November 2008

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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The Smart Grid and Ongoing Building Commissioning
For building owners, preparing for the Smart Grid starts with initiatives that will benefit them today.

Jim Butler

Jim Butler,
Cimetrics Inc.

Experts are developing the architecture for a “highly intelligent and interactive electric system” ( As this architecture is realized, building owners will have new opportunities to reduce their electricity bills.

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Some companies are already participating in demand response programs, which provide cash incentives for reducing electricity consumption when a signal is received from an electric utility. I think of the current demand response programs as Smart Grid version 0.5: only a taste of what is to come later. Looking ahead, I believe that many electricity customers will be exposed to real-time prices for at least some part of their consumption.

Future versions of the Smart Grid will be different in many ways, but one thing will not change: Electric customers will benefit from the Smart Grid if they can automatically adjust their electric loads in response to signals from the grid. If automatic adjustments are made to a poorly-functioning building, energy savings may not be fully realized and occupant comfort may be unnecessarily compromised.

For building owners, preparing for the Smart Grid starts with initiatives that will benefit them today:

  1. Understand energy consumption patterns.

    Data from sub-meters can be valuable, especially if it is easily accessible by building operators and maintenance staff. Long-term trend logs from energy meters should be periodically reviewed for unexpected patterns.
  2. Make sure that building control systems are working properly, and if not, repair them!

    Our experience working with large customers suggests that ongoing HVAC system commissioning programs for new and existing buildings often result in significant energy savings with an excellent ROI.
  3. Use enterprise-wide strategies to manage energy consumption

    By considering energy use throughout an enterprise, owners may be more easily able to achieve significant savings while maintaining acceptable comfort levels.

contemporary Building owners that want to take advantage of today's demand response programs can go further by developing and implementing a demand response control strategy for their facilities. Demand response strategies can also be implemented with an eye to enterprise-wide energy management. Commissioning is essential to verify that any changes made to control systems are likely to work as intended. Ongoing performance monitoring is also prudent.

The benefits of building commissioning will become even greater as the smart grid evolves from its current modest beginnings, but significant benefits are already available. Savvy building owners are saving money now while positioning their facilities to take advantage of future smart grid opportunities.

About the Author:

Jim Butler is CTO of Cimetrics Inc., where he has worked for more than 15 years. Cimetrics provides InfometricsTM ongoing commissioning services to owners of large commercial, institutional and industrial buildings; see for information.


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