controlling building energy consumptionThirty-nine percent of the total energy used in a building is wasted.* But 84 percent of a building’s total energy consumption could be efficiently controlled through an effective building energy management system (BEMS).

For a lot of businesses, the working environment and energy used day-to-day is given hardly a thought, aside from occasional adjustments to the HVAC, or shock at the size of energy bills.

However energy consumption in nonresidential buildings is often, quite literally, out of control. But while signs such as a steady increase in building operating costs and reduced day-to-day building comfort may appear impossible to fix, they are the side effects of a poorly performing BEMS, and are very much correctable.

What Causes a BEMS to Function Ineffectively?

Designed to function automatically year after year, BEMS solutions work well if there are no dramatic changes to the environment they control. However, most buildings are subject to frequent changes in purpose. If BEMS are to remain optimal, they must be properly supported.

Typical changes that affect the system and must be accounted for include:

• A change in building occupancy hours. (Is the HVAC and lighting set to work between the correct times?)

• Movement of partition walls or floors, affecting the size of the area to be controlled.

• Room purpose changing, such as from office space to a cafeteria, in which case sensors would be ineffectively placed and operate wrongly.

• Manually overridden areas of the BEMS system that have not been returned to ‘auto’ mode.

• Damaged or outdated parts of the system (i.e., sensors) which have not been maintained or replaced.

Taking Back Control

Correcting the negative effects on a BEMS to take back control can sound costly and complex. But a full system overhaul is not always needed. Controlling a building’s energy could be achieved with little investment by simply optimizing the existing system’s settings. A full energy audit to establish where and how savings can best be made in relation to building use, and whether the current system (if one is in place) is effective, is the best step towards regaining control.

But an audit is not the only step if a business wants to maintain ongoing savings.

Keeping Control Long Term

Once a BEMS is optimized and working, it can’t just be ignored or the original inefficiency issues faced will re-emerge a few years down the line.

Ongoing maintenance of energy consumption (and control over cost) requires a BEMS to be periodically reviewed, monitored, optimized, and repaired as necessary. It’s a challenging operation, but BEMS installers should offer solutions to manage the BEMS on a business’s behalf and so prevent a disjointed approach to ongoing maintenance. As a result, nonresidential buildings with effectively maintained BEMS will be in control of their energy usage, occupant comfort, and crucially will be economically efficient regarding overall energy consumption costs.

*Information courtesy of Trend Controls. Statistics are an average based on more than 1,000 buildings that have undergone a Trend energy audit.

Publication date: 9/22/2014