"Grid-interactive efficient buildings" (GEBs) is an acronym I'd like to nominate as the second worst of all time—right behind the mythical SPoG.
Shade-throwing aside, building-grid interaction is a supremely important concept at the intersection of digitizing and decarbonizing buildings.
GEBs mean building owners can monetize flexibility while matching consumption with the availability of renewables. The grid as a whole is more resilient and emits 6% less carbon as a result. Win for owners, win for utilities, win for society.
Most of our real world GEB progress to date has been in small and simple buildings. That's because it's fairly easy for a vendor to take control of a stand-alone, wifi-enabled distributed energy resource (DER) like a smart thermostat.
DER aggregation startups started taking off in the last few years—they form virtual power plants (VPP) by aggregating lots of these connected DERs together and selling their collective demand reduction in the capacity markets. They can then share that monetized flexibility with their customers, the building owners.
But bigger, more complex buildings are a different story.
In large buildings, single DERs—like thermostats—sit on a (hopefully) secure network and operate inside of a system of systems that's controlled by a building automation system (BAS). And these control systems don't have the technical ability to optimize control sequences based on many different inputs (e.g. grid needs, comfort needs, IAQ needs).
In other words, the success of GEBs in larger buildings relies on a building's digital infrastructure as much as it does the DERs. There are 8 digital GEB enablers: the building blocks needed to made grid-interactive buildings a reality.
GEB Enablers #1-3: A robust horizontal architecture
And according to Nexus Lore, a building's digital infrastructure is best delivered as horizontal device, network, data, and application layers.
Without digital devices (DERs and meters), you can't measure real time loads or flex them with control sequences. Without a converged network layer, you can't securely bridge the gap between the grid and the DER. Without an independent data layer, the building owner is locked in at the app layer, pays multiple times for redundant integration, and lacks a single data model that unites all of their data.
GEB deployments that skip these first 3 enablers will be brittle and unreliable.
GEB Enabler #4: Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD)
This will seem counterintuitive to some of you, but an FDD application is vital for maintaining the sensors, actuators, motors, etc that make up a building's devices and systems—including DERs.
Integrating FDD into operations processes is the key practice. This practice (sometimes delivered as monitoring-based commissioning by an external service provider) is table stakes when you're relying on the data and performance of connected devices.
GEB Enabler #5: An advanced supervisory control app
GEB requires a software application that can perform complex math to analyze historical data, make predictions, and then determine the optimal setpoint for each device and system at all times. The software needs to weigh conflicting demands between occupant comfort, air quality, grid flexibility, carbon emissions, and more.
GEB Enablers #6-8: Utility & grid interactions
With grid-interactive buildings, there are three main interactions:
- Acquiring ongoing consumption, flexibility, and tariff data from the utility
- Acquiring data on the carbon intensity of the power being consumed by the building
- Monetizing the grid flexibility directly or via a VPP vendor
Depending on the building, owner, geography, and utility, these value streams could be provider by one vendor or many.
Actually, that's a great segue to zoom out to all the enablers and the questions we haven't figured out yet as an industry: How will building owners buy all these enablers? From one vendor or many?
I tend to vote many, but we'll save my reasoning for a future newsletter.
What are your thoughts?
Let us know on LinkedIn,
—James Dice, Founder of Nexus Labs
P.S. Tomorrow, the train leaves the station for Cohort 5 of our Nexus Foundations course. Enroll on the course site to avoid the oncoming FOMO.
A message from our partner, enVerid Systems:
Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) with optimized ventilation and air cleaning need not conflict with building decarbonization and climate resilience goals.
Read enVerid's new white paper, How to Achieve Sustainable Indoor Air Quality, to learn how a four-step Clean First approach can be used to design and operate low-energy, high-IAQ, climate resilient buildings of the future.
✖ At the Nexus
Here’s everything worth sharing from Nexus HQ this week:
★ PODCAST: 🎧 #117: 4 steps to sustainable indoor air quality—Episode 117 is a conversation with Christian Weeks, CEO of enVerid Systems.
Christian and his team just published a new white paper on Sustainable Indoor Air Quality and it’s really great. I’m serious guys—I learned a lot from it and love how much knowledge from the pandemic is condensed into it and I think the way they took a stand and made actual recommendations amid all the IAQ confusion is really helpful to the industry. So we unpacked the white paper and the main 4-step framework at the heart of it.
★ MEMBERS-ONLY EVENTS THIS MONTH:
- New Member Orientation: Nexus Founder, James Dice, hosts an introduction to the Nexus Labs Community and how you access and take advantage of all the resources that come with your Pro Membership. This is for new members or those who've not taken advantage of all the resources at the Nexus Community. September 19th @ 9:00am MT
- Subject Matter Expert Workshop: Pro Member and Building Optimisation Manager at AMP Capital, Tom Balme is our expert on Restructuring Maintenance Contracts and the Future Value of FDD. September 22nd @4pm MT
- Member Gathering: Building Energy Engineer at Dartmouth College and Pro Member, Betsy Ricker, will lead the discussion on Dartmouth's smart buildings program. September 28th @9am MT
Join Nexus Pro now to get the invites and access to the recordings.
★ READ OF THE WEEK: The tech founder's guide to partnering with the DOE
★ JOBS: Are you hiring? Searching for a job in smart buildings?—We've relaunched the Nexus Labs Jobs Board and we've made job postings free.
It's got great jobs from Vigilent Corporation, Siemens, Grosvenor Engineering Group, Virtual Facility, Clockwork Analytics, Watts, LMRE, Altanova, Audette, and Altura.
A message from our partner, Montgomery Technologies:
Cybersecurity, change management, remote access, and data integrity across 8-10 siloed systems per building presents a significant challenge for CRE operations. Just knowing where everything is, how it is connected, and where it is connected can be too much for thinly-staffed corporate IT departments, whose primary function is to oversee the corporate network.
🎥 Watch this quick explainer video to learn how a converged network fills this gap, solves for all the above, and is the first step to enabling a Smart Building.
👋 That's all for this week. See you next Tuesday!
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