November 2010

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Energy Effectiveness …
Getting Beyond Energy Efficiency

Andy McMillan Andy McMillan
President and GM
Philips Teletrol

BACnet International
Contributing Editor
Energy efficiency has been a hallmark of energy policy in the US and around the world for decades.  The desire to motivate improvements in energy efficiency has spawned whole industries aimed at measuring and rating the energy efficiency of buildings and the equipment that goes in them.  The focus on energy efficiency has yielded substantial improvements in building design, materials and equipment.  To complement these gains, great strides have been made in operational energy efficiency through the integration of building controls with enterprise information systems.  Without question, the focus on energy efficiency has driven these gains but it has also limited the discussion of energy utilization in buildings to the cost side of the profitability equation.  Dramatic advances in controls technology, coupled with far more dynamic lighting technologies are going to motivate people to employ a more comprehensive measure of energy utilization that takes into account the impact of energy use on occupant environment.  That new measure, Energy Effectiveness, incorporates traditional energy efficiency but also captures the impact of energy utilization choices on the value generated by occupants of a building.  Over the next ten years, Energy Effectiveness will drive dramatic progress in building controls and equipment in much the same way that energy efficiency has in the past. 
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Energy Efficiency Is Only Part of the Story
It is a self-evident truth in quality management circles that you get what you measure.  In an energy management context, that suggests that it is worth looking at how we measure efficiency.  To date, most measures of efficiency are related to energy intensity, or the energy used per square foot of useable space.  This leads to a focus on building envelope design, maintenance of optimum temperature setpoints, flexible occupancy schedules and making use of natural resources (e.g. daylight harvesting, building orientation, etc).  At some point, though, trade-offs have to be made between the amount of energy used and the amount of value generated by the building’s occupants.  After all, it is easy to save energy in buildings … just lower the space temperature in the winter, increase the space temperature in the summer and reduce the amount of artificial lighting all the time.  It is simple in principle but the reality is complicated by the inconvenient fact that saving energy is not the only objective, or even the primary objective of facilities management.  The primary objective is providing an environment conducive to facilitating the activities housed in the building.  Balancing these objectives requires some measure of how well the building facilitates the activity it is designed to house. 
The balance between minimizing energy use and providing a positive occupant experience is frequently an informal compromise managed around anecdotal data.  Building operators often evolve to “standard” settings for temperature, lighting levels and humidity through industry norms, occupant complaints, ASHRAE guidelines and management’s prior experience.  A focus on energy efficiency brings into question the specific settings used by a building manager while at the same time drives for consistency in the use of those settings.  The development of information-rich energy management systems enables cost-effective analysis of energy efficiency and enables enforcement of whatever standards evolve in an organization.  Fortunately, these systems can also provide a platform for exploring and managing Energy Effectiveness.
CatNet SystemsEnergy Effectiveness Brings New Answers, and Even More Questions
Many of the questions regarding energy effectiveness are hard to answer because there has been little focus on them.  The drive for energy efficiency has occupied our attention and even where some thought was given to energy effectiveness the technology for addressing it has not been cost-effective.  But, that is changing.  Equipment that goes into buildings is rapidly becoming more intelligent and connected.  Whether you look at HVAC, lighting or refrigeration you find that standard network interfaces (e.g. BACnet) provide far greater levels of dynamic control at little or no extra cost.  The emergence of solid state lighting with its wide range of options for dynamic intensity and color will provide another rationale for exploring these questions.  Finally, the explosion of personal interface devices (Smart Phones, iPad, etc) radically broadens the opportunity for gaining occupant productivity feedback.
Another obstacle to answering (or even asking) these questions has been the limited availability of information links between energy management systems and systems that can model or estimate the value created in a building.  To automatically measure and report on energy effectiveness these systems have to exchange information.  Historically that would have required custom application software development.  Fortunately, the rapidly growing sophistication of enterprise energy information and control systems is simplifying that interface with an open systems approach and is lowering the overall cost of implementing meaningful energy effectiveness measures.
For the most part, building owner/operators have made impressive gains in energy efficiency over the last ten years.  The leaders, though, are beginning to recognize that energy efficiency is not enough.  They are starting to look at energy use more critically and asking themselves, “What comes next?”  Knowing they have achieved a high level of energy efficiency they are now starting to consider how to further optimize their energy utilization.  As they explore that question they are likely to find themselves looking at ways to measure and manage Energy Effectiveness.
As always, the views expressed in this column are mine and do not necessarily reflect the position of BACnet International, Teletrol Systems, Philips, ASHRAE, or any other organization.  If you want to send comments to me directly, feel free to email me at


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