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Ryan Shea |

Do I need Green Building Intelligence (GBI)?

According to the US Department of Energy, “Buildings use more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy, consuming more than 70 percent of electricity and over 50 percent of natural gas.” (source Between 40-60% of that energy usage is related to HVAC systems. It stands to reason that building owners and occupants would want to reduce those costs as much as possible without reducing the health, safety and efficiency of the systems.

What is it?

Green Building Intelligence (GBI) uses smart metering technologies, to identify the total energy flows within a building.  Actionable information is then provided to operators, allowing automatic management and control of a building’s energy usage. Understanding exactly where, when, why and how much energy is consumed is the foundation of GBI.

It is important to note that GBI is a concept that requires the integration of numerous devices, controllers, and communication systems. By themselves, each is but a piece of the larger puzzle. But once established, GBI promotes the best and most efficient use of resources and will significantly reduce operating costs.

How is this different?

Traditional building design operates each subsystem separate from one another. In this approach, boilers do not communicate with chillers and they theoretically can (and sometimes do) provide simultaneous heating and cooling to an area. In many cases, climate control systems may even operate when no one is present in the building. It’s not hard to realize that this can be a very inefficient approach to climate control and can cost a fortune.

So how does GBI work?

GBI reduces the inefficiencies of this approach by providing real-time energy information to a building management system (BMS) that “knows” what is running and can optimize each subsystem for the most efficient operation. Each subsystem (Boiler, Chiller, Air " Steam Distribution, and Utility Usage) is tied together horizontally through the BMS and then vertically up to the business management systems. This allows information about the building to be shared among the people in charge of managing the building.

Smart measurement devices that communicate over digital communications protocols such as BACnet, LonWorks, HART, and Modbus are used to provide not only real-time measurement data, but also diagnostic information and alarms. For example, the SITRANS FUE1010 Clamp-On Ultrasonic flow meter can measure chilled water flow, inlet " outlet temperature and total BTU usage and communicate all information back on a single twisted pair. Multiple BTU meters can be installed across different zones within a building, providing real time load profiles. This way, an operator can know what zones are in use, which ones have heavy loads and which ones should be turned off.

Why is GBI so important?

The law of supply and demand rules that as resources become scarce prices go up. Whether our resources are running out or not, it is still a fact that our energy bills have been, and likely will continue, to rise over time. The subsequent cost to operate buildings will do the same and it is in our own best interest to be as efficient as possible to keep usage costs down.

GBI is also critical to the future of “Smart Grid” technology. The smart grid will be dependent on smart buildings that can provide usage and behavior characteristics of all the buildings on the grid. GBI can provide the sub-metering data that will be required for efficient smart grid implementation.

The best part of GBI is that it promotes efficient, safe and reliable operations while saving money. The initial capital investment can be subsidized by Energy Service Companies (ESCO’s), such as Siemens Building Technologies, who offer performance contracting that bundles the projects costs and are repaid through the dollar savings generated over time. Once the project is paid for, the building will continue to generate savings for years.

I’m at GlobalCon with Ives Equipment in Atlantic City, March 7-8. Come out and discuss energy efficiency with me!

How are you making your building energy more efficient?

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