandates for corporations to be green and sustainable. The glass facade buildings of the 80s and 90s will be history, replaced with carefully designed smart facades situated to maximize sunlight, air movement for natural ventilation, and light to reduce the need for artificial heating, cooling or lighting.

The addition of onsite generation from solar, wind and other renewable sources will create electricity and heat that can be used by the building, can be exported to the grid, or stored using batteries or other energy storage technologies such as precooling of the building itself, ice storage, etc.

Lighting systems in the future will be dramatically different. The age of the solid state light is nearly upon us. Low voltage and vastly more efficient LED luminares will become commonplace in years to come, providing new ways to light indoor spaces with an incredible amount of granular control and energy efficiencies, not possible with current lighting technologies.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] So, how does automation help?

Let’s admit it, when most people think about buildings, they think of the physical attributes of the building—the location, structure, materials, image, experience, and other aspects that we see or feel with our human senses. Ever since building services —from HVAC, security, lighting and others—came to be, the “smarts” that control them are often invisible, typically a back-office function that occupants seldom think about unless something goes wrong!

If you are reading this, then you have some understanding that the complex systems that operate behind the scenes of buildings are of significant importance, and in the past few years we have come to appreciate the value of integrating these systems to gain some benefit in the form of cost and features.

Many would think that green buildings are some form of “return to nature”, and that they will be simpler structures that require less mechanical systems and technologies than what we are used to. The truth is in fact the reverse; technology of various types will be critical to design, build and operate green buildings of the future.

Think of green buildings of the future as living-breathing entities, where their behavior at any given moment will vary on infinite dimensions based on current occupants, the desires and objectives of the building owner, weather and climate (at that moment and predictably in the future) as well as other outside influences such as price and energy availability. For a building to be truly green and continue to satisfy the building’s objectives without compromise, the building system has to constantly adjust itself – without constant human interjection.

Green buildings will have many more sensors so the systems that manage the building can decide how to behave at any given moment. These sensors include obvious ones such as temperature, humidity, pressure, gasses, occupancy, and so on, and they could and should become very numerous in buildings. With the lower cost of these sensors coupled with the connectivity and data collection, storage and analysis capabilities, there is no reason why many more of these sensors should not occupy buildings – imagine a sensor every 20 feet along a corridor, or sensors at every corner of a room rather than one single sensor. With the right kinds of analysis, multiple sensors can provide a better picture of the flow and state for every corner of a building.

There are other sensors we should also consider outside of the building. These include air temperature, weather data, cloud cover (now and predicted), and should also include information that track energy prices and corporate enterprise information (sensing the needs of the building owner). There are also other state sensors that should keep track of all aspects of building components, such as status of windows and blinds, images from CCTV cameras that can provide information on where people are, and links to RFID and other location and asset tracking systems.

All of these “sensors” are inputs of the future green buildings. As we know, the primary job of automation is to gather as much input as necessary, perform analysis, make decisions and take action.

On the output side of action, there will be more devices to influence than ever before. Not only fans, dampers, valves, lights and other traditional devices, but also blinds to regulate lighting, windows to provide natural ventilation, lighting devices at the smallest level of granularity, energy storage devices, new types of user interface systems such as digital displays, as well as adjusting corporate behaviors and expectations based on how buildings operate.

Only when all of these systems (and no doubt many more unimaginable today) are working in coordination can we begin to manage a green building that will operate and provide the most effective use of energy while ensuring occupant comfort, security, and building owner’s objectives.

Connectivity and the Energy Revolution

It will be clear in the examples above that in order for buildings to operate in this energy-efficient manner and achieve the vision of a new energy paradigm, all disparate systems need to be connected via some form of interoperability so they can work together.

We now realize that standards are critical for growth of industries, many standards exists in the disparate array of disciplines involved with buildings and energy and the temptation is to try and coalesce to a single standard. The reality is that multiple standards will be required simply because the vision can only be realized if multiple industries work together to ensure that their systems and standards can be linked to interoperate and facilitate the creation of green, energy-efficient buildings.

The building automation industry has to look beyond its traditional borders if it wants to contribute to this vision. This vision is no longer about building automation in terms of HVAC controls, lighting or even security, this is a broader vision that is an imperative for all buildings industries to understand and adopt with urgency.

Empowering the Energy Revolution

BuilConn 2008, held as part of ConnectivityWeek in Santa Clara, May 20-22, is an incredible opportunity for the building industry to get a view of what needs to be done, and the opportunities that the Energy revolution will open up to businesses.

While the core content and objectives of BuilConn remains the constant—connectivity within buildings—the broader subjects covered at ConnectivityWeek will provide insights on the future of the Energy Revolution and how it is likely to pan out. Subjects range from smart grid to demand response and specific technologies such as smart meters, wireless and adjacent, and relevant subjects such as home and industrial facilities.

The Energy Revolution is upon us with huge changes to come for our world, lives and businesses.

Want to hear more of Anto thoughts about Home Connectivity and Green Energy?

Renewable energy will be a significant component of our future energy picture -- distributed generation from PVs to wind turbines and storage systems for electricity and cooling. These systems will increasingly be installed in our homes, together with smart electricity meters. While these can provide useful functions on their own, their true potential will only be realized when all of these devices are connected with each other along with other devices and appliances such as white goods and lifestyle, security and entertainment systems.

Check out this article http://www.hometoys.com/ezine/08.02/clasma/homeconn.htm


For more information on BuilConn visit www.builconn.com or contact anto@clasma.com


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