REPLACE, REPLACE, RETHINK

Is building efficiency all about replacing old stuff by new stuff?

 

Most building managers have the same process when it comes to energy retrofits: Do an audit, identify the largest consumers, then replace it.

 

 

 

Half of the energy consumed by your buildings is due to heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Replacing AHU, RTU has been around for decades, but is it the most cost-efficient way to reduce HVAC energy?

 

The way these large consumers are controlled is of paramount importance. Do you know who controls your expensive HVAC? That’s your building management system, aka BMS.

 

 

 

Back in the day, maybe you remember having seen way too many lights on in an office building late at night? Even today, there are many opportunities to improve how things are set in your building management system. Problem is, it requires expensive yearly updates from the manufacturer and frequent on-site visits from your contractor.

 

Now, if you have understood the full potential of a fine-tuned, optimized HVAC control, and maybe you are in the top 1% of buildings with BMS up-to-date, and maintenance teams who can fine-tune the algorithms over the years, according to the initial BMS designers.

 

… In 99% of buildings, it is simply not the case and this HVAC inefficiency is a great opportunity to tap into.

 

Even if you’re in the top 1%, then you need to know that your control strategy relies on, well… Very reliable components, and very reliable algorithms, known as PID.

Why are they reliable? Because they’re old!

If you check on Wikipedia, these universal algorithms were invented in the early 20th Century to help ships navigate. There have been a few improvements, like electronic PID in the 50s, but nothing fundamental has changed.

 

In a nutshell, the world —well at least all of its buildings — has to face a challenge like global warming with… algorithms from the 50s.

 

Wait… What? Algorithms from the 50s?

 

Why don’t we apply artificial intelligence to this problem?” whispers generation Z.

 

 

 

That’s exactly what we did, after an initial success with Google Nest in US homes in 2016. We researched about the caveats of existing HVAC control algorithms, and it turned out we uncovered something to optimize:

 

Did you know that even premium office buildings cool incoming air before reheating it a few seconds later?

 

That’s a shocking observation for someone not in the field, like we were five years ago. So we applied advanced AI to what is called “supply air temperature” in a 150,000 square-foot office building in Denmark.

 

Despite the platinum certification (the highest grade of this German certification, DGNB), our optimized control saved 52% on HVAC energy. Think about it. 52%.

 

 

 

To achieve a similar result, you could also change all the windows of your building.

 

Changing windows is capital intensive, is long, it creates nuisance. In comparison, having a better control for the largest consumers, by modifying your software, is quick and simple.

 

 

 

Traditional energy retrofits are obviously very relevant, but given the caveats, it’s time to think outside the box define you, efficient solutions.

 

AI-driven technologies are booming in recent years. You may think this is because AI has just been a buzzword for a while, but if Google decided to optimize HVAC in its huge datacenters, there’s probably a solid reason. The quick payback, and reducing risks, are just a few of them.

 

Will you be in the next wave of leaders around this new approach of energy retrofits?

 

 

 

 

By Adrien Lafond, Chief Marketing Officer at Foobot

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