There’s gold in building performance data


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Buildings have entered into an information age like never before. Consequently, giant strides in building energy, economic, and environmental performance can be made and credibly documented.

Reasons for this renaissance are: 1) It’s become technologically easy to generate and access data from installed equipment, meters, submeters, and BAS. 2) It has become good business practice to monitor energy and water usage for economic and environmental purposes. 3) Imperatives by architects, engineers, owners, operators, manufacturers, and regulators have forced the hand of the green community to back green claims with data. 4) Labeling building energy and environmental performance may soon become mandatory.

If the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act passes the Senate, President Obama will sign it into law. Section 204 of the current ACES bill is entitled Building Energy Performance Labeling Program . With that, residential and nonresidential buildings will have to be labeled for energy performance and, by algebraic extension, greenhouse gas emissions, too.

In the Senate, ACES will face stiff opposition primarily because of a controversial cap-and-trade mechanism for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Also in the bill is a requirement that buildings show a 30% increase in energy efficiency by 2012 and a 50% increase by 2015, relative to ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004. These requirements, plus the labeling, will greatly accelerate the already-accelerating building information market.

And if ACES fails, the building information trend will continue because the Obama Administration will likely leverage the U.S. Dept. of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase efficiency and decrease emissions.

Apart from ACES, market forces and voluntary programs are increasing the monitoring and reporting of building performance data. Real-time pricing, utility control of air conditioning, utility rebate programs, performance contracting, EPAct tax credits, LEED 3.0 measurement and verification requirements, and the Energy Star building label program are some of the major influences. There also are the broader drives to save energy due to unstable (higher) prices, the avoidance of capital costs for new power plants, and to improve the environmental profile of businesses and governments.

Helping to foster the information age of buildings is the availability of software to process, display, and archive data. Dashboards are cropping up that aggregate meter and weather readings and provide simple means to determine how well a building is performing. Automated fault-detection and diagnostic software is finally finding traction. Anticipating carbon control, turnkey systems and services for energy/carbon tracking, reporting, and compliance-assurance are now available.

With approximately five million nonresidential buildings and a recessionary economy, America’s building inventory has become a gold mine for entrepreneurial engineering services.

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