By Craig Hall and Neil Maldeis
Facility directors looking for ways to improve building performance, reduce energy consumption, and shrink their structure’s environmental footprint would do well to focus first on their lighting, cooling, space heating, and ventilation systems. Depending on building type and other factors, these systems account for 60-70% of a typical building’s total energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As building automation systems (BAS) continue to evolve and improve, facility directors can use these systems’ capabilities to integrate lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
An energy audit is a good place to start; it is a good exercise to start looking for ways to improve building performance. The audit can provide the data needed to identify, prioritize, and implement energy efficiency measures, many of which pay for themselves in five years or less.
Energy audits provide vital information about how the building is operating, reveal energy efficiency opportunities, and make sure HVAC, lighting and other building systems are operating effectively and efficiently. Many organizations work with an energy services company (ESCO) or qualified energy engineer to conduct their audits.
Audits often uncover opportunities to reduce energy consumption by upgrading indoor and outdoor lighting technologies. Most often, this includes replacing older technology lighting fixtures, ballasts, and lamps with LED technologies. LEDs use much less energy, require less maintenance, offer better lighting coverage, and enhance the security of buildings, grounds, and parking structures. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study found that implementing various lighting efficiency measures can reduce lighting costs by up to 38% in a typical commercial building.
A lighting audit also may identify opportunities to increase daylight harvesting, which can help reduce energy costs and create a more comfortable and productive indoor environment for occupants.
Savings can be equally impressive for HVAC systems. High performance building technologies and practices can reduce heating, cooling, and ventilation costs by 40% or more, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). HVAC energy efficiency opportunities range from “tweaking and tuning” a facility’s building automation system (BAS) to upgrading or replacing the chilled water system, to implementing advanced technologies such as thermal storage systems.
In most buildings, lighting and HVAC systems are operated separately. Advanced BAS technology integrates lighting and HVAC controls into a single automated platform. The result is improved comfort for building occupants and reduced energy consumption for the organization. The most advanced platforms offer organizations one system simplicity. Facility teams can manage the integrated system from a single dashboard rather than making manual adjustments on multiple platforms. These dashboards can be accessed from any computer or mobile device, which benefits the operator.
Integrated lighting and HVAC controls create an optimum indoor environment. They can share the same sensors to determine whether a room is occupied and automatically adjust the lighting and temperature to ideal settings. The BAS can turn off lights and raise or lower the temperature to save energy when the room is empty.
Most buildings already have the technology backbone installed to accommodate the integration of lighting and HVAC controls with their existing BAS or with an upgraded system. Opportunities to improve BAS capabilities are often identified by the ESCO during the energy audit.
Organizations of all kinds continue to look for ways to do more with less—less energy, less staff and lower budgets. Saving energy by improving the efficiency of lighting and HVAC technologies and integrating controls provides an opportunity to reduce energy consumption and costs, improve environmental performance, and create a better indoor environment for building occupants.
Maldeis, a Professional Engineer and Association of Energy Engineers Certified Energy Manager,