May 2010

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The Integration Barrier to Smart Energy

These specifications will move the markets in energy management systems into improved interfaces, for users, for enterprises, and for energy marketers.

Toby Considine
Toby Considine

The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor

We do not have a problem of knowing what to do to make buildings participants in smart energy. We do not have a problem that the technology is too expensive. We do have a problem that it takes too long to integrate systems. High integration costs lead to vendor lock-in. High integration costs lead to long sales cycles for replacements and upgrades. High integration costs will continue to slow the adoption of distributed energy resources. High integration costs lead to islands of automation, unable to participate in smart energy and demand response.

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In design and in construction, todayís best practice is to use a BIM (Building Information Model) to deliver better buildings on-time and under budget. BIM trades higher design costs for much lower construction costs and reduced risk. We use BIM to generate energy models, essential to green certifications for buildings. Until recently, BIM hasnít had much to do with the operations of a building, or with systems inside a building. This month, I am writing about how this is starting to change.

In traditional CAD, we have used libraries of templates supplied by product vendors for years. Suppliers of plumbing and lighting equipment have wanted it to be easy to design with their products, and they have wanted their products to look good in design renderings. Specifiers Property information exchange (SPie) is a project that encourages this approach applied to the more detailed requirements of BIM. SPie objects are cross-referenced with Omniclass and can include hookup and connection information. The National Electrical Manufacturing Association (NEMA) and is one of the associations participating. SPie brings the things we install in buildings into BIM.

Two technologies dominate the generation of building energy models. GBXML has wide support not only in energy modeling, but also in the design of HVAC and control systems. Information built on GBXML has had no path pack into BIM. EnergyPlus is purported to generate more accurate energy models, and has a well-defined model view for re-entry into BIM. ENERGie, (the ie is again for information exchange) is an effort to merge the two to provide a single model coordinating system design with building design and supporting full system detail. It is likely that ENERGie will soon be required for General Service Administration (GSA) and Department of Defense (DOD ) work. GSA and DOD are the two biggest landlords in North America, so their wants can drive the industry.

In information technology, we again and again see the technology we develop for the most advanced systems flowing down through normal business and all the way to the consumer. ISO 15926 is an information framework developed to express the relations between systems and components in the largest chemical processing plants. Today, ISO 15926 being adapted for a variety of tasks, from the esoteric mapping between ontologies to the automated mapping between form and function to operate smaller systems. ELie is a project to hand over the Equipment Layout in buildings to the owner by mapping from BIM to ISO 15926. ELie connects a static design to a runnable model.

contemporary Management of live electrical load in buildings is the largest challenge in smart energy. Plug load is almost unknowable in any automatic way. It will be some time before smart energy-communicating systems will outnumber legacy dumb-load equipment. Smart electrical panels that expose energy use per circuit have not found wide use; they follow no standards, and it is unclear what space they support. PLie standardizes the description of Panel Layout and brings it into the BIM of electrical wiring. PLie can provide automate the mapping of building wiring into the spaces and equipment it supports.

The EIS Alliance is developing models to support autonomous load management and shaping in buildings. One of their concepts is that the buildings electrical meter should be an information appliance for the building EMS. New building equipment and appliances could support the same interface to report their own energy use. Web services (WS) aware electrical panels could use the same interface to standardize their load reporting. Combining this interface and PLie brings the buildings dumb load under management with minimal integration.

Everything above is talking about plans and designs. New systems present ongoing integration costs. WS-DD and WS-DP are new standards to enable the automatic discovery of systems. These standards enhance the value of the energy information appliances by describing what each meter is tracking.

This laundry list of energy-related specifications are the answer to high integration costs and provide a path to sustained re-integration of systems. The flow of information through Model Views into smart energy is the key to continued understanding of building performance. These specifications will move the markets in energy management systems into improved interfaces, for users, for enterprises, and for energy marketers.


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