With the growing imperative to reduce energy consumption in the built environment, operations and information management systems become more important. While tools like LEED help with initial building design, actual performance may not be quite what was expected. A big challenge with fine-tuning designs and specifications for mechanical and electrical systems is a lack of information about true performance. This means that learning from past successes and failures can be a slow process - particularly as building owners and managers often are reluctant to release performance statistics.
As energy management systems in big buildings become more hi-tech, their control moves into the IT arena, and a whole new range of possibilities open up for remote control and monitoring of systems; and information management also becomes easier. This can help improve the performance of the building that is being monitored, but does not necessarily result in wider dissemination of energy information. In fact, with more accurate assessment of system performance, it may become obvious that some aspects of building operations are not as efficient as previously thought, and the operators of "green" buildings may be even less enthusiastic about sharing knowledge.
How do we get around this reluctance? One impetus - at least in North America - may be the rollout of the smart grid, which brings electricity utilities and building managers closer together in managing energy supply and demand. Another could be the emergence of open source software like OpenLynx, which has been implemented in a number of buildings in Washington D.C. According to a report in earth2tech, the open source approach can bring to the building industry the same ethic of collaboration and innovation that exists in the software industry. The building automation industry currently works with proprietary standards that are not compatible among suppliers, but the smart grid will necessitate development of common standards, and a platform like OpenLynx could provide the basis for these standards.
Peter Michalek, who has been working on OpenLynx for a few months, pointed out [at Connectivity Week] that open source can bring down the costs of the energy management systems dramatically and can make them more advanced, because they will be built on already-established basics. He said the licensing agreement of OpenLynx is “liberal,” explaining that a developer can do anything s/he wants with it, but has to publish the benefits created back into the system.
That last point is key: feedback is important in open systems, and maybe the open source ideology will begin to break open closed doors. [via WorldChanging]
Another interesting software tool for the building industry is the Environment Code from Investment Property Databank, which is not open source, but provides a free template for the collection of environmental performance data, and comparison against international indices. This is a global product that was recently launched in South Africa, and according to IPD South Africa MD Stan Garrun:
The IPD Code provides guidance on how to collect environmental data in a consistent way across properties and portfolios. It can be linked with other reporting methods, such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
The IPD Environment Code measures operational performance of a building, and data analysis can show where improvements could be made. As an environmental tool, it covers energy, CO2, water, waste, pollution, materials, health and well-being; and thus is useful in seeing the broader impact of a building's operation in relation to modelled performance, say, as part of a Green Star evaluation. [via Engineering News, 11 June 2009]