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How Do Building Energy Management Systems Work?

Commercial buildings account for nearly 20 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Of that energy use, nearly 30 percent is wasted through inefficient processes and management.¹

New buildings are already working to solve those problems through more informed architecture, materials, and energy certifications, but even existing buildings can cut their energy use. The easiest way to do so is with specialized software like building energy management systems (BEMS).

What is a Building Energy Management System?

A BEMS is a software application that continually monitors and analyzes a building’s energy use. BEMS software installed in your building could monitor how much energy is used by lighting, heating and cooling, and security systems, for example.

BEMS applications are especially useful for detecting energy drifts, or changes in energy use over time. Energy drifts are common in buildings as they age and components start working less efficiently. The sooner an energy drift is detected, the easier it is to fix through repairs or upgrades, ensuring energy isn’t wasted.

Who Uses Building Energy Management Systems?

Commercial buildings, manufacturing facilities, public institutions, and private homes can all use BEMS software. The most widespread use, however, is in larger buildings in the public and commercial sectors. Because of their size and use, these buildings have higher energy demands and often see large benefits from monitoring and efficiency measures. In some cases, cost savings can be thousands of dollars per year.

How Does a BEMS Work?

The best building energy management systems function by connecting to components already present in your building. These systems can be implemented more quickly and are also more cost-effective because you don’t need to purchase as many new devices to complete the system. There are two main groups of existing components that a BEMS will connect to:

1. Existing Infrastructure

Building infrastructure is composed of the physical systems and sensors that are already in place. For most buildings, this includes heating, cooling, lighting, fire-safety, and elevators. Other existing infrastructure could include security systems.

A BEMS will connect to existing systems to monitor how much energy they use as well as how that use changes over time.

2. Current Building Software

The two most common types of software in buildings are building management systems (BMS) and building automation systems (BAS). BMS software makes it easy to manage multiple building components from a single application, while a BAS focuses on automating building processes and management.

A building energy management system can connect to one or both of these systems as needed. The BEMS will combine data from all systems to provide a more complete and accurate view of energy use. The best building energy management systems will also add external information such as utility billing, electrical grid, and weather data.

Benefits and Results of Building Energy Management Software

Once the BEMS starts collecting data from existing infrastructure and systems, it will compile a full view of energy use in the building. Owners and managers can then set up dashboards to view energy use and analyze key performance indicators over time. At this point, it’s easy for users to find areas of high energy use so they can make improvements.

BEMS applications also automatically detect and notify building owners or managers of energy drifts so they can quickly correct the problem. Energy drifts are common, as are declining energy savings if systems aren’t monitored over time. One university study found energy savings declined by as much as eight percent every year without monitoring and maintenance.² BEMS software helps detect these changes so they can be corrected and buildings aren’t saddled with rising energy bills over time.

BEMS Applications Cut Costs and Increase Sustainability

The best building energy management systems work with the components you already have to help you cut energy use, save money on utilities, and create a more eco-friendly business.

BEMS software also continues to evolve. When looking at applications for your building, consider smart technology and IoT devices. Platforms are already on the market that are using these techniques to gather more data and create more accurate pictures of energy use in commercial buildings.
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Referenced Sources

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

² https://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/128798/ESL-IC-11-10-69.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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