The Muscle Behind
This isn’t your
But training and
diligence are still
part of the program.
When Charles Rechtsteiner received an iPad from his company, Autodesk, in 2011 to control energy management systems throughout he firm’s various buildings, he thought it was a joke. But he’s not
laughing these days.
“Now we’re running systems in the building remotely on a routine basis,” says
Rechtsteiner, Autodesk’s regional facilities manager. “At the end of this year, I’ll be
able to put my laptop away and use only my iPad to run performance analysis.”
What Rechtsteiner describes is a far cry from days of yore. That was when,
recalls Partner Energy president Tony Liou, energy management systems consisted of a thermostat and a mercury switch. If the mercury was pushed up,
“you’d hear a clink, the boiler started going, and two hours later it would get
warm,” Liou says.
By Amy Wolff Sorter
Today’s EMS do more than turn boilers or chillers on and off. Such systems are
computerized and in many cases, have become the brains of a building. Thanks to
communications protocol such as BACnet and LonWorks, they automatically
operate climate controls, lighting and security, in addition to collecting a ton of data
that notifies humans if something is wrong. These protocols also permit electrical,
lighting and other components to talk to one another in a building, sometimes even
across a portfolio of buildings. In other words, thanks to advances in technology,
these systems are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to controlling
the built environment.
Or rather, they CAN do that heavy lifting. The fact is, even with these intelligent
tools in place, many building owners and property managers still regard EMS as
glorified time clocks: fancy on-and-off switches.
“More than half the buildings larger than 100,000 square feet in the United
States have some kind of energy management system,” explains Carlos Petty, vice
president with Syska Hennessy Group. “Yet building owners and property managers may not be getting the best bang for their buck from these systems.”
The definition of EMS today is pretty broad, ranging from that on-off mercury
controlled thermostat all the way to an intelligent panel run by proprietary software that knows the correct time to start chillers on a hot July day to ensure the
interior temperature will be 75 degrees by the time people arrive for work. Energy
management systems are also known by other names, such as building automa-