A Reflection Of The Building Automation Industry For 2007

Looking at last year in the rear-view mirror, we see a maze of significant events that are rapidly reshaping the building automation (BA) industry. The year started in Dallas at the AHR Expo, which always seems to focus on what is new. We provided our eighth year of free education sessions and were joined by Mr. GridWise, Jack Mc Gowan, when the GridWise movement became endorsed as a part of the AHR Expo and ASHRAE Annual Meeting.

Another announcement in Dallas was that oBIX was now an OASIS Committee Specification. In addition, BACnet news came from Rob Zivney, vice president of marketing with Hirsch Electronics, when he said, “It is interesting that the first comprehensive access control standard to emerge comes from the building controls industry. I know that there are many endusers with existing BACnet installations who are excited about the possibility of adding access control to their systems.”

These are significant industry events as they continue the necessary convergence of traditional building automation with the electrical grid, physical security, and the IT industries. Evolving standards and GridWise thinking are fundamentally changing the way in which we design, operate and use our buildings.

Jared Malarsky of ARC’s market research team reached this conclusion, “Based on this year’s AHR show, the question is no longer whether to automate, but how to ensure the greatest return on this worthwhile investment. Future growth of the BA systems market depends on: building owner/operators maintaining a long-term view of their building’s life cycle; suppliers offering dynamic solutions that are interoperable with other building and enterprise systems to create ‘intelligent’ buildings; and maximizing reliability, comfort, and efficiency through performance monitoring.”

Some of these concepts have now been documented in a 40-chapter industry hardcover book titledWeb-Based Enterprise Energy and Building Automation Systems. The book is about convergence, connectivity, and the new business paradigm that is creating, and shares the thoughts of several of the folks writing for our publications.


GridWeek, a four-day gathering of grid modernization leaders in Washington, provided the BA industry a great opportunity to be part of and to better understand how we fit into modernizing the United States electric grid.

Over the past several years, the building industry has invested heavily in the automation of speed controls to achieve energy savings. Most pumps, fans, chillers, and other building components have been built or converted to operate with just enough speed/power to meet required conditions. Unleashing this equipment to become an interactive part of the electrical grid in a GridWise (www.gridwise.org) fashion was a significant part of the focus of GridWeek. The BA industry is ready, willing, and able to make this happen.

In addition to all the news, articles, and interviews that Mc Gowan has been generating as a contributing editor for both AutomatedBuildings.com and Engineered Systems, he has been chairman of the GridWise Architectural Council, rallying the 13 members around notions of interoperability and the need to develop a crosscutting electricity community of people and organizations representing industrial systems, building automation, home automation, and economic and regulatory policy in addition to electric service providers. Mc Gowan’s day job is CEO of New Mexico-based Energy Control Inc., a major player in the Grid Integration space. Mc Gowan has helped evolve and elevate our industry from arriving on the scene as building integrators and morphing into grid integrators.

Mc Gowan’s contributions to GridWeek were significant, and the GridWise Architecture Council received the Smart Grid Advocacy Leadership Award.

Tremendous Opportunities In Demand Response

The U.S. Demand Response Coordinating Committee has developed the following definition of demand response (DR): Providing electricity customers in both retail and wholesale electricity markets with a choice whereby they can respond to dynamic or time-based prices or other types of incentives by reducing and/or shifting usage, particularly during peak periods, such that these demand modifications can address issues such as pricing, reliability, emergency response, and infrastructure planning, operation, and deferral.

Quite simply, DR allows users and utilities to work together to address one of the most critical challenges of the electricity business: peak demand. A complicating factor is that DOE is projecting a 40% increase in electric demand over the next 20 years. DR offers a way for utilities to hedge against how fast they will have to build infrastructure by offering an incentive to users who are willing to reduce load at critical times. Technology is the key to making this happen as BAS can implement a wide variety of strategies to achieve the load reduction. A few of these strategies including pre-cooling before the demand period, using thermal storage and integrating CHP, and emergency generation to reduce electricity that is needed from the grid.

With DR, the incentives often take the form of money that can be used in part to pay for capital improvements that will support the demand response strategy, and in part can be taken in cash by the customer to reward their participation. The projected increase in demand will likely be driven in part by cooling, but also by the many aspects of our lifestyle that require electricity.

The committee is exploring how information technology and interoperability can be used to improve both reliability and efficiency on the nation’s electric system or grid. DR has successfully demonstrated interoperability between computer systems on both sides of the meter.

The first DR-Expo, held in Chicago on October 16-17, 2007, had a tremendous turnout of over 200 participants. The feedback was consistent that DR-Expo was extremely valuable for the evolution not only of DR and energy management, but also for the further deployment of new technologies such as IP and Web services to the building systems market. The requests from sponsors, speakers, and attendees alike were for DR-Expo to be held at least twice a year in the U.S.

In November, over 160 industry experts assembled in Albuquerque, NM to join the GridWise Architecture Council (GWAC) for the first Grid-Interop Forum.

Systems integrators, business managers, and policymakers from the electric, manufacturing, commercial building, and home automation industries discovered common ground for advancing a smarter electricity system. At Grid-Interop, attendees representing these various sectors shook the walls that divide them and explored ways that their automation technologies can connect together and coordinate to create a better electricity system.

The Intelligent Buildings Roadmap

The Intelligent Buildings Roadmap, prepared by Paul Ehrlich, P.E. of Building Intelligence Group, was released on August 1, 2007. The roadmap is a collaborative, industry-funded research project that explores the opportunities offered by emerging intelligent building technologies.

The roadmap’s primary objective is to identify strategies for developing intelligent buildings that have the greatest potential to drive broad acceptance. The report examines the challenges facing intelligent building implementation within North America and identifies the market developments and industry initiatives needed to support the wider adoption of these technologies.

ES/BacNet Sustainability Conference

While attending the Building Automation & Sustainability Conference & Expo, hosted byESand BACnet in Phoenix, the view from the hotel window provided a real reflection that reminded us that the traditional hard building lines are becoming quite soft and pliable in the new order of the three C’s: conservation, connectivity, and convergence.

Deep integration was discussed in every session, along with how the new converged model of our industry includes close, near, and far integration.

With all this growth in Web-based capabilities, the traditional lines of the building industry are melting into softer identities that closer reflect the virtual nature of our Web-based ways.

This radical growth and blurring of traditional lines brings with it a responsibility for us as an industry to better document our value statements and present ourselves as ready and willing partners in the new converged, connected, and conserving world.

NewEnergy Alliance

Leighton Wolffe, principal with Wolffe Technology Consultants, announced the formation of the NewEnergy Alliance, an organization founded by Constellation NewEnergy that includes leading equipment manufacturers, building automation companies, system integrators, and software application businesses. The purpose of the new alliance is to work with Constellation to drive innovation and create energy responsive buildings. He shared his thoughts on the alliance in an interview on AutomatedBuildings.com.

“We were approached by a number of industry leaders and BAS companies wanting to understand how they could become involved in DR programs. These companies all shared two common attributes: 1) an awareness of the increasing emphasis and market need for sustainable energy solutions; and 2) they wanted to bring these products and services to their customers. The alliance was formed so that we could share information and help drive innovation across the BAS industry with best practices, new technologies, and advanced energy strategies to bring demand response to every building that has a BAS.

“Given that the BAS are already connected to most of the energy consuming devices in buildings, we quickly realized that the best, most efficient, and readily available means to create energy responsive buildings was to work together to leverage and enhance the existing infrastructure of installed systems with energy market information and advanced load response capabilities.

“Our building automation industry can now demand dollars for giving back kW of electrical peak demand to the grid. This new reality is changing everything, while creating a new and very demanding DR industry. This new industry comes with new dollars for our industry, which were previously spent on providing electrical generation and distribution. We have a tremendous resource in our September issue about this incredible opportunity. Please make time to read these insightful articles.”

GridWise and DR thinking comes to summation in “Net Zero Projects,” another article on AutomatedBuildings.com. These projects show us how to integrate the building as a power plant to provide both its own power while passing on any excess power to the grid. These leading edge projects show how we can actually expand our existing electrical grid without adding traditional generation or distribution.

My Projection For The BA Industry For 2008

This 2007 BAS reflection exposes the strong relationship that has developed with the electrical grid that will forever change the value integrated building automation can provide.

I predict that this reflection will clearly evolve in 2008, as DR and GridWise, coupled with new relationships and new money, result in a significant reorganization of our industry.

The green building movement and our rapidly evolving necessity to achieve sustainability will radically reconfigure both our traditional building stock and the way buildings are built.

The net zero building reflection showed how renewable energy sources can be integrated with the grid where and when they are needed. My prediction is that in 2008 all major existing buildings will be re-evaluated to understand the financial potential of increasing their interaction with the electrical grid.

New partnerships will abound such as those described in Constellation’s NewEnergy Alliance that will create significant industry collaboration, reorganization, and focus. Building integration with the grid will become the key driving force for othe BA industry.

To simplify communications with our many new partners and the general public, graphics will be the key. Traditional dynamic information graphics will morph into interactive Web pages and will appear anywhere they are required to educate and inform the building stakeholders of their contribution to sustainability. Simplified communication is extremely important and I am always interested in new developments such as browser and field device alerts. The use of networked digital signage presents new ways of getting our important messages to our clients and building occupants.

I predict that the building automation industry will demand dollars for giving back kW of electrical peak demand to the grid. This new reality will change everything, while creating a new and very demanding DR industry. This new industry will come with new dollars for our industry, which were previously spent on providing peak electrical generation and distribution.

Our newfound substance, “connectivity,” is no longer a concept; it is the new reality that is changing how we work and what our industry will look like in the near future. Connectivity concepts such as the smart grid, the greening of buildings with better connections to everything, coupled with connections to powerful Web services and the notion of Buildings 2.0, are all creating new directions and markets for our industry. This requires that we all re-examine our core business models and make adjustments.

The AHR Expo 2008 in New York will feature our ninth year of providing technical educational sessions. We lead off with “Greening the Big Apple with New Building Automation Ideas,” and will continue with open discussions about building automation’s role in achieving sustainability and the impact of new codes and communication standards. We will expand on these reflections and projects, so please join us and share your thoughts.ES