BUILDING AUTOMATION SYSTEMS. Another source of information can be the building automation system. Historically, these systems have been used primarily to turn equipment on or off. But they also can provide information on energy use and areas in which it's possible to cut.
The ease with which these systems can be used as data sources will depend on several factors, Sinopoli says. One is the communication protocol. Open protocols make accessing data easier than proprietary protocols. In addition, newer systems tend to be easier to work with than older ones.
Similarly, the most useful building automation systems boast user-interfaces that are quick and easy to review, Newman says. If a building engineer has to spend a great deal of time just accessing the data and figuring out what it means, the task is more apt to go to the bottom of his or her to-do list.
After all, the goal in most energy use analyses is not to analyze the 99 percent of a facility that appears to be operating as it should, Lubinski points out. Instead, the usefulness is in zeroing in on the outliers — say, an HVAC system that appears to be running inefficiently — and figure out what's driving the numbers.
Another point to keep in mind: Many building automation systems hold data for a limited amount of time before they write over the existing records, Lewis says. That makes it necessary to access and download the information regularly.
An emerging technology is fault detection and diagnostic software. As the name implies, fault detection and diagnostics tools help a facility manager determine when a system, such as a rooftop unit, is not operating correctly. "It's a great technology with a lot of potential," Lewis says. However, these applications tend to be under-utilized today, primarily due to their high cost, she adds.
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