What is in this article?:
- Energy Solutions
- Occupancy-based solutions
Education institutions can take small steps to deliver concrete energy savings, despite the constraints of tighter budgets.
Many different methods are available to detect occupancy; they all eliminate wasteful energy usage in unoccupied rooms.
Education facilities managers are faced with a daunting set of challenges: They must find new ways to reduce energy consumption and carry out greener energy policies. HVAC typically accounts for more than 30 percent of a building's electricity costs, so there is a clear incentive to eliminate unnecessary heating and cooling of unoccupied rooms.
With more efficient systems integration aiding the drive for green energy, school facilities managers can benefit from new energy-management strategies.
The education market is faced with unique challenges in energy management, not least because of the range of facilities involved. Classrooms, offices and student housing have different sets of requirements for energy control and usage. With rooms often unoccupied for considerable periods of time — on a daily basis, as well as through long vacation periods — education institutions need to embrace an intelligent approach that combines the ability to detect occupancy, control temperature settings, maintain ventilation and, equally important, help maintain equipment efficiently.
There also is a need to accommodate outside influences. For example: interaction with utility companies for energy rebates; or monitoring usage to enable rapid responses when utilities approach thresholds and need to shed load swiftly with little notice.
It can be advantageous for an education facility to know when a brownout is going to occur, and respond by lowering and controlling energy at a particular site. Also important is integration — a single facility may be equipped with different systems and equipment, from HVAC to building-management solutions. The energy-management system must integrate with the different systems, whose requirements have evolved over time.
Networked or not?
With a networked energy-management solution, facilities managers can check the status of all the different rooms in a building and provide a degree of control. Seeing the varying conditions — and any alerts — enables the manager to adjust the HVAC and lighting on a daily basis, as opposed to relying on single room-by-room settings that may have to be changed manually. Networked system options range from twisted pair, Ethernet or the latest platforms that employ wireless ZigBee communication methods and can even be self-healing. The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies working together to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked, monitoring and control products based on an open global standard.
The benefits are comprehensive — from centralized control to the ability to communicate data between rooms, floors, classrooms and residence halls. Monitoring and managing HVAC and lighting equipment locally and remotely enables a proactive maintenance strategy, combined with fast access to energy usage and savings reports.
Most of these networked systems also can be integrated into existing building management systems (BMS), which releases a facility manager to focus on more strategic energy-saving goals. It also enables a more analytical and proactive maintenance program; the system flags occurrences of failing equipment, such as a particular fan-coil unit or a compressor, and workers can fix a problem before a breakdown.
Disadvantages, however, need to be taken into account. The costs of establishing networked energy-management systems can vary widely. Interoperability issues with existing equipment may arise because vendors have not adopted a common standard. The key is to identify a solution that is based on a mainstream standard, such as the BACnet data communication protocol for building automation and control networks or the ZigBee wireless standards-based technology that addresses the unique needs of remote monitoring and control, as well as sensory network applications.