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7 Features of the Best Building Energy Management Systems

How much energy did your building use last month?

For commercial facilities, the answer is: a lot. Commercial buildings are constantly running multiple systems that eat up energy and increase utility bills, most of which are extremely inefficient. In fact, studies show commercial buildings can reduce energy use by up to 30 percent just by implementing a few energy-efficiency strategies.¹

A building energy management system (BEMS) is one of those strategies. BEMS software helps buildings monitor and control their energy use to cut down on waste and increase efficiency.

But not all systems are created equal. Some BEMS systems are more advanced than others and will be more effective at decreasing your energy use. To help you choose the best system for your building, here are seven features to look for in a new building energy management system.

1. Flexible Infrastructure Connections

While not a feature per se, flexible infrastructure is crucial in ensuring a BEMS works for your building. With flexible infrastructure, you can connect any system to your BEMS, regardless of whether the system is non-standard or outdated.

To make flexible infrastructure work, building energy management systems use sensors and other monitoring and control devices to connect new or existing systems to the software. This can greatly decrease your costs, since you won’t have to complete multiple, expensive system upgrades to get your building on the BEMS.

2. All-Inclusive System Controls

In addition to letting you use existing systems, a building energy management system should let you control multiple systems from a single application. A few systems that should be connected to and controlled from the BEMS include heating, cooling, lighting, elevators, and fire-safety.

By controlling all systems from a single area, you cut down on the time your staff spends switching between different applications. It can also help you make more effective energy adjustments since you can tweak multiple systems and easily see how they affect one another as well as overall energy use.

3. Integrations

A building energy management system should work with the software you already have, whether that’s a building management system (BMS), a building automation system (BAS) or another system. Every piece of software should integrate, allowing them to share data so you get a complete view of how your building is functioning and using energy.

4. External Data Feeds

What’s going on outside your building, such as weather conditions, can greatly affect energy use. The best building energy management systems incorporate this information through external data feeds. Your BEMS should be able to collect and analyze information from weather, utility billing, and electrical grid signals, for instance. It will then use that information to provide a more complete view of energy use, making it easier for you to make effective adjustments to improve efficiency.

5. Settings and Asset Maps

Energy use and benchmarks depend not only on weather, but also on your building and its dimensions. The best BEMS software takes this into account, allowing you to parameter building connections and input additional information such as surface area and occupancy. The more accurate your settings and asset maps, the more accurate your analytics and energy efficiency reports will be.

6. Alerts

No piece of technology is perfect, which is why forward-thinking building energy management systems have built-in safeguards to alert you of any problems in the system. BEMS software will automatically notify you of missing data or connection failures, for example.

Even more important are energy alerts. An advanced BEMS will use this same alert system in tandem with specialized algorithms to automatically detect energy drifts and alert human monitors to the problem. This takes pressure off your building management staff and improves your reactivity – the sooner you know about the problem, the sooner you can fix it.

7. Dashboards and Analytics

Essential for almost every piece of software, BEMS dashboards and analytics make it easy for you to view energy data from all components throughout the building. Look for a system that lets you define your own KPIs so you’re looking at the information that’s most important to you, not a standardized graph that doesn’t fit your goals.

Analytics tools should also help you remotely monitor the condition of your building. Sometimes known as asset diagnostics, this feature keeps you from being tied to your desk or building’s control center day in and day out.

Use Your Goals to Prioritize Building Energy Management System Features

Ultimately, the system you choose should be based on the capabilities your building needs. To understand what those capabilities are, set clear goals for what you want a BEMS to accomplish. Make a list of your goals and map them to must-have features you need to accomplish those goals. Then, expand your list with features that would be nice to have and features that are not necessary. Evaluate your BEMS options based on that list.

Is your goal to bring multiple non-standard systems like heating and lighting into a single application? You’ll want to look for a BEMS with all-inclusive system controls. If you want to control energy use over time, you may prefer to focus on systems that automatically detect and alert you to energy drifts.

Choose the building energy management system that has all your must-have options and the highest number of nice-to-have features. This will be the system that best fits your building’s needs.
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Referenced Sources

¹ http://news.mit.edu/2013/reducing-wasted-energy-in-commercial-buildings

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