May 2012

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AirCare for Buildings

In this new era, energy management software is the AirCare for buildings and building automation system suppliers and contractors and energy consultants are the auto repair shops.

Steve Jones

Steve Jones,

Product Manager,
Pulse Energy

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In the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, you can’t insure your vehicle unless it passes AirCare.  When you bring your vehicle to the AirCare centre, they run a series of tests to make sure that all of the emissions control systems are working as intended.  If you fail any of the tests, you need to take it to a mechanic for a tune-up or repair within 90 days.  It’s essentially a retro-commissioning program for vehicles with a check point every two years.

Everyone wins in this arrangement.

Can you imagine what the test results would show if such a comprehensive program was rolled out to the commercial building stock?  It’s rare to walk into a building today and find it operating at peak efficiency.  Fortunately, that is changing and continuous commissioning is gaining acceptance as the standard way to operate a building. 

In this new era, energy management software is the AirCare for buildings and building automation system suppliers and contractors and energy consultants are the auto repair shops.  Through close collaboration, those two groups will both benefit and will work together to benefit the customer and the environment.

Pulse Energy plays an important role in continuous commissioning through our Pulse Energy Manager product which provides market leading building-level energy intelligence.  Founded in 2006 we provide a product family for commercial buildings and utilities that spans from energy management software to occupant and community engagement.  All products are delivered as a SaaS model.  The products are delivered to commercial buildings directly, through consultants and through utility energy conservation programs.  With hundreds of millions of square feet under management, the company works effectively with many different types of service providers, utilities and vendors to bring value to building owners.

The following examples demonstrate the role that Pulse Energy Manager can play to identify opportunities to optimize building automation systems.

Example 1:  Catching drift and anomalies using the Pulse Adaptive Model

Load Duration Curve

Once a building has been properly commissioned, an energy model can be built to determine how much energy that building would ideally use under a wide range of circumstances.  This model then serves as a baseline that can be used to identify drift in the performance of the building over time or specific anomalies related to equipment malfunctions or improper adjustments to the building controls.  Traditional linear regression methods are generally used to generate a weekly or monthly energy number and so they don’t provide the level of detail that is needed.  The Model generates a prediction for every 15 minute period of the day; allowing users to immediately recognize when something has gone awry.  In the above example, it’s seen that the building is performing well on a weekday but the weekend energy consumption is now 20% higher than it should be.  This is a clear indication that the building is due for recommissioning. 

Example 2:  Avoiding peak demand charges by using a Load Duration Curve

Pulse Adaptive Model

A Load Duration Curve is an effective tool for determining the percentage of time that is spent at the highest demand levels.  Since a building’s peak demand charge is based only on the highest 15 minutes in a billing period, it’s important to know how much time is spent at that level of consumption.  In the above diagram, the steep angle of the slope near 0% shows that a large proportion of the demand charge can be attributed to a small handful of hours.  This represents an opportunity for a control or operations strategy to be implemented that shift peak demand for a handful of hours to reduce peak demand charges with a minimal impact on occupants.

Example 3:  Identifying unnecessary operating hours 

Unnecessary Operating Hours

One of the most common opportunities for energy conservation in commercial buildings is tightening up the effective operating hours.  We all have seen similar version of the same story.  A building is configured to turn on at 8am and off at 6pm.  Then someone starts coming into work early so the turn on point is moved to 7am.   A few months later a special project comes up and people need to work late for a month so the shutdown time is moved down to 9pm.  A month after that a weekly speaking series is set up and so now the shutdown time on Wednesdays is moved to 10pm.  Long after the early bird employee has moved on, the project has been finished and the speaking series has been moved to a new venue, the building controls are still faithfully keeping the lights and heat on during these extended hours.  Currently in a Beta testing stage, we will soon be releasing an operating hours analysis tool that analyzes the load profiles and automatically determines the effective operating hours of the building on each day.  The report shows weekly averages for each month and the daily averages for each day of the week.  This report allows a Building Automation System professional to quickly narrow in on issues and determine where things went wrong.

Example 4: Digging deeper

Example 4: Digging Deeper

In addition to the building energy consumption, there are many advantages to pulling in additional submeter points, advanced power monitoring points or BAS points into your Energy Management Software.  The flexible charting and reporting functionality in a tool like Pulse Energy Manager can allow a professional to quickly troubleshoot everything from voltage imbalances to the root cause of power consumption spikes.

Example 5:  Identifying abnormally high consumption through benchmarking


There are limits to what can be achieved through improved controls and control strategies.  Some buildings are just leaky energy hogs filled with equipment that should have been retired decades ago.  That type of an issue can’t be identified by looking at load profiles in isolation.  The Energy Manager allows users to benchmark the building against buildings of a similar size and use to determine how much potential there is for further savings through retrofits and equipment upgrades.

Similar to AirCare, there is a validation step after improvements are made in a building.  Our Adaptive Model produces an accurate calculation of how much energy a building would have used today if changes had not been made.  Often acting as a third party, we are in an ideal position to provide unbiased verification of the significant savings that are achieved through continuous commissioning.  These validated savings are the justification for continued investment in the continuous commissioning process.

Example 6

Control Solutions, Inc The AirCare program in British Columbia has been a significant success.  It identifies over 30,000 vehicles per year that are polluting excessively and it does so using a systematic and efficient approach.  As building automation professionals, we can look to this program for ideas about how to structure our own industry.  Pulse Energy Manager plays an important role in the continuous commissioning process and we are interesting in working with customers, service providers and vendors that are driving buildings towards peak efficiency.

About Pulse Energy and the Author
Pulse Energy was founded in 2006 with the goal of leveraging technology and energy intelligence to reduce waste and improve operational efficiency in the world’s commercial and institutional buildings.  The Pulse Energy team created an energy intelligence solution of unrivaled accuracy and ease of use by designing an entire software platform around the needs of utility efficiency program managers, energy managers and executives. With this solution in place the team has focused its efforts on the growing opportunity for utilities to use Pulse as a platform to collaborate with their commercial customers on energy efficiency. With Pulse, utilities are able to promote energy intelligence, support efficiency objectives, meet regulatory requirements and improve customer satisfaction.

Steve Jones is the Product Manager at Pulse Energy.  Steve has been with the company since 2007 and joined shortly after it was founded.  He has a degree in Engineering Physics with a specialization in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia.  He has been a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade Sustainability Committee and has volunteered through the Vancouver School Board Mentorship Program. Steve is also an avid hiker and nature photographer and a Canadian national paper airplane champion.


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