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Building Automation for Management of Water

A BAS can be used as an effective tool not just for energy but for water management as well.

Paul Ehrlich, Ira Goldschmidt & Angela Lewis
Building Intelligence Group

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Engineered Systems 
March Issue - BAS Column

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We almost always think about the building automation system (BAS) as a tool that is a critical part of energy management, so these systems are typically focused on those systems that directly use energy – notably the HVAC and lighting systems.  Almost all commercial buildings are also users of water though; the cost of water and sewer services varies from area to area and can become a significant expense.  Worse in areas where there is a shortage of water, it is not only a big expense, but an imperative to conserve.

Conserving water is not all that difficult.  It begins with the use of water efficient fixtures such as low flow showerheads, sink aerators, and toilets.  Look for other areas of big water usage such as laundries and dishwashing to implement more efficient end use.  Every gallon of water that can be avoided at end use is a gallon that doesn’t have to be purchased or pumped or heated.  Saving water can save both the cost of the water as well as saving energy.

The ongoing challenge with water use is that most buildings only meter water where it comes in from the street.  Those buildings or campuses that pump their own water may not even have that meter in place.  Inside the building, there is little tracking of water use.  It is fairly easy to install water meters within the building and these can be as simple as a pulse style meter that can easily be integrated into a BAS.

There are several key reasons why you should monitor in building water use from the BAS:

Leak Detection:
Water leaks can range from a leaky faucet or toilet to a catastrophic break.  By metering water and tracking usage over time, it is fairly easy to detect when there is a minor or major leak.  Stopping minor leaks saves energy and water – reducing cost and improving sustainability.  Finding major leaks early saves property.

Make Up Water Tracking:
Reliable ControlsMany HVAC systems are cross-connected to water for make up.  These are common not only on open systems such as cooling towers which have a constant need for makeup water to compensate for evaporation losses, but also for sealed systems as well.  Tracking make up water in an open system and comparing it against weather data gives a good idea as to the effectiveness of the tower and if it requires service.  Large amounts of make up water into a sealed system are a good indicator of a leak or other system problem.

Sewer Credits: 
We want to track water usage for any application that does not utilize sewer services.  This amount is then eligible for claiming a sewer credit on your bill. Common applications of this are for cooling towers and irrigation.

Keep in mind that a BAS can be used as an effective tool not just for energy but for water management as well.


About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com

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