Turning ‘Invisible’ Efficiency Measures Into Visible Savings

How Energy Measurement and Verification Services Measure The ‘Invisible’ for Facility Managers

Author: Jim Crowder

Note: This article was originally published in Oregon Facilities’ Summer 2011 Issue.

For most people, efficiency can’t be seen: it’s hard to tell how efficient a building is just by being inside it. Most commercial building dwellers can’t detect subtle shifts in temperature setpoints, let alone tell a building’s energy performance by looking at it. If it were easy to see the amount of energy being wasted in most commercial buildings on a daily basis, like piles of money flying out of the building on cold nights, hot days, and long weekends when the building is empty – then energy measurement and verification would be top of mind and agenda.

By contrast, operating budget excess is easy to see: energy comprises a third of most buildings’ controllable operating costs. Now that owners and managers are learning that just low- and no-cost energy efficiency measures alone can reduce their annual energy spend by an average of 15%, they’re having facility managers run energy saving diagnostics to uncover big savings from simple fixes. However, these types of savings opportunities typically revert back without rigorous oversight on the part of the facilities staff. After diagnosing and changing your systems, how do you know if your energy-saving adjustments are working? And what do you do if they aren’t?

New, affordable methods are increasingly available to help. Ongoing energy measurement and verification services, known as “M & V” in the industry, prove that predicted savings from proposed energy conservation measures are happening (or not) through scientific measurement. Energy measurement and verification helps facility managers bridge this gap of invisibility by providing real time data that help to ensure the delivery of monthly savings. As facility managers feel increasing pressure from management to reduce utility bills, they’ll need data to show and prove savings from actions taken to reduce energy usage.

What is energy measurement and verification?

Energy measurement and verification is the ongoing, continuous monitoring of a building’s energy use over time, tracked and analyzed by sensors, software and consultants who interpret the data. Many call it the equivalent of adding a 24/7 energy expert to building management staff to continuously watch the energy use of the facility, and tell facility managers when they are saving money, or wasting it. If it is paired with cost-cutting recommendations from the system and energy analysts, it goes beyond making the facility manager’s job easier, to making that person look like a hero.

Building conditions and tenants are in constant flux. From weather conditions to interior office and cubicle rearrangements, energy management is a moving target. Measurement and verification allows the potential for instant adjustment should building conditions change, tracking how much energy is being saved as a result of changes on a day to day basis.

How it works

The most effective measurement and verification systems stay quiet when building systems are functioning optimally, constantly looking for data that is out of the expected range for that building and quickly identifying the most serious energy waste. Real-time alerts are issued when energy use exceeds baselines. Continuous monitoring allows energy analysts to identify changes in building efficiency as they happen, and make immediate corrections to avoid unnecessary costs.

Most measurement and verification services use sensors to collect energy usage through an interface to the building’s electric meter. Those pulse measurements are sent wirelessly to a server, where the data is collected. When run through a sophisticated software platform, that data can be analyzed and presented via a real time energy dashboard or reports. The information is then reviewed by an energy analyst, and recommendations can be made when opportunities to save energy are identified. Measurement and verification provides the information needed for executive leadership to ensure energy waste is eliminated in their buildings leading to lower operating costs.

Measurement and verification in practice

Generally, facility managers’ demanding schedules and breadth of oversight aren’t best suited to day to day measurement of continuous data. But with energy costs inevitably on the rise, facility managers – and their managers – will want to keep a watchful eye over every dollar.

One example of an M & V solution economically positioned to meet the demands of mid to smaller sized commercial buildings is BuildingAdvice Verify, a powerful Energy Information Management System (EIMS) that incorporates both energy modeling diagnostics and continuous measurement and verification in one tool. BuildingAdvice Verify utilizes permanent, on-site meters that continuously monitor energy use by establishing baseline usage and looking for any variation from that baseline. Data can be tracked in real time to catch and correct usage spikes immediately.

As facility managers know, energy management isn’t a one-time event; energy waste and cost control requires continuous monitoring, analysis and management. To simplify those tasks, one of the most important tools in the effort to improve buildings’ energy efficiency is to solve the difficulty of eliminating waste with a robust energy measurement and verification system.

Jim Crowder, BuildingAdvice CEO

Jim Crowder, BuildingAdvice CEO

Jim Crowder is President and Chief Executive Officer of BuildingAdvice, an industry proven Energy Services Delivery Platform. During his 25-year career, he created dynamic new divisions within several Fortune 500 companies and led key turnaround efforts in smaller corporations. He spearheaded business development and successful technology startups within both established and emerging companies. 

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