Distinguishing Between Energy Management And Building Management – And Why It Matters
By Jon Moeller
When energy efficiency benchmarking tools such as ENERGY STAR and LEED were created almost a decade ago, these served as a catalyst for the creation of the green building movement. Since the advent of these solutions, the commercial real estate (CRE) sector has seen a marked uptick in the number of “responsible buildings” in every major urban corridor. Sustainable construction projects have proliferated, and green buildings now populate many metro skylines. Yet by the end of 2014, the U.S. Green Building Council cited that residential and commercial buildings were still responsible for nearly 40% of national carbon emissions.
Within dense urban areas, the statistics are even more notable. In fact, CRE properties are consuming very significant amounts of energy, demanding up to 75% of a city’s total energy capacity. This percentage, and the associated costs will continue to climb, and it is important for building owners and operators to launch or renew a focus on both green building practices and efficiency initiatives that monitor and manage their energy expenditures such as water, electricity, steam, gas, and heat.
Building Management/Automation Systems (BMS/BAS), a staple of facility operations in the digital era, were developed to control these energy excesses. However, BMS can call for cost-intensive retrofits and installations that disrupt operations, discouraging many building teams from making the adjustments needed to reduce costs and emissions. When the systems are installed, it needs to be ensured that the systems are configured in a way that optimizes efficiency and/or reduces cost, as BMS/BAS only allow building teams to automate control, without giving insight into how much building systems should be adjusted — and why.
So how can a building cost effectively achieve energy efficiency? Put another way, how can facility teams adopt energy efficiency initiatives and reduce expenditures, all without returning to a blank blueprint?
Energy Management Software (EMS) is designed to address these challenges, and many see 2015 as the year that EMS solutions fundamentally disrupted the CRE industry. A series of recent studies of the building management sector revealed that property managers and building teams are acknowledging the financial and environmental benefits of services like EMS. EMS may be a more nascent segment of the overall CRE sector, but it inarguably offers a lighter footprint, and a lower cost path. It provides facility managers with an easy-to-use and adaptable platform of “big data” analytics that turn energy optimization metrics into simple, actionable initiatives.
EMS versus BMS: Clearing up the Confusion
There remains widespread confusion around how EMS can best be leveraged to minimize energy use and maximize cost savings. As a result, many building professionals are missing out on opportunities to diminish their energy footprints.
The nucleus of this issue revolves around the fact that these professionals too often use the terms EMS and BMS/BAS interchangeably, when they are actually fundamentally different.
In short, BMS/BAS automate the control of resources like heat pumps, lighting systems, and HVAC boxes, which simplifies the jobs of chief engineers and building operators. However, BMS/BAS can often be cost prohibitive and lack the analytic insights that continually guide a facility manager’s decisions. This gap in the market is the sweet spot for EMS. EMS has managed to scale down installation in regards to cost and equipment, while delivering increasing savings and energy efficiency, working either standalone or in tandem with a BAS/BAS in order to optimize its operations. On top of multi-utility monitoring, EMS can benchmark energy use with other nearby buildings and tracks weather changes to project expected future facility behavior, identify savings opportunities and reduce the risk of energy expense overruns. In this way, EMS recalibrates and streamlines a building’s energy use without necessitating any invasive installations.
Different Buildings, Different Needs
While EMS can function as an overlay on pre-existing BMS/BAS systems, it can also work alone. In fact, EMS is a cost-effective way of initiating positive changes in organization, cost reduction, and optimization for buildings with any variety of goals or needs. In this age of responsible building practices, EMS is a very accessible way to bring a property into the future.
Building teams need the data, analytics, and recommendations that can maximize property potential. EMS provides all of these tools and does so without stretching utility budgets. Whether it is issued as a standalone initiative or implemented alongside BMS, EMS is a simple, cost-effective method to modernize building energy usage and to improve urban environment conditions.
Moeller is CEO of MACH Energy, a provider of cloud based energy management software, where he also heads sales and corporate development. Prior to joining MACH, Jon spent a decade in financial services business development and transactional roles at Banc of America Securities, Cowen and Co., and Storage Technology Corporation. Jon is also currently President of a mixed-use project based in San Francisco, and an active member of ULI San Francisco’s Sustainability Committee.
Question of the Week: What tools do you have in place for energy management? Building management? Are you unsure whether EMS, BMS, or both suit your facilities’ needs best? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.