5 min read

Nexus news #24: coming to a city near you...

Data haves and have-nots; city building energy performance requirements; the evolution of controls; podcast with Facilio CEO
The unprecedented lock-downs and stay-at-home orders across the U.S. and the world are exposing a new category of winners and losers – the data “have’s” and the data “havenot’s”

—Jim Meacham in the latest Project Haystack magazine

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, and membership community for smart people applying smart building technology—written by James Dice. If you’re new to Nexus, you might want to start here.

Here’s an outline of this week’s newsletter:

  1. 🤔 On my mind this week: COVID-19 signal in the noise
  2. 🎧 Prabhu Ramachandran of Facilio on a single pane of glass for the portfolio
  3. 📅 Nexus Pro updates
  4. 🔌 The Evolution of Grid-Interactive Energy-Efficient
    Building Controls
  5. ⚖️ City of St. Louis Becomes First in Midwest to Pass Building Energy Performance Standard


Disclaimer: James is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). All opinions expressed via Nexus emails, podcasts, or on the website belong solely to James. No resources from NREL are used to support Nexus. NREL does not endorse or support any aspect of Nexus.

1. 🤔 On my mind this week

Like all of you, I’m continuing to track the impact of COVID-19 on our industry and I’ll continue to share my thoughts here as I have them. If you’re looking for the signal in the noise, here’s the best content I’ve seen this week:

  1. Energy usage during a pandemic: analyzing the data (Mission:Data)—why coronavirus is making access to energy data essential in three different respects:

    • Remote energy analysis is critical

    • Measurement and verification (M&V) will become increasingly measurement-based

    • Energy management is a macroeconomic imperative

  2. Office Landlords: Don’t eat before watching this (The Real Deal)—
    Dror Poleg and Antony Slumbers discuss the shift to an operator model, distributed workforces, and the risks to the asset class

  3. Tech companies smell a new multibillion-dollar opportunity: Helping businesses trace coronavirus (CNBC)

    “The optimal design from a privacy point of view of these apps would be cell phones and smartphones that talk to each other with Bluetooth technology, and the employer has no access to the server that stores that information.”

  4. Is the healthiest building in the world worth the rent? (HBR)—When I heard this podcast, I immediately bought the book, “Healthy Buildings”.

2. 🎧 Prabhu Ramachandran of Facilio on a single pane of glass for the portfolio

This week on the Nexus podcast: a conversation with the CEO of Facilio on a range of topics:

  • How Prabu was inspired by remote monitoring practices in the telecom industry and why he launched Facilio in the commercial real estate space.
  • The next wave of smart buildings, which Prabu calls CRE 3.0.
  • We deep dive into Facilio software, including the architecture of the suite of native apps, and how it provides a single pane of glass for operators.

And much more…

Show notes | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Add to other podcast apps

3. 📅 Member updates

4. 🔌 The Evolution of Grid-Interactive Energy-Efficient
Building Controls

An article in the latest Project Haystack Connections Magazine, written by authors from PNNL and Paul Ehrlich, echoed many of the points I’ve made in recent writing on advanced supervisory controls.

The article starts by highlighting where current control systems fall short.

Many of the control systems being produced today are fundamentally the same as what was available a decade ago. (…) There are several fundamental changes coming to controls that will drive us toward new control solutions and architectures. This is due to several key drivers:
  1. Design and Installation Challenges: There are numerous challenges with being able to properly design, specify, install, and commission control systems. These result in systems that don’t provide the performance needed by owners. Programs within ASHRAE and other organizations including DOE are working to fix these challenges. The use of new technology also has the potential to allow systems to self-install and diagnose problems.
  2. Lack of Documentation and Semantic Information: The movement toward systems that are ongoing sources for data so that owners can effectively do fault detection and analytics require better semantic information. The work of the Haystack community has been key to helping to resolve this issue. Including tagging as a core element of new systems will be essential.

Need for Predictive Control: Control systems today are largely “rule based” and utilize fixed algorithms to do real time control. An example of a rule is “Enable the economizer when the outdoor air temperature is below 60 degrees”. For most control systems, being rule based is fine, but what it doesn’t do well is to allow the control system to anticipate how the system will react. The ability to anticipate or predict is required both for highly energy efficient, passive systems, as well as for successful adoption of grid interactive buildings. For example, if you were to shift the zone setpoints for all VAV boxes, what would be the reduction in building demand? How long would it stay reduced before increasing again? The technology to make these predictions is called “Model Predictive Control” or MPC.

The use of MPC works hand in hand with semantic tagging to make building control systems more intelligent and also more useful as a source not only of control but for information and optimization.

We need building automation with prediction, optimization, and adaptation capabilities. How do we get there? The authors offered several ideas. My advanced supervisory control deep dive part 2 is coming soon with more.

5. ⚖️ City of St. Louis Becomes First in Midwest to Pass Building Energy Performance Standard

St. Louis shows that cities do not have to wait for the federal government to lead on climate. They don’t need to wait for states. They don’t even have to wait for bigger cities. Mayors and local City Councils can bring the climate leadership needed right now.”

Stefan Schaffer, American Cities Climate Challenge strategist at NRDC.

St. Louis, following in the footsteps of Washington, D.C., New York City, and the State of Washington, became the next leader in driving local energy efficiency. This USGBC blog post outlines the details of the legislation. If you’re new around here, I summarized NYC’s version of this standard in Nexus #11.

If the spread of benchmarking ordinances and mayoral commitments to the Paris climate goals are any indication, this law is coming to a city near you.

In other city news, earlier this year Seattle announced an expansion of their MEETS energy efficiency as a service program. I like how they’re calling energy savings “Efficiency Energy”:

Efficiency Energy is metered, not estimated or deemed.
Efficiency Energy is transacted in energy units. In this case, kWhs.
Efficiency Energy is procured, as an energy resource, under a power purchase agreement, just like wind and solar.
Efficiency Energy is sold to the end use customer as an energy resource.

Are these initiatives coming to your neck of the woods? If so, how are you preparing? Carbon Lighthouse is an example of a company that seems to be primed to take advantage.

OK, that’s all for this week—thanks for reading Nexus!


P.S. Nexus is a 100 percent reader-funded publication and podcast. It only exists because people like you support it. If you liked today’s edition, please consider joining Nexus Pro! Members get exclusive access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, monthly events, weekly deep dives, and all past deep dives like these:
How technology is replacing old supervisory controls
Build it from scratch: How next-generation building automation could change the industry
The carrot or the stick? Digital transformation for building service providers
How a platform + app architecture enables a single pane of glass

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