On the flight back from Greentech Media’s Networked Grid Conference last week, I read an interesting article in the NY Times (Don’t LEED Us Astray), and it made me think about my panel and my business. The point of the NY Times article is that LEED certification for buildings, with their energy footprint displayed on a placard, represented just a snapshot in time from the moment when building was originally commissioned. While LEED and the other systems that analyze and rate energy efficiency improvements are excellent steps, there’s another part of the story. What happens to that building after that snapshot in time?
The discussion on the Networked Grid panel that I participated in, (“The Networked Building: Efficient, Automated ‘Energy LANs’”), touched on the fact that buildings need to be re-commissioned every year or risk an annual 15% increase in energy use. 15% is a huge number! At Digital Lumens, we focus on warehouse lighting and work with our customers to drive down their lighting energy use by 90%. That energy efficiency effort involves a multi-stepped commissioning process:
- Planned commissioning. This is the initial commissioning stage when the building manager makes an educated guess about how he/she would like the building to work. This is often done with little understanding of how this commissioning will affect employees and energy. For most installations of non-intelligent lighting, this is the last commissioning ever done. “Set it and forget it,” as they say.
- Fine-tuning. After a solution has been installed, and many times within hours or days of the installation, the building manager gets real-world information about how the planned commissioning works in his/her facility. Are the lights turning on too slowly, or going off too quickly? Are there areas that need constant light? Are there areas that are over lit and energy is just being wasted? For fine-tuning to be effective, a solution needs to be easy to re-commission (in our case wirelessly via software). Also, does the solution allow you to get energy consumption information to make an informed decision about kWh impact (in our case via software)? Minor differences in settings – such as sensor fire times – result in major savings in energy use. In one case, we saw the difference in a sensor set for a 90 second time-out versus a 30 second time-out result in a $30,000 per year energy savings across a 500 light fixture installation.
- Continuous Commissioning. This is the where the real impact of an intelligent lighting system is felt. Continuous commissioning refers to the ability to quickly and easily change the commissioning of the lighting system whenever you want or need to. We see a virtuous cycle that combines granular reporting with easy-to-use commissioning resulting in ever-decreasing energy use and ever-increasing facility functionality. And this continuous commissioning happens either through manual intervention or automatically via software that learns how the facility is being used and optimizes the settings.
Clearly, I’m not a ‘set it and forget it’ fan, but I’m also a realist. If it isn’t easy to modify the lighting program and ensure alignment between the light delivered and the light needed, true energy efficiency won’t be realized.
As ever, I welcome your comments and feedback.