Technology 2017-03-31T01:06:03+00:00

EnergyWitness™

All of the IDS services are made possible by our technology platform. EnergyWitness is a full-blown Enterprise Energy Management System (EEMS) that manages everything from utility bills and utility meter interval data, to detailed BAS interval data with sites capturing over 100,000 points coming from multiple BAS vendors.

The important part of our technology isn’t the feature set (although we have plenty of those), but how we use it analyze and fix the automation layer in your BAS. Everything from the database architecture and building data model to the application’s fault detection capabilities and diagnostic tools are built to enhance and streamline our service delivery.

We work on the owner’s behalf to ensure their BAS is delivering the performance that the owner paid for—delivering a comfortable and healthy environment, at the lowest energy and maintenance costs. If you think you know all the answers and just want an analytics tool, there are plenty of vendors that will dump some software on you, take your money, and leave you alone. But if you want to work with someone that represents your interests, understands BAS automation better than most people that work for control companies, and has a technology platform that enables it all, that’s IDS.

Building data model

For every EEMS or analytics tool, the building data model becomes the functional foundation of the system. If you build a foundation capable of supporting a two story house, you can’t put a 10 story lab there, much less a 100 story office building. Our data model is the groundwork to handle any size or complexity of building.

EnergyWitness combines BAS interval data with the engineering design so it knows how systems are put together. There are products on the market that can’t even tell you what AHU a VAV box is connected to. Seriously?! Our data model not only knows how all the pieces of equipment fit together, we know exactly what they are. The mechanical design of your air handler is critical. It matters if your VAV box is cooling only, has electric reheat, hot water reheat, is fan powered (parallel or series), etc. It even matters when there are exhaust fans that aren’t tied into the BAS.

 

BAS data and engineering design are only two parts of the puzzle. To truly understand how your building operates you also need a data model that maps the equipment to the space. If you have a large room with eight diffusers supplying air, how many separate VAV boxes are supplying that air? How many separate AHUs are supplying those VAV boxes? Do any of the boxes also supply air to other spaces? What’s the total volume of air being delivered to our room, and how big is “large”? Think about it, ventilation standards are based on cfm/sqft and cfm/person, or in some environments air changes per hour. How can you possibly analyze ventilation performance if your building data model doesn’t know space sizes and can’t map the equipment to the spaces in all possible combinations? In case it wasn’t obvious, the EnergyWitness data model handles all of that.

BAS data, plus engineering data, plus space data is the key to a building data model that can properly assess your operations and verify once you’ve got the automation in your BAS running optimally. Then you can add weather data, meter data, utility billing data, handle buildings across multiple time zone in a centralized system, manage a variety of different manufacturers’ systems, implementations void of point naming conventions, associate drawings and prints, track remediation projects (ECMs), and more.

Oh, and next year your building data model will have to adapt to add the next new thing. Ours can. Can theirs?

Fault detection

The HVAC industry has put a lot of emphasis on fault detection over the past decade. It’s a good thing, but needs to be employed in the right context. It needs to be part of an overall strategy for operating your buildings, not the entire strategy. It can be especially useful in identifying mechanical failures that need a technician to resolve and can assist your entire maintenance group to prioritize the work properly.

The EnergyWitness fault detection uses a 10 point scoring system to make it easy to understand how well the equipment is operating. A score of seven may be lower than you want, but clearly isn’t as problematic as the box scoring a two.

Our fault detection reports score space comfort, tracking conditions during occupied hours. Actuator routines score the operation of dampers and valves. Bad scheduling is a leading cause of energy waste, and so schedules and occupancy status are evaluated. No matter what the issue being evaluated, the scoring system simplifies the assessment so it can be understood by technicians and management alike. A special Low Scores report combines all the FD scores for each piece of equipment into one master report that highlights the worst-performing equipment—the places that most need attention.

Each box being scored also is connected directly to the underlying BAS data. This allows technicians to easily review how it’s operating before heading into the field. If the data tells you a damper or valve is stuck, you head to the field equipped to resolve that problem on the first trip. If the data suggests it’s really a static pressure problem, then a visit to the VAV box may be a waste of time.

Another aspect of scoring system where all equipment gets scored is that you have a built-in measurement of good. Unlike some FD systems, good isn’t just the absence of bad. In EnergyWitness, you can see how well things are running and track fine tuning, so that goal of raising the average comfort score from 8.6 to 9.2 can be measured and accomplishments shown.

Diagnostics

Diagnostic tools allow you to dig deeper into system interactions and root causes than fault detection reports. Although trend-based, we’re not talking about simple trend chart viewing here. EnergyWitness’ diagnostic tools are custom configured to reflect the mechanical design of the building. The building data model is fully expressed through the diagnostics so you can instantly see the connection between pieces of equipment that make us a system, and how all those components serve the space.

The diagnostics allow you to quickly look at building data in aggregate (whole building), in detail (individual points), or anywhere in between. For example, you can review the average supply air temperature across 15 AHUs, the average space temperature (and set points) across all VAV boxes on a floor, or the total airflow from all boxes in the building. The space data integrated into the data model allows you to review more complex measurements, such as air changes per hour on a space-by-space basis (or in any aggregation). You can click through individual boxes to see data for each one as fast as you can click.

If you’ve selected some equipment/systems that you want to know more about, you can cycle through all the diagnostics configured for that system, reviewing temperature performance, cooling operations, heating, airflow, economizer operation, heat recovery, demand ventilation, static pressure, building pressurization—whatever data exists for, and makes sense for the installed mechanical systems.

A building will typically have separate diagnostics for primary system (heating, cooling), secondary systems (air handlers), and terminal systems (VAV, fan coils, etc.). More complex buildings may have more, such as a diagnostic dedicated to chilled beam operations, or separate terminal system diagnostics for a building with both ceiling mounted VAVs and an underfloor unit. It’s all based on the design of the individual building and its data model.

Remediation tracking

Analysis tools are great—necessary even—but unfortunately, just identifying problems in buildings is not much of a challenge. Whether you call it remediation, implementing energy conservation measures (ECMs), or just plain fixing stuff, you haven’t accomplished anything until the problems have been resolved.

Just like all the other technology areas, IDS has remediation tracking tools to assist us in identifying, tracking, and verifying remediation efforts. You can assign any number of remediation projects to a building, of any sized scope, from a small set point change to a major capital improvement. Describe the project and fix, keep notes, track costs and energy savings and the system will calculate your simple payback. You can define any classifications or statuses you want to track, or add any custom field(s) that are important to you.

The remediation tracking integrates with EnergyWitness’ data visualization tools so you can see when various projects were complete and how they impacted operations.

Data visualization

No matter what kind of fault detection tools, diagnostics, reports and analytics you might have, there’s always the need to be able to quickly and easily be able to see the data you want to see, the way you want to see it. Every tool on the market has a way to view trend data. What varies is how quickly you can assemble those charts and manipulate them once assembled. If you’re working with data at this level you need a system that can keep up with you.

Some of the things that make that possible is a drag-and-drop interface. Just drag points from an equipment-organized tree to the chart and the data appear. Drag to the right side for a right y-axis. Suppress lines by clicking them in the legend. Move through time five different ways. Export the chart to a graphic or export the data. If you’ve got a chart(s) you know you’re going to want to see again, save its definition so it’s instantly there next time.

As mentioned above, you can also integrate your remediation information, showing on the x-axis when a project was completed, and from there show project details.

Energy accounting

We mentioned at the top of this page that the EnergyWitness platform is a full-blown EEMS. That means that capturing energy data from utility bills is a complete, robust capability. Existing clients have hundreds of utility vendors that bill using various rates, totaling thousands of accounts and meters. There are no limits. Billing data can be entered manually or through various electronic feeds and uploads.

The system also tracks any site-owned submeters for building (or sub-building) level energy tracking. Similarly, if you’re tracking production from a central plant or sustainable energy source (solar, wind, etc.), all that can be included. The building data model extends to the meters so that all meters, utility- or site-owned, are properly associated to the building(s) they serve and the relationship between meters is readily understood. You can even do tenant billing.

EnergyWitness’ energy tracking reports show a variety cost and consumption views of data and show energy intensity (EUI) for a single building or benchmark across a whole portfolio. There’s also integration to automatically send monthly data to Energy Star Portfolio Manager and get Energy Star scores back. Integrated NOAA weather allows for weather normalized reporting (for you regression geeks out there, it’s a fourth degree polynomial regression model that accounts for weather and schedule variations) so you can always tell at a glance whether you’re doing better or worse than your baseline year.

Technology platform

EnergyWitness is built on Microsoft technology—Windows Server, SQL Server, and SharePoint, with HTML 5 tools for various user interfaces. The database was architected to serve the expansive building data model and allow for unlimited extensibility.

For clients that prefer a cloud/hosted/SaaS solution, we’re happy to provide that. We still find that some customers prefer to install systems within their local IT infrastructure, so we fully support that as well.