Expert Insight - Frank Caul

Continuous Building Performance Monitoring for Energy Efficiency

The Challenge

The importance of buildings in the national energy mix is well documented. Buildings make up approximately 30% of total energy consumption, and some sources say that operational efficiency of buildings can be as low as 50%. In general, we are constructing more sustainable buildings; the integration of renewables and the selective use of standards such as LEED, BREEAM, WELL and Soft Landings help significantly.

However many buildings operate very inefficiently with poor comfort performance, high maintenance and energy costs. The following factors are typical barriers to improved building performance:

1) Building Manager Skills Sets
If the persons making the day-to-day building operating decisions does not have the time availability, skills or expertise to effectively identify opportunities and implement energy efficient measures then we will continue to have poorly performing buildings.

2) Commercial Pressures
The construction tendering process is designed to deliver value, but only in the construction phase, the lifetime value of the asset gets little to no consideration. As a result our construction model does not allow for proper indepth functionality testing and building commissioning. “Value engineering” during the design and construction stage also strips critical components and data collection devices from the BMS, resulting is a system that cannot reach its full design intent.

3) BMS Functionality
The role of Building Managements Systems is ever increasing, as we introduce more complex and higher functioning building systems in lighting, security, access, fire and HVAC. However, the lack of standards and regulations in the design, configuration and delivery of BMS means that installed systems can have huge variances in quality, functionality and interoperability.

4) Mechanical Faults
HVAC systems are known for being inefficient and sources of energy waste. However, the dynamic nature of their operation means issues that impact energy performance can go undetected for long periods of time.

The Solution

In order to achieve our national energy efficiency goals buildings need to be continuously evaluated on actual operating performance. To achieve this we must put in place regulatory frameworks that requires constant building performance monitoring and a more standardised approach to the configuration and functionality of BMS. Thus enabling the widespread use of decision support tools for Facility Managers that can reduce operating costs and energy consumption. Examples tools are; Fault Detection & Diagnosis, Building Data Analytics and Building Simulation and Prognosis. These technologies are already in use in Ireland and Internationally.

The following changes are required:

1) Decision Support Tools
We must place decision support tools in the hands of Facility managers that provide information about building performance in a way that matches their skill set. These tools must be capable of measuring building performance on an ongoing basis. They must automatically detect performance reductions and diagnose root causes. And they must prioritise this information and present it in a manner suited to the facility managers abilities.

2) Constant Performance Monitoring
We need legislation that requires continuous building monitoring. The closest regulatory requirement we have to regular monitoring is the Display Energy Certificate and the Energy Efficiency Directive. Neither are suitable and both are alarmingly out of touch with software tools which can measure whole building performance on a 5 to 15 minute basis, continuously.

3) BMS Standards
Building Management Systems are critical to enabling continuous monitoring and achieving optimised building performance. Firstly, there must be sufficient data available, therefore the number and positioning of sensors is paramount. Data must be open and accessible, therefore system using open protocols must be used a requirement. We need standardised data naming schemes, the freely programmable nature of BMS results in zero consistency in naming schemes in the commercial sector, thus making it very difficult to feasibly install Fault Detection and Diagnosis Tools.

What We Have Built

We have built and delivered a state of the art IoT platform on the back of years of experience in working in the building controls industry. This platforms aim is to help balance building comfort, energy efficiency and operational costs. Its core offering provides the following:

1) Building Performance Monitoring
Key Performance Indicators provide end-users with an “at-a-glance” reliable representation of their building(s) comfort levels, energy efficiency, asset performance and maintenance provider performance. This eases the burden on estate managers who have limited resources and skills for maintaining multiple HVAC systems while giving them quick non-technical oversight into the reliability of individual systems.

2) Fault Identification and Root Diagnosis
Automated Fault Detection and Diagnosis is a core offering of RemoteHVAC, it involves the identification of faulty HVAC plant, incorrect BMS control and inappropriate user intervention. Automatic diagnosis and prioritisation helps decision makers achieve building comfort whilst balancing energy efficiency.

3) Reporting and Data Analytics
RemoteHVAC provides end-users with automated email reports highlighting key analytics and insights on all of their systems and buildings. This supports better oversight into how well everything is running and directs end-users on where to focus their attention. These purpose built reports give greater transparency around the management of building(s) and can directly contribute to Management Systems such as ISO 50001 and Well Building Standard.

Some Results

RemoteHVAC have been working closely with a number of Facility and Energy Managers responsible for large building estates and energy spend. We have worked with these organisations to validate our software tool through real world testing and trials. The diagnosed faults have led to energy savings, avoidance of costly plant damage and improved building comfort levels.

Below are some sample fault detection and root diagnosis issues we can identify:

Mechanical Failures - We can detect, diagnose and evaluate the energy cost impact of issues such as passing or stuck heating & cooling valves and faulty mixing dampers. This faults can cause poor comfort and increased energy costs.

Temperature Hunting - very difficult to find issues such as system hunting, continuous cycling between heating and cooling, can be easily spotted with FDD. This particular fault is often a large energy user and may not be identified for years, if ever.

Inefficient Operation - The efficiency of primary and secondary plant activity can be analysed with respect to system consumption versus Degree Days and operating hours to identify inefficiency.

Simultaneous Heating & Cooling - Faulty and inefficient control of AHU plant can be accurately identified so that the most appropriate technicians are sent to the problem, making repair faster and more efficient.

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At RemoteHVAC we are confident of the potential of our product and we want to share this level of confidence with you. So please reach out to us today to allow us demonstrate the potential of a rollout across your facilities.

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