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Combining data streams for better building performance – an ARBS 2018 highlight

The countdown is on to ARBS 2018, which is back in Sydney for the first time since 2010 and will be held at the new International Convention Centre (ICC) from 8-10 May 2018. Alongside the exhibition runs the highly anticipated Speaker Series featuring a range of exciting and informative presentations including the session “Combining Energy and Building Management Systems to Improve Asset Performance”, by Nicholas Heydon, Australasian channel  manager, Optergy.


Data, smart buildings and energy management are three of the mega-trends front of mind in the property sector. However, as Optergy Australasian channel manager Nicholas Heydon explains, while they can be integrated, building systems and building data tend to exist in independent silos.

Heydon, who will present his ideas on how to obtain better results by integrating the two as part of the ARBS 2018 Speaker Series says that in a typical commercial building, there will be a centralised building automation system managing systems that account for around 75 per cent of the whole building’s electrical load.

A lot of owners, therefore, rely on the information provided by the power bills to manage building energy consumption.

Where the asset has sub-metering installed, the data is generally separate from the data provided by the building automation system, and is managed by a different technology service provider.

Heydon uses the example of a car to explain. The building management system or building automation system is like a steering wheel. The sub-metering and energy monitoring system is like the driver’s visibility of the road, the dashboard and its dials and gauges, and feedback from the feel of the car as it is driven.

Nicholas Heydon, Optergy Australasian

“If I am driving, I need visibility to drive,” Heydon says.

“Likewise, if you remove the steering wheel, the car will crash. If you remove the dashboard, the car will crash.”

Managing a building for optimum performance likewise requires both the steering – the BMS – and the data to be visible together.

Heydon says it can be a “nightmare” for asset managers trying to get data from two different systems.

However, while some might think they don’t need the energy data, the reality is a building owner has paid the capital cost to have metering installed so they can get data, but this data is then generally sent to the tech provider’s part of the cloud and the owner has to pay a subscription to have access to it.

It is a bit like buying a car, and then being charged to drive it, Heydon says.

“If you stop paying the subscription, you don’t have access to the data. Even though you own the meters and own the building, you don’t own the data.”

The other challenge posed by having two separate systems is the building operator has to be trained to use two different systems and to get the required data.

By integrating both BMS and energy sub-metering system, there are a number of benefits, Heydon explains.

For a start, alerts can be created that are “more meaningful”. More context and instructions can be added to alert notifications, so instead of an alert coming through saying there is an unspecified problem with the HVAC, it can specify which item of equipment is at fault.

Basic alerting only says “you have a problem”; it doesn’t say why or give ideas of how to solve it, Heydon says.

Or there might be an alert at 3am flagging there has been unexpectedly high energy consumption. But it might not say which system is burning up the joules.

“If you combine the two systems, it might say you have mechanical plant running when it shouldn’t be,” Heydon says.

If the power spike has been caused by plant running outside of its normal hours, the alert could also suggest possible causes and solutions, such as it had been set to run on manual when it shouldn’t have been, or that something is broken.

Integrated systems also deliver a benefit when a building automation contractor comes onsite. For unspecified faults, it may take hours of expensive time to diagnose the fault, but a combined system has the capability of pointing the contractor in the right direction towards a specific sub-system. That means a saving on both time and money for the asset manager.

Another advantage of combining the systems is the ability to overlay energy use profiles with HVAC profiles, Heydon says. This means comfort levels can be correlated with energy use levels, creating a constant feedback loop. From there, the operator can establish what is working and what is not in terms of optimisation.

Improved comfort levels with optimised energy use is a double win for the asset owner, as it means happier tenants and lower energy bills.

The combined data also enables a building operator to engage with practices such as demand management to further shave bills, Heydon says.

“You can change the way the building is operating without changing conditions in the building.”

Another major benefit for having combined building automation systems and energy management systems is there is only one contractor responsible for how the building operates and how it performs in terms of energy use.

Heydon says this means owners can hold the contractor responsible for outcomes not only in terms of the building, but also its NABERS rating and Green Star Performance ratings.

“If you bundle [the technology] you will also get a better price for installation and operation,” he says.

The operator also gains more feedback and more data, which is invaluable for ongoing servicing and in event of a breakdown.

Heydon says there are already a number of buildings that have taken the combined systems approach. Mirvac, for example, has more than 20 per cent of its commercial building assets using a combined EMS and building automation system.

“Those buildings, as it happens, also have the highest NABERS ratings of the whole portfolio,” he says.

The bottom line is there is a return to be had.

“Everyone wants data, but everyone wonders how to show a return on investment from it,” Heydon says.

The Speaker Series is being held concurrently with the ARBS 2018 Exhibition at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, from May 8-10. See all of the program details and how to register here.

ARBS 2018 Sydney

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