November 2015

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Connected Building Roadmap

The intent of the session was to ask the attendees to look into the future, and tell BC Hydro what connected buildings would look like in ten years, and what technologies or other items of interest might appear in the meantime. 
 Graham Henderson P.Eng. Sr. Program Manager, Commercial Marketing
Energy, Regulatory & Business Planning
BC Hydro

Associated roadmap Visio docAuthor's Note: This document is meant to be read in electronic format (to access the web links), and in conjunction with the associated roadmap (Visio doc).

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Background: On June 25, 2015 a selected group representing various trades in the commercial building space was invited to BC Hydro’s Dunsmuir office for an afternoon discussion on the implications of connected buildings.  The group consisted of customers, BAS vendors, contractors, and consultants.  The intent of the session was to ask the attendees to look into the future, and tell BC Hydro what connected buildings would look like in ten years, and what technologies or other items of interest might appear in the meantime.  The resulting roadmap was intended to provide information about the following:

The session produced a list of ideas, which were subsequently grouped into six themes.  The themes are discussed below, along with web links for further reading, and a discussion of possible future BC Hydro activities.

Electronic Construction Documents

This theme covers several concepts.  The first is that of Building information modeling:

Building Information Modeling

Building information modeling (BIM) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. The resulting building information models become shared knowledge resources to support decision-making about a facility from earliest conceptual stages, through design and construction, through its operational life and eventual demolition.
– Wikipedia

The second is that of using the Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) to convert traditional paper based building completion documents (operations & maintenance manuals, testing & balancing reports, etc) into electronic documents.

On a related note, Project Haystack is “an open source initiative to streamline working with data from the Internet of Things” through the use of tags to identify building component related meta-data (e.g. boiler data may include manufacturer, model, efficiency, capacity, etc.).

Potential BC Hydro Activities:

(Big) Data: Integration, Management, Access

There are two types of data discussed in this document.  The first type is data which relates to the building’s components and systems, and management of this type of data is discussed in the previous section.  For the most part, this can be thought of as “static” data, recorded once and kept for posterity, albeit with allowance for equipment renewal.

The second type of data, the focus of this section, is generated by the sensors associated with the building’s various systems (e.g. the data associated with a temperature sensor in the HVAC system).  This can be thought of as “streaming” data, the ongoing generation of data at regular intervals that needs to be continually logged.  The proliferation of building systems publishing data to the web has been referred to as the “Building Internet of Things”, with “big data” implications.

One aspect of big data in buildings is the challenge of integration of all the building’s systems (e.g. HVAC, lighting, security, etc.) so that they can share data as needed.  One requirement for providing data is open source communication protocols (e.g. BACnet) to set the rules for machine to machine communication.  The protocols exist, but are still not executed in all buildings in a manner that truly facilitates data exchange.  IT department goodwill is often an important ingredient to success in this endeavour, as building data typically uses existing networks.  A new job title, “Facility Information Manager” was suggested, indicating the importance of handling this new volume and complexity.

An additional challenge to customers will be the management of the resulting volume of data.  It is worth noting database management is not a traditional strength in the Facilities Management department.

IBCon screen captureAnother aspect is access to the data.  The vision shown in the IBCon screen capture is of the building’s systems sharing data on a common secure network (it has been suggested that security is important, but solutions are currently available), providing data to a range of third party applications and services. 

CABAThe types of third party applications and services currently envisioned are outlined in the CABA / Navigant report “Next-Generation Building Energy Management Systems” and consist of the following four items:

        1. Visualization and Reporting
Visualization and reporting represents the minimal version of building analytics. It has no control capability; rather it provides information to building managers or occupants and relies on awareness and behavioral impact to make changes to building systems or building use. Visualization uses basic utility, submeter, and other sensor data to provide graphical representations of energy consumption, sometimes in real-time depending on data availability.
        1. Fault Detection and Diagnostics
Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) identifies performance anomalies and equipment faults due to erratic performance.  FDD allows problems in equipment to be identified and remedied before it impacts building operation. For instance, the blow motor of an air handling unit (AHU) may be close to failing and could be detected by an FDD algorithm based on the current the motor is drawing. This problem could be fixed before the unit fails completely.
        1. Predictive Maintenance and Continuous Improvement
Predictive maintenance and continuous improvement requires the application of FDD-based algorithms that track individual control and equipment performance on an ongoing basis to detect anomalies in system performance and reports faults to the facility manager. It determines when maintenance should be performed based on actual conditions rather than a time-based preventative maintenance routine; this allows a change in the facility’s management from reacting to problems that arise while also preventing problems from arising. Moreover, because IT is increasingly being built into facility management service processes, building analytics services can potentially be directed to facility management services to coordinate maintenance schedules.
        1. Optimization

Optimization uses real-time conditions to fine-tune and control building systems by changing setpoints and schedules.  This approach can provide energy savings in the operation of equipment and reduce performance drift as well as improve occupant comfort.

Potential BC Hydro Activities:

Industry Training

As new software tools are introduced to leverage the available “big data” from integrated building systems, Facilities Management staff will need to be trained to use the new tools in order to capture the full potential of the technology. Historically, this is a group that typically lacks resources even to maintain basic system operation, and without the skillset to maintain BAS operations.  Beyond introducing a new set of software tools however, the arch of technology suggests that even basic systems (e.g. HVAC, lighting) in a connected building are going to be heavily vested in IT related technology.  This IT context suggests a significantly different skill set for Facilities Management staff who traditionally have a background in the trades.  This suggests that building operators will eventually need to not only become competent using a new set of software tools, but will also need to acquire IT related expertise.  The ideal candidate might for example be a plumber who is also a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer … a rare combination.

There are several competing schools of thought on this issue.  One school suggests additional training is the solution.  Traditional FM staff would be trained in IT, as well as their core trade.  This approach has been tried with respect to energy management.  For examples of this approach refer to the many building operator training programs, such as the Building Operator Certification program, or BOMA’s e-Energy training program (sponsored by BC Hydro).

A competing school of thought provides a harsher outlook on whether IT savvy building operators are a realistic objective, noting that significant challenges exist that range from union constructs to pay scales.  If such a “super operator” existed, it is unlikely they would settle for working as a building operator, and no one could afford to pay them to perform traditional building maintenance tasks anyways.

Another solution is to outsource the requirement, and have third parties provide something akin to “service bureaus” or “virtual engineering assistants”, already a feature in several software offers, to help bridge the gap between the traditional building operator skill set and the new IT skill set required to run data-heavy systems in connected buildings.

Yet another solution looks to future systems that are truly autonomous, requiring minimal building operator intervention, and limiting that intervention to the traditional FM skillset.
It is likely the actual market will reflect a combination of these approaches, depending on the nature of the building, the systems, and resources available to the FM staff.

Potential BC Hydro Activities:

Smart Grid

Reliable Controls This theme is the domain of BC Hydro.  Reflecting that fact, several additional roadmaps to be developed by BC Hydro are indicated for smart grid technologies, demand response, and electric vehicles.  An additional roadmap specific to the Commercial New Construction program is indicated for net zero buildings, as by definition those buildings will incorporate self-generation, and thus will be participants in the smart grid.

Otherwise, the four main aspects of the smart grid, common to both residential and commercial buildings, are shown: 1) distributed generation, 2) electric vehicles, 3) energy storage, and 4) demand response.

Potentially of special interest is the topic of transactive energy.  This concept is being championed in the U.S. by the Department of Energy and the GridWise Architecture Council, and is defined as “A system of economic and control mechanisms that allows the dynamic balance of supply and demand across the entire electrical infrastructure using value as a key operational parameter”.

Potential BC Hydro Activities:


Various new technologies that are on the horizon that could have an impact on commercial building operations include:


Potentially, the advent of some of the lower cost technology (e.g. wireless sensors) and cloud based applications could be combined to bring advanced technology to small and medium sized buildings, which currently use less sophisticated types of buildings controls (e.g. wall mounted thermostats).

Potential BC Hydro Activities:

Marketing / awareness

This theme addresses the impact of quantifying the benefits associated with connected buildings, as well as recognizing successful projects.

Building energy benchmarking is an important tool to broadcast building performance to the market.  The Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool and associated roadmap are identified, along with BC Hydro’s green button initiative to provide electric consumption data to customers.

Challenge related initiatives (e.g. greenest city, 2030 Districts) can provide increased focus around leading edge projects, and tap into social change constructs (setting targets, power of norms, gaining commitments) that will create additional incentives to create buildings whose performance will qualify them for inclusion in a select group worthy of peer recognition.

Broadening sustainability goals beyond energy (e.g. water, waste) can drive an additional need for data integration in order to meet reporting criteria.

Lastly, the Well Building Standard aims to provide a focus on the health and wellness impacts that buildings have on occupants, with concentration on air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.  Connected buildings have the potential to better meet the Well Building requirements, while providing increased data for feedback and reporting.

Potential BC Hydro Activities:


HVAC Concepts
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