The Next Step in Commercial Building Energy Management
June 29, 2010
By Jenny Carless
Having real-time visibility into their energy consumption, and therefore being able to act upon it to achieve both financial and environmental efficiency, is a relatively new concept for most residential consumers. Commercial building owners and operators, on the other hand, already have some experience with tools like the Cisco Network Building Mediator to help them monitor and manage their facilities' energy use.
But the ability to manage energy consumption and costs just got easier for these customers. As of today, instead of managing energy use one building at a time, they will be able to extend that control seamlessly across their portfolio of buildings with the Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager.
"Commercial buildings consume up to 70 percent of our electric energy in North America and contribute about 40 percent of our greenhouse gases," explains Ed Richards, director of Worldwide Business Development, Smart Connected Buildings at Cisco. "Our group is focused on aggregation, command and control of carbon and energy use."
Enabling Global Efficiencies
"With the Building Mediator, we have helped enable our customers to converge their non-IP networked energy systems and bring them to the network so they can view and act on the data and provide policies and control strategies back to the building," Richards says.
"Now, with the new Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager, we are addressing the hundreds or thousands of buildings one customer runs," he adds. "It allows global commands to make adjustments to all buildings at once."
Together, these two tools help provide an intelligent platform that organizations can use to interconnect and manage geographically dispersed building systems centrally over an IP network. They help to increase operational efficiencies dramatically in distributed facility management.
"Say we want to reduce our energy consumption to match a new price structure from the aggregator that sells us energy, for example," Richards says. "We can make a global change such as increasing the temperature from 74 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit in all buildings simultaneously with one click of the mouse. That's very potent.
"The goal is to integrate what is going on outside the building such as the changing prices of electricity and the weather with everything happening inside," he adds.
The Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager can monitor and adjust a wide range of systems, from the heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system to photovoltaics, lighting, power meters, wind and solar energy systems, fuel cells, landscape irrigation and more.
It also includes a global navigator that affords real-time, enterprise-wide visibility of facility operations (such as energy efficiency ratios of chillers or kilowatts per square foot) as well as global alarm monitoring capability for centralized event management.
Always-On, Real-Time Data
"This represents a significant change in the way buildings are managed," Richards points out.
The Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager operates 24/7 and can respond in real time to events.
"Today, many of us have PDAs through which we receive email and text messages as well as phone calls. But imagine if you only turned it on to receive calls: You'd be missing out on a lot of information in between those phone calls," Richards points out. "The Building Mediator Manager is like a PDA in that it lets you monitor all your information, all the time. It receives messages continuously from a variety of sources."
That enables continuous tuning of the building's many systems to operate in the most energy-efficient way, taking in current circumstances. That is the key to sustainability, according to Richards.
Looking to the Future
The Cisco Network Building Mediator and the Building Mediator Manager constitute an open, secure framework that allows any-to-any connectivity seamlessly connecting clean technology, IT and building system assets. They provide end-to-end management, across the network, from the very lowest sensor in the basement of building all the way out to cloud services and back down to the building.
"All of this is delivered via an extensible platform (the network) that allows third-party applications and cloud services and best-of-breed on all the building systems," Richards says.
"That platform allows us headroom to go way out into the future," he adds. "It will support applications and services we don't even know about yet. These are exciting times."
Jenny Carless is a freelance writer located in Santa Cruz, CA.
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