4  FM quick reads on energy management

1. Soft Skills Are Important in Retrocommissioning

Today's topic is the importance of soft skills for retrocommissioning.

Retrocommissioning — the commissioning of existing building systems — can save a significant amount of energy for a relatively small investment, in part by improving the way controls operate. But in some facilities, any change in operations may seem like a risk - a risk that isn't worth taking.

That was the case at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. The University decided to retrocommission buildings with the highest energy use. But the retrocommissioning teams sometimes met with resistance, even though departments housed in those buildings were going to be charged back for energy use. Some departments were worried that changes in the way the facility operated might cause harm to experiments that had been going on for years - even decades.

Working with the staff in those buildings took patience and persistence. The retrocommissioning team made small changes, then let everyone see the results. They also had to educate occupants about the impact that their behavior could have on energy use. In one lab, encouragement to close fume hood sashes reduced energy costs by $30,000 in one month.

Being sensitive to occupant perceptions paid off, not only in energy savings, but also in customer satisfaction. By the time the retrocommissioning team left, building occupants were happy they'd come.

Three Factors Can Limit BAS Interoperability

Today's topic is three obstacles to interoperability.

A growing number of building automation systems are being installed using open protocols like BACnet or LonTalk to enable them to interoperate with products and systems from a range of vendors. But facility managers who are considering open systems should be aware of factors that may limit interoperability.

One such factor is the use of gateways to connect systems that cannot otherwise communicate. These may be a good choice when it comes to linking an existing proprietary system to a new system. But if a new system uses gateways for interoperability, that's an indication that the system itself isn't truly open.

A second potential problem is failure to implement the open protocol properly. To avoid that problem, look for products that have been certified. BACnet Testing Laboratories certifies BACnet producs, while LonMark International certifies LonTalk products.

A third factor to consider is the extent to which proprietary capabilities exist on systems using open protocols. The more that there are proprietary functions, the less the system is fully interoperable.

Energy Savings and Comfort Depend on Sensor Calibration

Today's topic is the importance of keeping sensors calibrated.

We all know the saying, garbage in, garbage out. That phrase applies to the building automation system as much as to any other computer system.

One sure way to reduce the effectiveness of the BAS is to fail to check and calibrate sensors on a regular basis. The BAS uses data from those sensors to control HVAC and other equipment, to issue alarms, and to develop reports. But over time those sensors go out of calibration or stop functioning. The only way to make sure they're delivering accurate data is to put them on a regular maintenance schedule.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Like many preventive maintenance activities, sensor calibration is easy to put off when staff is busy or the budget is tight. But false readings and failed sensors can waste a considerable amount of energy. What's more, they can produce occupant complaints about uncomfortable conditions. If that happens, the facility staff may very well wind up spending time trying to figure out what's wrong and mollifying occupants.

A building automation system is a substantial investment. Keeping sensors calibrated is an important step to getting the value from that investment.

BAS Start/Stop Optimization Offers Savings

Today's tip has to do with understanding resistance to change.

It has become a cliché to say that change is a constant in today's business environment. Cliché or not, the accelerating pace of change means that facility executives are likely to find themselves in an effort to bring about substantial change. That change may affect all employees — as with an effort to educate occupants about their role in energy efficiency — or it may be focused on facility department staff, as with a change in the way that work is assigned within the department.

Regardless of the nature of the change, one thing is sure: there will be resistance. Here are some common reasons for resistance:

• Failure of past change efforts. Employees who have seen earlier initiatives fade away after much excitement and hard work are more likely to be cynical about a new effort — and reluctant to put in the extra work that's needed to make it happen.
• Fear of the unknown. Change can be threatening. It may suggest that the way employees have been working isn't good enough. It also requires adapting to new ways of working — and raises the question of what will happen to those who don't adapt.
• Misunderstandings about the plan for change. Change efforts always prompt rumors, whether about the extent of the change or the "real" reason for the change. If employees don't enough get solid information about the change initiative, they are likely to believe what they hear — and most of it will be bad.

That resistance can be frustrating, but facility executives who understand the reasons for resistance and can empathize with those who resist change will be better able to deal with that resistance.


energy management , building automation systems , retrocommissioning , HVAC , facility management

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