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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Building Systems: Track It to Boost It

Gauging the health of your building’s systems is extremely important before making new equipment investments. With today’s technology, boards now have an opportunity to take advantage of wireless sensors that can transmit data on the performance of everything from room and water temperature to the operations of motors, pumps and fans. Before, you knew there was a problem only when there was an equipment failure or a service disruption. Now, with something known as Real Time Energy Management (RTEM), you have the ability to collect real-time data and track the performance of your equipment 24 hours a day.


The room where it happens. RTEM improves upon building management systems, or BMS. With BMS, there is a network of sensors that lets you know when you need to make adjustments to the equipment. Supers get an alert on their phone, go into the equipment room and physically do it themselves or do it remotely from their phone or a computer. BMS sensors are limited to certain pieces of equipment. So in a larger building where you have mechanical ventilation, a cooling tower, a chiller and maybe multiple boilers, you’re going to have much larger pumps and motors, and a typical BMS isn’t able to tie into all of those additional sensors. An RTEM system can tap into that additional equipment, as well as the BMS sensors already installed, to create a bigger network of information and then constantly monitor all of it. 


Getting ahead of the problem. Another advantage of RTEM is that you’re not playing catch-up. When a building system fails, people will call and say the water is too hot or too cold or whatever the issue is. You find out after the fact, so everything is reactive. With RTEM, you can spot problems before the equipment fails. Because it’s predictive, service disruptions are either eliminated or minimized, so there’s less disruption to residents.


Another plus is that you can identify inefficiencies and optimize the performance of your systems. For example, let’s say a building has three boilers that are running all the time. With RTEM, you can see that you only need one or maybe two at any given time and make an adjustment. So in terms of reducing energy consumption, it has a very practical application. The alternative is to hire an engineer to come to your building and spend a day or two doing an energy audit. That’s going to be done during certain hours of the day when the building staff is there. In a sense, it’s going to be a snapshot of a given period of time, and that’s the information they’re going to use to provide recommendations. RTEM, where information is transmitted at anywhere from one-minute to 15-minute intervals, isn’t just a snapshot; it’s continuous monitoring, which gives you a much better picture of your energy use.


Worth the investment. Having a building management system with RTEM monitoring is a capital investment — anywhere from $500 all the way up to $2,000 a month, depending on the size of the building and the complexity of the equipment. But taking the long view, it’s going to reduce carbon emissions. One of the big topics of conversation today is electrification. The question for a lot of buildings may not necessarily be how do we electrify tomorrow, but how do we transition to electrification in the future? With RTEM, buildings have a partner to help them, because an engineer is going to provide guidance for your long-term planning. If you’re going to spend a lot of money on equipment that’s expected to last 20 or 30 years, you want to make sure you have all the information possible to feel confident that you have made the right decision.

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