Guest Post: New Tools for Improving Energy Efficiency at Universities

Any time we hear about improving energy efficiency we get excited. Read this guest post from Danielle Kershner, with contributing help from Keri Masterson. 

Intelligent buildings can now match the demands of multi-faceted institutions

By Danielle Kershner of Eco Brandit

Reducing energy consumption to save money is a concept becoming increasingly important. But how are we identifying these savings, and is there a way to maximize the potential for savings opportunities?

Intelligent efficiency defines the next generation of efficiency methods for industrial, commercial and university buildings. These “smart buildings” take a holistic approach to energy management and ultimately result in greater savings as individual mechanical systems work together to achieve common goals.

Measuring and verifying savings is difficult to do using conventional energy efficiency methods. They often focus on reducing overall energy usage by adopting productive technology or removing idle loads. By contrast, intelligent systems automatically quantify savings online and deliver detailed improvement options directly to building managers.

Universities are amongst those that benefit most from this technology. They have high degrees of variability in occupancy scheduling and energy usage, creating unique challenges for the building automation systems and their managers. A single building can contain several differently functioning spaces such as a cafeteria, a gymnasium and a classroom, with high variations in occupancy during the year. To cater to the wide range in energy use, campuses require expert assistance.

SelderaLogo1Several university and commercial buildings recently employed successful intelligent efficiency plans through Seldera, a subsidiary of Ameresco Inc (NYSE: AMRC), a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company headquartered in Framingham, MA. The founders of Seldera, former electrical engineering and computer-science professors, were inspired to create Building Dynamics through their own experiences about the intricacies associated with a university space.

They developed and tested the concepts behind Building Dynamics at Yale University by combining occupant behavior models with disaggregated end-loads to make adjustments based on rapidly changing schedules. This tool tracks and analyzes consumption through sensors and online analytics to help facility managers reduce building energy use.

One example where this method proved successful is at the Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). Seldera worked together with university facilities and the United Illuminating Company to perform the work. Building Dynamics was used to analyze the energy use and occupancy properties of the Adanti Student Center on SCSU’s campus, a facility with high energy consumption. Seldera applied wireless sensors to supplement the information collected by the existing Building Automation System and use them to optimize the building systems. Building Dynamics analyzed thousands of data points to determine operational changes, and weather-normalized savings were 303,000 kWh, or the equivalent of $56,500, in the first six months.

According to Eric J. Lessne, associate director for project management and engineering at Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, Seldera was “extremely accurate – spot on with recommendations.” The payback period was only a few months and the annual savings at the Adanti Student Center are expected to exceed $90,000.

Building Dynamics currently operates in commercial buildings, universities and industrial facilities to measure and verify real-time data for a multitude of energy loads, including electricity, gas, water, steam and chilled water consumption. Seldera focuses on reducing building costs and increasing the bottom line for their customers, which is a powerful tool in today’s low margin economy. Intelligent efficiency has enormous potential and could surpass $50 billion annually in energy savings for the commercial and manufacturing sectors in the future.

Keri Masterson also contributed to this article.

 The sponsor of this article is Seldera.