April 2008

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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We need a better way to upgrade, enhance, and control what we have. Facility managers need a plan, a partner, and an incentive.

 Ron Bernstein
Ron Bernstein,
Executive Director,
LonMark International

As published LonMark Magazine
Q2 2008

Total Facility Control – is this a concept or a reality? Depending upon whom you talk to, you’ll get different answers. The industry is certainly moving away from isolated system control towards more integrated solutions, but “Total Facility Control” seems like a stretch.

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First, a definition: Total Facility Control is the ability to visualize, control, report, and access ALL aspects of a facility from a single user interface including energy, HVAC, indoor and outdoor lighting, signage (for gas stations, emergency exits), power systems, environmental conditions, process control applications, security, access, water, gas, electricity, irrigation, air quality, ambient sound, and much more. It can even extend further to other systems, not necessarily typically associated with a “building”, including wastewater, street lighting, cogeneration plants, weather stations, and asset tracking, for example. Utilities and Demand Response programs extend even further down into the home, where energy consuming appliances and devices are considered part of a total system.

Increasingly companies have been evaluating their total facility energy footprint and have found that it interrelates to just about every aspect of an organization. From small to large operations, the issues and desires are the same – the need to see more information, use a common infrastructure, and leverage the lowest level of information available. There is a need for a common mechanism to visualize, quantify, and disseminate information in a cost effective way.

Energy policies around the world are mandating better control and greater monitoring coupled with significant incentives to reduce, recycle, and reuse – the mantra of the Green Movement. In the facility world energy savings translate to reducing usage, shifting loads, and redirecting resources. Every policy or incentive starts by creating a simple baseline – What are you doing now? – then evaluating areas for improvement. Unfortunately, most organizations have little understanding of their usage as they have no view into their total facility. Each system, process, or environment is completely isolated with no standards for transposing information from one system to another. Invariably, there is some element of proprietary systems installed and the engineering costs to integrate the various systems are unjustifiable. Hence, coming up with a Return on Investment model is difficult, inaccurate, and often creates a roadblock for investment approvals.

Justifying an energy efficiency program for just one element of a facility becomes a very difficult sell, but considering multiple systems and the potential energy savings and cost reductions, significantly helps the ROI justification. But what entity will do the “energy audit” and provide a justification and guarantee?

Enter the need for more Total Facility Control Engineers or what we’ve been talking about for several years – the Master Systems Integrator. A controls company, IT company, and user interface company rolled into one; someone who understands system architecture, design, and all of the subsystems that are involved in a total facility. This entity becomes a partner and an advocate for the owner and helps work with all of the subsystem vendors and installers to ensure the standards are developed and adhered to in order to take full advantage of the total facility integration opportunities.

At a recent meeting in New York City, a collection of industry experts met to discuss the relationship between the utility (energy suppliers) and buildings (energy consumers). One statistic that was presented was the percentage of energy that buildings use compared to the total energy consumed for the United States. The number was surprising – buildings account for 67% of the total US energy consumption. Yet the numbers of facilities that are implementing energy conservation measures are minimal – estimates are that less than 1% of all facilities have a working plan in place.

LEED certified buildings and other similar programs are a great approach towards raising awareness of the need for better design. Unfortunately, the vast majority of LEED projects are for new construction. What happens to all the existing facilities that are in desperate need of energy plans? Not much. According to sources at the New York B2G meeting, over 98% of the projects applying for LEED are new construction.

LONMARK recently hosted a full day of educational programs at AHR Expo. Close to 300 people participated in the sessions. We also concluded our 52 city worldwide LONMARK Sessions program, which had over 4000 people registered. These seminars focused on topics relevant to energy, open systems, and Total Facility Control. We have many more educational programs scheduled this year around the world. In this issue of the magazine, we focus on street lighting as a new area of LON open system solutions. Street lighting is a great opportunity for networked intelligent control with a market ripe for a solid energy strategy.

We need a better way to upgrade, enhance, and control what we have. Facility managers need a plan, a partner, and an incentive. This won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. The pressure is on to think bigger, to leverage, and to conserve. Please join in our efforts to help educate and develop the technologies and standards that will generate greater adoption of energy efficient control systems. We at LONMARK are doing our part. Are you doing yours?


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