Intelligent Buildings: Energy Savings from Smart Controls

The following blog post was provided by our partners at Navigant Research, who are hosting a webinar with Intel and Lucid on February 26 at 2:00 p.m. EST about the benefits of building energy management systems (BEMS) and the opportunities and challenges to deeper market adoption.

There is a distinct possibility that as you open this newsletter, you’re reading it in a moderately frigid office, and you may even be relishing in the secret satisfaction of a space heater stuffed under your desk. The reality is that today, most of our offices are just not smart. We are too cold or too hot, equipment is poorly managed and maintained, and energy is wasted. Navigant Research suggests, however, that a tide is turning, and intelligent building technologies are gaining traction in an ever-growing number of offices. Investment in these technologies, and building energy management systems (BEMS) in particular, makes good business sense, and the outlook is bright for a future of comfortable and sustainable workspaces. Here are three reasons why intelligent buildings are a win-win for building owners and occupants:

1. Intelligent Buildings Are a Fast-Growing Market

Commercial buildings consume a lot of energy. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technology Office, the cost of energy to operate the 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States is estimated at $180 billion per year. The systems that heat, cool, ventilate, and light our buildings account for about half of the energy demand in buildings. As the U.S. building stock has matured, a diverse range of technology has been installed to manage the operations of these systems. The automation and controls industry was long led by huge manufacturers that offered complex and costly systems designed to meet the needs of the largest buildings. These systems were run with proprietary and closed architectures that were expensive and complex to maintain. Integration across these systems improved with ASHRAE’s BACnet data communication protocol in the largest buildings, but there was still room for innovation. There was great opportunity for more cost effective solutions for comprehensive management of large portfolios and solutions for smaller buildings.

About 10 years ago, the automation and controls industry saw the rumblings of disruption as Silicon Valley began jumping at the opportunity to drive energy efficiency in buildings via software. In the years that have followed a new market of intelligent building solutions has flourished. These solutions are typified by open communications protocols and the goal of integrating and utilizing data from diverse sources. Software analytics, or building energy management systems (BEMS), are the core of the intelligent building concept. These tools help customers gain visibility into system performance within a particular building or across their portfolio. Furthermore, the software can drive improvement in large or small buildings through automation systems, independently with alternative controls, or via directions for manual improvements.

The market appeal of BEMS has led to rapid growth in the market and according to Navigant Research, worldwide BEMS revenue is expected to grow from $2.8 billion in 2016 to $10.8 billion in 2024. The broad adoption of these solutions reflects the demand for more flexible and open solutions to utilizing building data for performance improvement. However, the market is dynamic with a broad range of equipment in the existing building stock and a diverse customer base. Fundamentally, BEMS provide transparency in building operations and energy consumption, and transform diverse sets of data into actionable information. Despite the complexity in the market, Navigant Research suggests BEMS offerings can be evaluated against categories of applications that range in complexity and benefits as illustrated below.

(Source: Navigant Research)

Looking at the figure above, it may seem there is little unifying this market, but there are three dominant characteristics of leading BEMS offerings. First, most of the offerings are deployed using a software-as-a-service model that enables cost-effective analysis of broad data sets by leveraging cloud computing. Second, these offerings are scalable. Many customers begin the process of developing intelligent buildings with pilot projects in one building or focused on one end use and expand the capabilities and scope of the projects over time. Third (and most universal), BEMS utilize diverse data sets. There is no doubt that the integration of data can be challenging, but these solutions are designed to utilize diverse data.

Lucid, an illustrative BEMS provider, is also joining Intel and Navigant to discuss the intelligent buildings market and the role of BEMS in delivering performance improvements. Lucid is also used in the RMI Innovation Center. Lucid’s BuildingOS is one example of a BEMS offering that is helping customers gain insight into facility operations by leveraging data streams, including historical billing and interval data, facility audits, asset information, and equipment documentation. The aggregated data allows employees across an organization to access and share reports, assess the impact of efficiency measures, and gauge improvements in productivity.

2. BEMS Transform Growing Mountains of Raw Data Into Actionable Information

There is a lot off buzz around technology and having data available at your fingertips for all aspects of life. From wearables to smart thermostats accessible with our cell phones, we have become accustomed to an ease of access to information. This reality has a twofold impact on commercial buildings. On one hand, our expectation of the experience within our workspaces is changing. We want to experience the same kind of technology-enabled comfort and convenience in our offices that we can experience in our homes. This pressure is apparent to commercial building owners and managers and helps influence the adoption of intelligent building technologies, including BEMS. On the other hand, the proliferation of devices can mean more data, but not necessarily better data. This can lead to confusion in the marketplace, but also opens the door to differentiation between intelligent building technologies. BEMS are effective tools for translating data into actionable information. This is key to realizing return on investment (ROI) for intelligent buildings. The analytics that characterize BEMS use algorithms to identify equipment failures, performance anomalies, and space utilization. These tools help make sense of the growing streams of data as more devices become a part of the commercial building infrastructure. The result is that customers are investing in BEMS because these tools translate data into actionable information for performance improvements that have positive impacts on their bottom line.

3. BEMS Have Benefits Beyond Energy Efficiency

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about the secure, scalable, and integrated communication of data. Energy efficiency is a measurable benefit associated with operational changes to building systems such as lighting and HVAC. The savings on monthly utilities bills was the first story BEMS software providers introduced when the market emerged. As the IoT has led to more investment in devices in commercial buildings, many non-energy benefits now come in tandem with BEMS.

Intel, for example, partners with BEMS providers such as Lucid to bring the IoT to buildings and amplify the non-energy benefits of investment. Customers can gain visibility and transparency into facility operations, manage utility bills, measure ROI with measurement and verification tools, manage budgets and plan capital expenditures, improve operational efficiency, benchmark building performance, engage occupants, and manage tenant billing.

Join Navigant Research, Intel, and Lucid on February 26 at 2:00 p.m. EST to hear a roundtable discussion about the benefits of BEMS and the opportunities and challenges to deeper market adoption. Register today using the following link: 

Casey Talon is a principal research analyst with Navigant Research, a market research and consulting team that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets.

Photo courtesy of Colin Harris via Flickr, Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).