How are technological innovations improving energy management? Many products exist today that either weren’t around five years ago or were just too expensive.
For office tenants, there are more types of affordable sensors — dual-technology sensors that require both sound and motion to turn lights on to avoid accidental switching and daylight sensors that adjust light levels automatically. Wireless submeters are easier and cheaper to install, and that makes it more feasible to monitor energy use in tenant spaces.
At the Empire State Building, we helped develop an energy monitoring system that allows tenants to see how changes in their behavior affect their energy cost—so if they buy ENERGY STAR computers and their usage declines, they see the benefit of that, whereas in another building they wouldn’t.
The monitors also translate energy use into carbon emissions, and any company that has tried to measure its carbon footprint in leased space can appreciate the benefit of having that information at your fingertips.
What about smart-building technology? Is the incremental value worth the additional cost? It is if you use it properly. And there are other financial benefits besides energy.
At a minimum, property managers should use their existing automation to the best advantage, even if that just means adjusting the setpoints. For buildings undergoing renovation, installing the latest automation system should be an easy decision—the ROI is great. Not only do you save money on energy, but you can reduce costs by extending equipment life and making staff more efficient. Without good automation, staff members can spend a lot of time on manual reporting tasks.
Another consideration is carbon reporting. Most large companies now measure their carbon footprint. Senior managers expect the process to become faster and more accurate every year. Smart technology makes it easier.
Smart technology can also spot problems before they happen. If equipment suddenly starts drawing too much energy, the smart system figures out why – like a component that’s about to fail and causing other equipment to work harder to compensate. Avoiding a shutdown can save money.
What’s the value of portfolio energy management beyond what can be achieved at individual buildings? The benefits are strong even without the new generation of smart technology. The energy data gets rolled up into graphs and charts that the portfolio energy manager can view in different ways. That makes it easy to spot trends over time – why is this building drawing more energy than these other similar buildings? What happened at this property to make the energy use jump year over year?
Those benefits increase geometrically when you invest in a portfolio-wide system that uses smart technology and cloud computing. Instead of analyzing historical data, intelligent tools like our IntelliCommand system analyze data in real-time and act immediately when needed. Or the system may alert the command center that there is an issue requiring human involvement. The system can often diagnose problems even if it can’t fix them remotely, so when on-site personnel show up, they are prepared.
As cloud computing and smart-grid technology keep getting better — and energy costs keep rising — companies want to be ahead of the curve rather than behind.
Dan Probst is chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services at Jones Lang LaSalle.