Today I read an article in Forbes advocating one lens approach to energy efficiency over another to tackle the enormous waste in the largest hospitals in the country. The author focuses on a recent Energy Information Administration press release regarding in the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), which found that over 90% of the largest hospitals in the US use lighting conservation technologies as a mechanism to reduce energy waste. The problem with the conclusion of this article is that adopting a focus on combined heat and power (CHP) over lighting as the solution to energy inefficiency retains a narrow vision and fails to adopt the kind of holistic vision of energy management that is feasible today with Smart Building technologies.
The healthcare segment can certainly benefit from investment in the suite of CHP technologies to tackle both energy and water waste, but the point of this post is to look at those opportunities in the construct of a strategic vision for energy management. There is no silver bullet for energy efficiency, even when exploring the opportunities of one narrow segment such as large hospitals. Existing building infrastructure, energy prices and business objectives all play into the prioritization and value energy management technologies can generate. There must be a shift in the decision-making paradigm to a more holistic vision of how we consume energy and operate our building in order to effectively accelerate the adoption of mature and intelligent energy management solutions that can significant reduce energy waste. Integrating a suite of advanced automation and control technologies with the insight of information technology can provide a long-term alteration in operations that will compound energy efficiency improvements. This is the construct of a Smart Building.
IDC Energy Insights has defined the Smart Building as a facility that incorporates advanced automation and integration for real-time optimization of energy consuming and producing equipment. This visionary building would have systems reacting to internal policies established to support particular business goals (i.e. sustainability and corporate social responsibility) and external data streams such as grid reliability signals via demand response or weather. The automated controls would react to signals and adjust how lighting, heating, or other building equipment operates to balance occupant needs and business objectives. This mature system architecture leverages increasingly mature energy management solutions available in the market as information technology and building automation converge to transform how facilities are operated.
There is an evolution that must take place for most existing facilities to reach this kind of optimization, and the process of system improvement and technology investment must be strategic to manage costs and generate the greatest benefit. Looking at energy waste and tying one technology or another as a singular solution to the problem will not suffice. Decision-makers need to look at their long-term objectives and align these goals with technologies and services. The starting point can vary from re-commissioning services to lighting retrofits to analytics & data management depending on the particularities of the building; but, in the long run, an integrated suite of intelligent energy management control and automation, or Smart Building, solutions will generate cumulative and significant cost and energy savings.
Read more about IDC Energy Insights' perspectives on investment opportunities and the Smart Building technology ecosystem:
- LEDs for Smart Buildings: http://www.idc-ei.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=EI236269#.UDKduallRBk
- Smart Buildings & the Smart Grid: http://www.idc-ei.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS23588112#.UDKdn6llRBk
- Smart Buildings Maturity Model for End Users: http://www.idc-ei.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=EI233133#.UDKd0qllRBk