Engineered Systems Magazine

Buildings 2.0: Energy And the Grid

August 10, 2007

This is a vision that restates the proposition of integrated building systems, automation, controls, and energy management. Buildings 2.0 is a vision that intricately intertwines buildings with Internet technologies; a vision of the future of buildings which is controlled, managed, and connected to the Internet in a way that goes far beyond the standard Web browser. It’s a vision of how technologies such as IP and Web services will transform the way building systems connect with each other, and how the limitations of traditional non-IP integration are blown away.

Most importantly, Buildings 2.0 is an initiative that cares for the scarce resources we have on planet Earth. It uses energy wisely, helps owners reduce costs, and is responsive to the availability of energy on the increasingly over-burdened electricity grid while utilizing renewable energy resources when it can.

These are ambitious goals for a new view on buildings. The question then becomes, why should the building automation and control industry care about Buildings 2.0, and what exactly is the impact and relationship between Buildings 2.0 and energy?

Why the building automation industry should care about Buildings 2.0

The discussion and arguments about building-IT convergence are over.

IT technologies such as TCP/IP and Web services will, in the future, become significant and motivating forces in building systems. This will lead to the full integration of all aspects of building automation with IT and other building system components such as digital displays, voice and data communications, security, vertical transport, parking systems, etc. It will also mean that all owner or tenant business systems within the facility will be similarly integrated in real-time with such a list of building systems as well as business enterprise systems, retail systems, back-office, and other applications yet to be discovered.

Does this remove the need for building automation? No, it does not. Does it lessen the importance of building automation? No, it does not. Does it increase the benefit and value of a well-designed BAS? Yes, it does. In the same way that a manufacturing and supply-chain system will suffer if a component (such as a conveyor belt) does not function well, a fully integrated building system based on the vision of Buildings 2.0 will not function well without a key component (such as HVAC).

Building automation professionals should take comfort that the value of their profession will be significantly increased by a holistic view of buildings, such as that envisioned by Buildings 2.0.

The Relationship Between Buildings 2.0, Energy, And The Grid

Buildings consume around half of the energy of the Western world. The opportunities to reduce energy in buildings, and increase the use of green and sustainable energy resources are now becoming obvious and commonplace as seen by the incredible popularity of USGBC’s LEED® program. Building owners now appreciate the benefits (to them and to society at large) of green buildings and are seeking even more ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The environmental impact of climate change will also bring an increased desire for organizations to behave more responsibly in regard to their energy use and the CO2 emissions into the world’s atmosphere.

Energy (especially electricity) is a real-time entity. Electricity generated at any given moment is consumed at that same moment. Electricity storage, while possible, is not practical. The inconsistency of electricity loads, governed mainly by the daily cycle of life, means that consumption is not a constant, and peak demands cause a significant problem for utilities required to provide a sufficient amount of electricity at all times.

Real-time demand response (DR, also known as load response or load shedding) is the mechanism by which a building can reduce its electricity usage when required by the grid. DR fundamentally requires a well-implemented information network that is pervasive and enables utilities or electricity wholesale managers such as ISOs (independent system operators) to send signals to consumers (such as building system) to curtail its use of electricity at any given time due to high current demands.

The full integration of the electricity grid, building systems and all other systems related to buildings enables not only the BAS to be responsive to the grid, but also for the enterprise system to weigh-in on any decision process which may curtail the use of energy. A retail chain owner for example, could decide, in real-time, which of its stores will shed load based on the amount of business conducted in their stores using information from their POS (point of sale) system so they can maximize business and yet shed load from stores with little or no activity.

A fully integrated system such as that proposed in the Buildings 2.0 vision will enable energy management to be more effective and responsive, providing owners with greater benefits from DR. GIB