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Keeping our feet on the ground while working in the Cloud

We are all ambassadors of the power of cloud computing, and managing buildings effectively and to the satisfaction of owners or tenants depends on our ability to talk about our successes and provide working examples of using cloud computing to connect to sustainability, conservation, and energy real time information.


September 15, 2009
By Ken Sinclair

In Gordon Holness’ recent presidential address to ASHRAE members, “Sustaining Our Future by Rebuilding Our Past,” which dealt with energy efficiency in existing buildings, he stated in his conclusion; “We need to remind ourselves that today we are in a virtual world. We are in the era of iPhones and Yahoo, of Google Earth and Wikipedia, of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. If we want to continue to be leaders in this industry, we must deliver the goods today. Tomorrow is not good enough.”

Holness’ background in Building Information Modeling (BIM) and interoperability has provided him great insight into the power of technology to solve problems. Properly using the technologies we have today to share information can be a great help in explaining the work we do.

Power through education
Sarah Erdman, marketing director for Quality Automation Graphics, suggests a solution to the education challenge in her recent article, Energy Dashboards Inform and Educate.

As the number of sustainable buildings increases, Erdman notes, so does the need to educate the public about the importance of sustainability and energy efficiencies.

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“Once built, facilities [managers] want to see how energy efficient the buildings are, and share this information with building occupants, visitors and the public,” says Erdman. “Displaying a building’s energy efficiencies or sustainable practices is a trend seen more and more in the green building industry. Using a solution such as an Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard (EEED) provides details on the building’s energy efficiencies in a fast and easy to understand format. It can also help earn an Innovation in Design LEED certification credit from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).”

“An EEED is a graphical user interface (GUI) that displays a building’s resource use in real-time by ‘talking’ to a building’s automation system,” continues Erdman. “It not only shows energy efficiencies, but serves as an educational tool that provides more information about the green features used throughout the building, photo-realistic graphics, company information and more.”

If you’re interested in learning how you can use the Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard as a green education tool, visit http://www.qagraphics.com/interactive-development/energy-efficiency-education-dashboard.

Making it happen
But with a multi-vendor project, one might think making that education piece a reality would be a challenge. An interview I conducted earlier this month with David Oshoway, president of Energetic Concepts Ltd., suggests this can be managed with a Multi-Protocol Router.

As Oshoway explains it, the Multi-protocol router brings disparate protocols from the building systems world into the IT world.

“It is also a control web server using standard browsers to control and offers many other services,” Oshoway notes. “It allows us to interface BacNet, LonWorks, Modbus and many other protocols. It then converts the disparate protocols and raises them to XML and serves out control pages using TCP/IP protocol. Many services such as trending, alarming, security, webpage design and many others are part of the onboard tool box. 

Rating components
It can be difficult to choose what sort of smart building products and services will work best together, but it can also be a challenge to evaluate them all.

A new Smart Buildings Product Rating program, which is currently under development, may help change this.

“With a product rating, we think that stakeholders will find the design, sourcing and integration of building systems simplified,” says Jim Sinopoli, Principal of Sinopoli and Associates and one of the developers of this new rating program.

“The question building owners, designers and contractors have is how to easily assess whether a product is fit to be a part of an integrated building system at the physical, network and application levels,” he continues. “One way is for the product to be evaluated against strict criteria and then rated, with the rating indicating the product’s capability to be integrated and the functionality it can provide to the building’s performance. The Smart Buildings Product Rating Program evaluates and rates building system products. The Smart Buildings evaluation provides an objective examination of the products and firsthand information from independent industry experts. With a product rating we think that stakeholders will find the design, sourcing and integration of building systems simplified.”

Aske how products are rated as a Smart Buildings Product, Sinopoli responds, “Product rating is primarily based on integration standards developed and copyrighted by Smart Buildings. We understand that there are different ways to design integrated building systems and different concepts of what integration is. We’ve defined six different levels of building systems integration and use that as the common integration framework for evaluation. Our experience with clients is that the definition of different levels of integration brings clarity and understanding to system integration. One component of the product rating is which level of integration the product fits.”

Smart Buildings evaluates products in every potential product class — from wireless sensors to information dashboards. The products are submitted for evaluation by manufacturers and vendors. The Smart Buildings team evaluates the product against an established and rigorous set of guidelines known as the Smart Building Principles of Integration.

The above provides a basic plan of how you can start today with your feet on the ground showing how a facility can be better managed with better cloud connections.

Ken Sinclair is the Editor/Owner of AutomatedBuildings.com.