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4  FM quick reads on fault detection and diagnostics

1. How Fault Detection And Diagnostics Reduces Energy Costs


Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. Microsoft has seen significant energy savings from deploying fault detection and diagnostics across its campus. In 2012, more than 4 million square feet of space on the Redmond campus have the smart solution in place, and Darrell Smith, director of energy and facilities, expects to save $1.5 million in energy costs for fiscal 2013. That savings is coming from "casting a net" of fault rules across the buildings to identify assets that are wasting energy because they are not working as designed or have incorrect set points. The payback is less than 18 months, which is particularly noteworthy since the state of Washington has rock-bottom power prices. "We have the third lowest utility rate in the country," Smith points out.

It's not that the buildings were designed inefficiently. A number of the worst performing were built to LEED Gold and LEED Silver standards. But under the old system, each building was retro-commissioned once every five years to make sure it was operating as designed. It was simply impossible with so many buildings to get to each one any faster.

That lag led to problems. For example, a sewer pump developed issues so the exhaust fan was taken off the carbon dioxide sensors and run at 100 percent. The override remained that way for a year before it was found and reversed.

Facilities personnel used to go and look to see what was broken. "Now, I know the actuator's broken before you tell me and I know how much it will cost if I don't make that repair," observes Smith.

But the intelligent building management system does more than indicate a $50 variable air volume fault versus a $20,000 air economizer problem.

"It also lets me drill down to the floor so I can evaluate the asset value and determine the priority," explains Smith. "It may be a $300 fault, but the impact on our business [could be] such that it's actually more important to fix the $300 fault before another fault that could represent $15,000 in wasted energy."

In addition to fault detection and diagnostics, Microsoft's system also manages alarms and assists in energy management functions. Smith estimates 2 million data points are currently connected across the campus. When all Microsoft buildings are on the new system, it may be handling 500 million data transactions every 24 hours.


2.  Microsoft Finds That Fault Detection Saves Energy

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. The value of intelligent buildings compounds when applied across a corporate or governmental real estate portfolio. Microsoft has about 125 buildings totaling roughly 15 million square feet on its Redmond, Wash., campus, as well as another 15 million square feet spread across the globe. The Redmond campus is the size of a medium-sized city, says Darrell Smith, director of facilities and energy for real estate and facilities.

Buildings were built at different times and design standards were not initially set. So the campus had many disparate BAS systems. "Nothing was talking to each other," says Smith. "Reporting was labor intensive." To prepare a quarterly report on energy use meant physically going into several tools to extract the information from every meter, which took weeks.

Ripping out and replacing $60 million of BAS systems to make everything the same was not feasible for a company with literally millions of data points. The company was looking for off-the-shelf solutions built on Microsoft technology that would provide fault detection and diagnosis, alarm management and energy management on one platform.

The company expects to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. Microsoft began studying its options in 2009. By 2011, the company decided on three potential smart solutions from three different vendors and began installing and monitoring them in 13 buildings, representing about 2.6 million square feet of space. Some of the buildings were nearly brand new while others were more than 20 years old. The analytical layer from each vendor was installed above the existing building management systems.

Following a year of study and evaluation, Smith says all three program components performed well, "but fault detection turned out to offer the largest value. We saw a 17 percent savings in one building in just one week," he says. Now, Microsoft has selected one vendor from the three and is deploying the solution across its whole Redmond campus.

3.  Data Issues Are Critical With Fault Detection And Diagnostics (FDD)

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Jim Sinopoli of Smart Buildings LLC. Facility managers who are considering fault detection and diagnostics tools should be aware of the importance of data and network issues. Here are some points to keep in mind.

Lack of Data. Fault detection and diagnostics tools rely on data from building automation systems. If there are not enough sensors, if the sensors are inaccurate, or if the building has a legacy control system and for some reason accessing the BMS database or controllers is difficult, there can be issues with obtaining the accurate data required.

Using the Diagnostic Data. Many of the fault detection and diagnostics software tools can provide information to the technician or engineer regarding potential corrective actions. This information needs to be integrated into the work order system, which may be one application in a whole suite of facility management applications, in order to use the information effectively.

Applications in the Cloud. Many companies offering fault detection and diagnostics software will provide the application on the client site, but have an option to provide the application as "software as a service" (SaaS) or in "the cloud." Essentially the vendor hosts the application, and the facility manager accesses the application through a normal web browser. This can be an issue with many corporate IT departments because of the need to pierce the corporate IT firewalls and security to get to the BAS data the application needs.

Prognostics Data. While fault detection and diagnostics tools seem inherently capable of providing prognostic data — that is, it can analyze fault conditions or degradation faults and predict when a component will fail or not be able to perform correctly — very little has been developed in this area. In addition, prognostic data would allow for more proactive, condition-based maintenance, which would be a different approach for facility management organizations that are reactive and corrective.

4.  With Fault Detection And Diagnostics (FDD), Take Close Look At Buildings, Software Capabilities

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Jim Sinopoli of Smart Buildings LLC. As promising as fault detection and diagnostics is, facility managers need to take a close look at their buildings and at the capabilities of available software tools before rushing out to install a fault detection and diagnostics application. Consider these issues.

Handling Fault Information. Facility management organizations need to decide how best to handle the fault detection and diagnostics information. A "fault" identified by a fault detection and diagnostics application indicates that the system is not performing optimally. This is different from a system alarm indicating some criticality and need for immediate action. In many facility management organizations, both alarms and faults automatically trigger a work order, but do so identifying different priorities for the work order. Other organizations set the faults aside and then periodically meet to discuss the remedies.

Rules Specific to Building Systems. The rules apply to specific HVAC relationships and equipment, and facility managers need to be assured that their specific building systems are or can be addressed by the fault detection and diagnostics software application. Many products start with a standard set of rules, which may address similar or smaller buildings or HVAC configurations, and then add rules developed by others or by the end users themselves.

For larger buildings, fault detection and diagnostics does not come right out of the box. Almost every sizable building and HVAC system is slightly different, so the rules have to be customized. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the customized rules are likely to be more accurate and based on specific building needs, but customization requires additional installation time.

Lack of Applications for Emerging and Other Systems. Fault detection and diagnostics applications are primarily HVAC-focused. There is an opportunity for the industry to take the rules-based approach to other systems, such as solar, wind, geothermal, or power management.

Alternative Ways to Deploy Capability. Fault detection and diagnostics is simply a software application. At some point in the future, control and equipment manufacturers will simply integrate fault detection and diagnostics software routines into their controllers.


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fault detection and diagnostics , intelligent buildings , BAS , energy efficiency



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