Published: June 11, 2012
Author: Sarah Erdman
This article is also published in the June issue of Metal Architecture.
Energy dashboards are evolving
Energy dashboards have evolved significantly during the past few years; originally for the purpose of reviewing complex building information, now it’s commonplace to share this information with building occupants. Technology has allowed this information to be more visual, and more importantly – more accessible.
Adding occupants to the equation has greatly changed how energy dashboards are presented. For occupants, this information must have more of an educational focus and be much easier to understand than the technical monitoring that an operations team would review. This is something that QA Graphics continues to focus on. The company has been an industry leader in making building concepts more visual and has helped define how education is key when presenting building performance information to occupants.
Another factor driving this change is how organizations can involve occupants in their energy reduction strategies. A recent study shows that occupants can make a larger impact on overall building performance than previously thought. The study, Sensitivity Analysis: Comparing the Impact of Design, Operation, and Tenant Behavior on Building Energy Performance, released by the New Building Institute, illustrates that not only is the design of a building important for building performance, but also the operation and policy strategies. As a result, the study recommends “the installation of submetering and energy-use dashboards can contribute to effective strategies to help tenants understand and reduce their energy usage” (NBI 27).
Architects can specify dashboard solutions like this to help their clients communicate the sustainable initiatives employed by their design. Providing this information via a dashboard is a great way to create occupant awareness. The biggest draw is the ability to educate and provide building performance feedback in a creative way. A variety of features can be included, like demonstrations that show how sustainable features in place work, such as how a rainwater harvesting system collects and stores rainwater for reuse, or how a geothermal system takes advantage of the constant temperature of the Earth to heat or cool a building.
This type of solution can also be used as part of an ongoing strategy to encourage occupants to participate in organization’s sustainable initiatives. It can be very interactive, with features like quizzes, green tips, games, and fun competitions to keep occupants informed and show how their actions can directly impact and reduce resource usage. Typically, a solution like this is displayed in a building common area on a touchscreen or kiosk. With technology advancements, now this can be accessible on mobile devices as well, making the information available anywhere, anytime.
QA Graphics has been at the forefront of this industry, having provided their Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard® solution for years, and recommends using a third-party solution like this for occupant awareness. A third-party dashboard, separate from the building management system, is ideal because it allows the solution to be aligned with the organization’s overall sustainable initiatives without having to worry about the technical requirements that a dashboard used behind the scenes must consist of. The information can be customized so it’s specific to the organization’s needs and audience, whether its for a commercial building, school, university, etc.
A third-party solution complements the traditional energy management system; it’s not performing the monitoring, but takes the data that’s already available and presents it in a way so that it’s more visual and easy to understand. Another benefit is that third-party solutions are protocol based, and therefore not tied to a single building automation system vendor. One dashboard can display building performance data from multiple building automation systems, and if a facility changes vendors or makes an upgrade to their building management system, the educational dashboard can still function properly.
It’s an exciting time to help organizations show occupants the behind the scenes of their buildings. As technology continues to evolve, this information will continue to be more visual and more accessible. With this information available via mobile devices, occupants can access the information anywhere, anytime. This also provides great opportunity for large-scale energy competitions across the country, social communication and cloud managed data.
About QA Graphics
QA Graphics works with organizations of all types throughout North America providing their solution, the Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard, to help educate and inform occupants about building efficiency. Learn more about QA Graphics' energy dashboard solution.
Jonathan Heller and Morgan Heater, Ecotope; Mark Frankel, New Buildings Institute (NBI). Sensitivity Analysis: Comparing the Impact of Design, Operation, and Tenant Behavior on Building Energy Performance. July 2011.