Get to Know Your Allies in the Commercial Market
Similar to the concept of the “connected home,” dealers and integrators can find the “connected building,” a.k.a. the “intelligent” or “smarter” building. Applying energy management technology in the commercial space is all about return on investment (ROI). Today’s business owners have come to expect their facilities to function as assets that not only impact but improve their bottom lines. Thus, energy management technology that saves costs through improved efficiency has become a standard expectation.
The need to prove and document this ROI differentiates many of the technological capabilities in the commercial market from the residential. For example, access control systems can accurately document who occupies a building, at what time, and for how long. If the system can track this information over the course of a year, the information can be fed into an energy management system that can then provide recommendations on how to more efficiently run HVAC and lighting systems. It can also be used to forecast demand, which can be useful information for budgeting, among other business uses.
Other automation opportunities include the capability to engage lighting systems based on when people are actually using the facility versus keeping a schedule. An example would be instances such as snow days when fewer people are accessing an office building.
Some protocols to be keenly aware of in this space include BACnet and LonWorks, the two most widely used building automation protocols, as well as Modbus. Another solid resource to tap in this area is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which maintains the well-publicized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification guidelines, including those relating to energy management requirements.
Security dealers and integrators new to this market niche should consider teaming with a certified energy or LEED-accredited professional to market their energy management offerings. That industry professional, for example, could offer to conduct an energy audit for a fee that could be applied as credit toward the installation work of an energy management/security system.
Additionally, one of the biggest advancements dealers and integrators should take advantage of going forward is in the area of software development kits (SDKs). The objective of SDKs is to streamline systems integration to create intelligent buildings. But more recently, SDKs took a major step forward by being able to offer the ability to eliminate the need for manually creating and entering coding needed to achieve integration.
This has rapidly cut down the time re-quired to tie various subsystems together from days to a matter of hours. With this added simplicity, a technician requires less training time and is able to get out in the field sooner. Furthermore, the codes can be saved and repurposed for other installations. In addition, the integrated building systems are compatible with future software updates and upgrades.
Finally, an important interoperability characteristic to consider is the ability to allow subsystems to communicate with one another without having explicit information about how they operate internally. Once these systems are tied together, the end user can take advantage of the automation that ultimately enables energy efficiency improvements, such as the automated sequences that allow security panels to interact with HVAC and lighting systems (not to mention improve overall situational awareness).
When all is said and done, energy management professionals are simply looking for ways to capture information about their energy expenditures in order to manage their facilities in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. And by installing meters as I/O devices, security professionals contribute to the equation by simply measuring the consumption flow of power, electricity, lighting, gas, oil, water, heating and air within a facility. With all of that in mind, installing security contractors should table any reservations they have about interacting with their energy counterparts. There is more to gain by viewing them as allies.
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