The complexity of an HVAC system and how it behaves is not limited anymore to that last compliant or just the set point to maintain pressure in a zone. It has become more complex in this new world of energy and carbon footprint reduction, well-being and outside air scenarios, and the number of fault conditions that occur across thousands of pieces of equipment in a building or facility. The new, digitized age has made this world easier to manage. Over the past several years, new technologies have emerged that have enhanced the tool set for facility engineers owners.

In the past, energy management systems were the tools of choice, using energy consumption in conjunction with building management systems (BMSs) to help facility engineers with key data to assess the situation. U.S. Energy in conjunction with Berkeley National Laboratory* executed a study examining more than eight years of data that revealed an energy consumption analysis can gain 4%-6% in energy reduction. To accomplish this, a facility engineer must notice an issue, “assess” the data in one or multiple systems, and design a corrective action. He must then assess hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of equipment that interact across a facility. Furthermore, he is also responsible for safety and well-being, which can only be “assessed” through manual or certified consultants. But “assess” is the key word here.


Enter the Monitoring-Based Commissioning System (MBCx)

Monitoring-based commissioning has become the de facto tool required for facility and building monitoring. The new digitized age and latest in Internet of Things (IoT) analytic technology has created an evolution in helping the facility engineer monitor hundreds of equipment even when he is away from the facility. Over the past several years, MBCx systems have given facility engineers a tool that can manage energy, reliability, and faults across entire buildings and even entire campuses. Some systems even assess well-being and airflow requirements in the same systems. With this technology, facility owners could see upwards of 27% by the fifth year according to the aforementioned U.S. Energy study. More importantly, MBCx has reduced client complaints by 30% in the health care industry and increased overall operational efficiency by 20%.


So, how does MBCx work? 

A good MBCx securely brings data from existing data sources (BMS, databases, or controllers) and transforms the data into information using advanced algorithms that automatically assess process, equipment, and components. These advanced algorithms than produce results that categorize and label the condition, causes, systemic nature, and utility waste. In addition, these systems take an integrated approach to streamlining the process of energy assessment and management, project/prioritization, work order management, and asset life-cycle management. These results are then correlated and summarized for comparison and easy prioritization.


A Simple Example 

Economizers and outside air seems to be hard-to-assess issues based on their impact on energy and operational efficiency. For example, economizers kick in when the outside air temperature can be used effectively to save energy. Several factors and inputs can determine the use of economizers. A senior facility engineer with time on his hands could look at trends of data on a single piece of equipment in about an hour. Multiply this by the number of air-handling units (AHUs) and rooftop units (RTUs) and the downstream impact of other equipment and then factor in additional heating/cooling. Remember, we are talking about a single piece of equipment. MBCx systems do this in seconds across all the equipment from every angle upstream and downstream. They also determine the potential cause and look for systemic issues across the fleet. And what about the energy determination? A senior facility engineer could potentially estimate the energy impact to the issue or even the impact of the corrective action, but does he have time for that? Once the change is completed, let’s do another analysis to measure and verify the success of our decision and maybe tie it to a utility incentive application for even more impact and ROI. Yep, already done for you with your MBCx system.


The Bottom Line

An MBCx can save tens of thousands of dollars in energy, increase a facility’s efficiency by 20%, provide more time to handle efficiency issues, and drive a culture of awareness not reaction. An MBCx system is a necessity today, whether you have a single facility; a group of high-impact, critical systems; or a wide campus to monitor. The compelling argument is that a facility manager can typically expect a six to eight month simple payback return on investment in the first year. This is a proven model for most MBCx systems that have off-the-shelf analytics that are deployable in less than 30 days. This new technology is here and has been proven for more than a decade, impacting the running costs, reliability, energy waste, and carbon footprint around the world today. 


*Better Buildings, U.S. Department of Energy. Proving the Business Case for Analytics: Final Outcomes on Costs, Savings, and Industry Trends from the Smart Energy Campaign, Hannah Kramer, Eliot Crowe, and Jessica Granderson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oct. 28, 2020.