Buildings are full of hidden energy savings potential that can be uncovered with the right analysis. Using sophisticated software applied to everyday building operations, facility managers and building owners are now reaping the cost-saving benefits of data analytics through energy management and information systems (EMIS). What sets these tools apart from the previous era of energy analysis tools are the visualization and analytics now available. By providing visibility into and analysis of the energy consumed at the building and submeter level, building owners and facility managers can gain deeper (and faster) insight into energy efficiency opportunities.
EMIS is a broad and rapidly evolving family of tools that monitor, analyze, and control building energy use and system performance. These technologies include benchmarking and utility tracking tools, energy information systems, building automation systems, fault detection and diagnostic systems, and automated system optimization.
EMIS can be broadly characterized as focusing on either whole building- or portfolio-level meter and submeter analyses, or system-level operational analyses. In the former category are these technologies:
• Benchmarking and utility bill analysis tools commonly use monthly whole-building energy data. These tools offer energy performance tracking, longitudinal or cross-sectional benchmarking, and utility bill validation. Weather normalization may also be offered.
• Energy information systems are a combination of software, data acquisition, and communication systems used to store, analyze, and display building energy meter data on an hourly or more frequent basis. At a minimum, an energy information system provides daily, hourly, or sub-hourly interval meter data at the whole-building level, with graphical and analytical capability. The data is primarily acquired from whole-building electricity and gas meters, but can also include sub-meter and system-level data, depending on the depth of monitoring at the site.
• Advanced energy information systems offerings provide a higher degree of automated analytics. For example, advanced energy information systems create models of building energy use that take into account variables such as weather and time of week. These models are then compared to actual energy use to detect anomalies, and quantify energy savings on an ongoing basis.
These technologies focus on system-level operational analyses.
• Building automation systems are the most widely adopted technology in the EMIS family, and are implemented in most large and medium commercial buildings. Modern BAS offer significant trend logging, storage, reporting, and data visualization capabilities, but their principal design intent is to control indoor temperature, humidity, and light setpoints based on schedule. Typically BAS do not offer the level of fault detection offered in fault detection and diagnostic tools. BAS are sometimes referred to as building management systems (BMS), energy management systems (EMS) or energy management and control systems (EMCS).
• Fault detection and diagnostic software automatically identifies system or equipment-level performance issues, and in some cases is able to isolate the root causes of the problem. These tools typically integrate data from building automation systems. They are designed to detect equipment faults and may provide possible causes or recommendations for correcting each fault.
• Automated system optimization software dynamically modifies building automation system control settings to optimize HVAC system energy usage while maintaining occupant comfort. Two-way communication with the BAS is the distinguishing feature of automated system optimization solutions. These tools both read data from the BAS and write optimal setpoints back to the BAS.
In addition to the potential energy savings, EMIS tools and technologies may offer non-energy benefits. While not quantified in the research conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, anecdotal examples of non-energy benefits include:
• Sustainability reporting. Energy-consumption records are increasingly used by organizations to streamline data into quantities required for corporate or organizational reporting.
• Preventive maintenance. System-level faults from fault detection and diagnostics tools can help detect problems early, changing preventive maintenance checks from a manual process for individual pieces of equipment to an automated analysis process.
• Occupant engagement and education. Web-based public dashboard displays of building energy use can guide occupants or tenants to self-directed efficiency measures.
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