Commercial buildings account for approximately 35% of national electricity consumption in the United States. With climate change becoming more critical, commercial building managers are increasingly focused on improving energy efficiency.
Using less power for facility operations has many benefits, including:
- Decreased operations costs
- Reduced carbon emissions
- Less stress on the power grid
- Increased tenant comfort
Let’s find out how to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings and how building automation helps optimize usage.
What Is a Building Automation System?
Occupant comfort is always a priority. A building automation system (BAS) manages equipment throughout a facility to maintain the ideal temperature, humidity, lighting, etc.
The BAS combines hardware and software to connect a building’s HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, and more, enabling equipment to be adjusted and controlled automatically according to its settings. A modern BAS can connect to a wide range of today’s advanced sensors and IoT devices.
An automation system can also provide a facility manager with historical energy use. This information is beneficial when learning how to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings. It helps with developing new power reduction strategies and evaluating their effectiveness.
Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings
Commercial buildings have particular challenges with energy management. Many have a collection of HVAC equipment acquired ad-hoc over the years, making coordination and optimization difficult. Furthermore, the older technology may not be compatible with modern devices and sensors.
Examples of commercial buildings:
- Office buildings
- Shopping malls
- Conference centers
Different buildings use energy in different ways. For example, an athletic facility with a pool and an ice rink has a very different power-use profile than a financial institution. A BAS is a critical asset for any commercial building as it helps manage a wide range of equipment.
Understanding energy use
Before you can increase energy efficiency, it’s crucial to understand how your building uses energy.
In a typical commercial building, operations that consume the most power are:
- Water heating
Other factors that influence energy consumption:
Peak Times. Energy needs vary throughout the day, more for some facilities than others. An office, for example, requires power for heating, cooling, and lighting during the day but not at night, while a hospital must provide services around the clock.
Local Climate. The time of year and geographic location impact how much power a commercial building uses. For example, air conditioning draw increases to keep a shopping mall cool during an Arizona summer or, vice-versa, heating needs spike during a frigid Minnesota winter.
A sophisticated BAS can generate reports to help you understand how your specific building uses energy over the year.
Energy Reduction Strategies
An understanding of BAS functionality is required to determine how to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings. According to Srinivas Katipamula, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) engineer, “Most large commercial buildings are already equipped with building automation systems that deploy controls to manage building energy use.”
However, simply having access to controls isn’t enough—it’s how those controls are used that makes a difference in power usage. Adds Katipamula, “controls often aren’t properly programmed and are allowed to deteriorate over time, creating unnecessarily large power bills.”
Once you understand how your building uses energy, you can use your BAS to create an effective strategy to increase efficiency.
Using a BAS to boost energy efficiency
A study carried out by PNNL found that certain strategies, when used in commercial buildings, resulted in a measurable energy decrease.
- Adjusting temperature setpoints: 8% reduction
- Reducing minimum airflow rates: 7% reduction
- Aligning heating and cooling to building occupancy: 6% reduction
These changes are possible by adjusting BAS settings to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing occupant comfort.
BAS technologies that support energy efficiency
Some of the devices and technologies that help a BAS optimize energy use throughout a building include:
Multifunctional sensors – Advanced sensors can capture information such as temperature, relative humidity, brightness, occupancy, airspeed, and more. Input from sensors can be used to adjust equipment to maximize energy optimization.
Adaptive and autonomous controls – Managing building operations is complex, as temperature, occupancy, and lighting needs change constantly. A BAS with adaptive or autonomous controls adjusts equipment in real-time without the need for manual adjustments.
Open, non-proprietary BAS platforms – Unifying systems throughout a commercial building requires an open or non-proprietary BAS. An open building management platform enables a facility manager to use a single portal to communicate with equipment from multiple manufacturers.
Conexus Provides BAS Solutions for Commercial Buildings
At Conexus we’re experts in energy-efficient BAS solutions. Over several decades, we’ve helped customers leverage technology to transform their commercial building environments.
Our open systems give you the advanced options and adaptability you need to manage your building’s energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint now, and into the future.