This is the second post in the Better Buildings Challenge Blog Series.
Now more than ever, there is a huge awareness of the global community’s use of energy resources, as well as large-scale – and in some cases, mandated – efforts to conserve. The past 50 years have brought common practices to cut down on waste, from recycling to large-scale efforts such as implementing new technologies to achieve energy efficiency and opting for renewable energy sources.
We’ve come a long way since 1965.
While the progress is tangible, we’re not done yet. There are still tremendous opportunities to continue to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency, starting with the places where we live and work: buildings.
According to the International Energy Agency, buildings in developed countries represent about 40 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Think about that for a minute – the places that we live and work in represent almost half of all energy that we use on the planet in a given year. And while buildings too have seen great progress in improved management of resources, many of us work and live in structures that were built decades ago.
Old, aging buildings are a primary concern, especially in mature countries. In developed economies, as many as half of all buildings that will be in use in 2050 have already been constructed – meaning buildings standing today are expected to operate for the next 35 years.
Over the past few decades, commercial building management companies, business organizations, and facility departments have been taking initial steps to retrofit existing building systems by installing and utilizing first- and second-generation building management systems (BMS). These organizations have also been implementing disparate energy management measures, such as more efficient heating, cooling, and air conditioning systems, LED lighting, occupancy sensors, and more.
We all know the value that a good BMS solution and efficient technologies can bring to an organization – reduced energy costs enables saved resources to be reinvested into other areas of a business, create a more nimble organization, and help meet corporate sustainability goals. Automation and enhanced control of building systems adds huge value to facility maintenance staff. But the primary issue with these systems and disparate technologies is that, historically, independent systems have lacked the capability to connect with new and existing assets. Often times, this disconnect creates far too many energy management systems for facility managers and departments to learn, track, and manage, sometimes resulting in underutilized or completely neglected systems.
Fortunately, building owners, facility departments, and organizations have new options to optimize existing structures for the next 35 years and beyond. Open protocols such as BACnet®, LonWorks®, and Modbus® utilize common, interoperable languages that allow disparate prevailing equipment and systems from different manufacturers that are commonly found in existing buildings to communicate and work together as part of a larger BMS.
By integrating all building systems, facility managers can view all of their building systems from a single interface, identify long-term opportunities for energy savings, and continuously optimize their facility to yield the highest levels of efficiency over time. This integration also enables organizations to better harness data from the Internet of Things, turning building insights into meaningful action that will improve operations. In addition, open protocols allow for long-term system scalability to meet current and future needs of a building and its occupants.
A majority of buildings are expected to operate for the next few decades, despite increasing pressure to reduce energy use and keep expenditures in check. By installing a BMS and building components that leverage open protocols, stakeholders can ensure that the buildings we rely on today will continue to meet energy goals in 2050 and beyond.