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John Miner, Director of Dealer Development, from Automated Logic Corporation, on the new generation of Building Automation Systems,
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Hi, I'm James Pease and this is Take5, Building Operating Management's podcasts on topics of interest to building and facility executives.
There's an entire new generation of Building Automation Systems, or BAS, designed for greater flexibility, precision and convenience in minimizing energy usage while increasing comfort and improving system performance. Even more good news - successful BAS installations make maintenance management easier and many have recovered the cost of the system in less than five years.
With us today is John Miner, Director of Dealer Development, with Automated Logic Corporation. ALC designs and manufactures innovative control systems primarily for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and energy management. Its systems are installed worldwide in facilities of all types.
John, thank you for being here.
[Pease] What is being done by BAS manufacturers to help building owners and facility managers conserve energy?
[Miner] The biggest change by the BAS manufacturers is probably the simplification of the use of BAS systems, and the availability of training for owners. Virtually all systems can turn equipment 'on' and 'off', which is the most basic energy conservation strategy. In the past, it was difficult and/or time consuming for system operators to make schedule changes, so equipment was often allowed to operate during holidays and other unoccupied times. Systems are much easier to use today, making basic conservation strategies easy to implement.
Some manufacturers, including Automated Logic, have developed sophisticated and adaptive optimal start programs which delay start-up of equipment to the last possible moment without jeopardizing comfort; request-based reset control which constantly optimizes the setpoints of equipment to provide comfort conditions while using the least possible energy; and demand curtailment strategies which constantly monitor each zoneï¿½s condition, reducing energy use only in zones which can do so, without upsetting comfort conditions.
[Pease] And I'd imagine that's important because energy is a big portion of any facility manager's budget?
[Miner] Many times energy cost is the largest single item in the annual facility budget. One way to put things into perspective for some building owners is to realize how much productivity increase or increased manufacturing would have to occur to put another $1,000 on a company's 'bottom line'. Compare that to the effort required to save $1,000 in energy cost, which automatically drops to the 'bottom line'. It makes a lot of sense to invest in energy conservation.
[Pease] Speaking of productivity, I've always heard that people working in a 'comfortable' environment are more productive. So, doesn't implementing 'energy management' reduce productivity?
[Miner] You are absolutely right! If energy was the only concern, we could maximize our energy savings by turning off the lights and the HVAC. But we have to consider the occupants. There have been many studies performed, especially in the educational arena, where occupant, or student, performance is affected by the interior conditions. You cannot simply look at saving energy without taking the occupants into consideration.
[Pease] And how is occupancy comfort taken into account?
[Miner] 'Comfort' is difficult to measure because people are comfortable at different temperature and humidity levels. Unfortunately, in most buildings today the level of occupant comfort is based on the number of 'complaints' voiced by the building occupants; very subjective and difficult to evaluate.
Our branch office in Texas has developed a unique energy and environmental quality reporting system. It allows customers to compare their energy consumption to how effectively they're maintaining the occupant's desired temperature and IAQ conditions. I think this is especially interesting, because most energy reporting systems ignore the question of how effectively is the HVAC system maintaining the indoor environment. You can "save" a lot of energy if you shut systems off and let people sweat in the dark, but it can really be penny-wise and pound foolish if you're not maintaining a 'productive' environment. This is especially critical in school systems, as many studies have shown student's ability to learn falls off dramatically as the classroom temperature or CO2 level rises above acceptable levels. They have some interesting case history data where this system helped schools save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs, often with payback periods as short as 4 months, and improve the indoor environment at the same time!
[Pease] John, what are some of the other hot issues in the BAS world today?
[Miner] WebServices! WebServices is a term which refers to a 'web technology' standard which uses XML/ SOAP (Extensible Markup Language/ Simple Object Application Protocol) to share information from one software application and hardware to another. An example would be to have an Excel Spreadsheet on a financial officer's computer, retrieve energy usage information from a BAS; another example would be to have BAS systems retrieve the power companiesï¿½ rate information and respond by making operational decisions which would use the most cost effective way to condition a building. The BACnet Addendum adding WebServices to the BACnet standard was approved in September 2006.
[Pease] What else is happening on the BACnet front?
[Miner] The Official Web Site of ASHRAE SSPC 135 now shows 256 Vendors with BACnet ID's. ASHRAE SSPC 135 continues to be a 'living' document and standard which is growing as technology improves. (i.e; Webservices) It is also growing in terms of acceptance, both amongst large BAS system users, and 'the major' control companies, most of whom have now developed and introduced BACnet products. The lighting and security industry manufacturers have seen the benefits that the BAS industry and BAS owners have enjoyed as BACnet has become more widespread. Many are now supporting the further development of BACnet to include their lighting and security building systems.
[Pease] Thanks, John. Our guest today has been John Miner, Director of Dealer Development, with Automated Logic Corporation. Listeners who would like more information on BACnet can refer to the box above the transcript of our podcast on this page.
John Miner, Automated Logic Corporation