Last week, after a less than satisfying shower from a hotel showerhead fitted with too many flow restrictors, I watched a breaking story about a water main rupture that sent tens of thousands of gallons across a Bronx neighborhood affecting over 500 homes and businesses. According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Cas Holloway, there was still no explanation for the break. This is an event that happens too often. Recent advances in linear asset sensor technology can detect pipe deterioration from variances in vibration in the pressurized pipes. Deployment of these wireless sensors coupled with real time monitoring can help us predict and prevent such massive failures.
Today we have a huge opportunity to apply IT and
communication technology to provide deeper insight on how we manage and
maintain energy and water. In the US alone there are
over 5 million buildings that have a combined energy cost of over 200 billion
and account for over 40% of the country’s green house gas emissions. It has
been estimated 30-50% of that energy and water is used inefficiently or wasted.
Focusing solely on alternative energy sources like solar, wind, or geothermal or energy intensive desalination of water as the answer is not only avoiding the root problem but is finding new ways to feed inefficient practices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for alternative renewable energy or new breakthroughs in water sourcing, but my point is we should first take a deep look at how we waste energy and water to insure we are being as efficient as possible. Today, there is a huge opportunity to eliminate wasteful practices while making our utilities more efficient.
IBM is a good example of many companies today that have been searching relentlessly for efficiency gains. In just the last 2-3 years, IBM was able to discover ways to conserve 523,000 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 47,000 average U.S. homes for a year! And we believe we can eliminate as much as 1.1 million megawatt hours of energy consumption by the end of 2012. See press release.
IBM started back in the 90’s with lighting, windows, and
insulation. (for eg: CFLs, efficient
windows, proper sealing and insulation) We
focused on space management, open offices, telecommuting, and teleconferencing
as well as waste management, supply chain management, and e-waste management.
Fast forward back to 2011 and, if you have done the
obvious, where do you go for the next turn of the crank? Enter the world of IBM Smarter Planet. IBM
is deploying its Smarter Building technologies
to drive energy efficiency to the next
level across IBM’s global portfolio of buildings. Though the use of data
monitoring and analytics, we are leveraging “plug-in” analytics to collect
sensor and operating data for analyzing both individual events and system
trends. This information is then used to optimize building energy use. Many
other companies are also working with IBM’s Intelligent Building Management to
see what efficiencies they can gain from the more holistic building
‘whispering’ enabled by insight derived from real time monitoring of building
sensors and advanced analytics.
This represents ‘a new way to think about how we manage buildings’, according to our own site operations team who has been deploying IBM Intelligent building management. As with any transformational journey, one should start by going after the worst practices, the worst performers, and the low cost opportunities (which smart sensors and software can help you identify and prioritize. AOL Energy just published my top ten list of ways we waste energy and water in buildings. Let’s explore a couple of these in depth.
1) Simultaneous heating and cooling. For example, stores that prop their doors
open with the AC on max. This is reportedly even happening in energy challenged Tokyo this summer. Opening doors with the AC on can use as much
as 25 percent more electricity. Software can detect, alert, and report on such
conditions. In New York City this problem is so pervasive
that a law was passed to keep doors shut when the AC is on (which most shops still ignore.) Did you know that revolving doors, like those at IBM HQ and MIT, can save 85% more energy than swing doors ? Ever sit in a windowed office with the sun
streaming in? It can get very hot. Most buildings today have to cool down south
side facing space and heat interior and north side space, simultaneously. Overcooled offices even result in people
having to resort to space heaters to stay warm. Investing in passive solar
design, building orientation, landscaping, window coatings and overhangs can
help but the latest technology of thermal mapping provides greater
visualization of where hot and cold spot actually are (and why) in order to
adjust airflow for more even dissipation.
It is even difficult to take advantage of those first cool autumn days
in these beautiful glass buildings with windows that don’t open! We
have created virtual ‘green houses’ that heat up from the sun even when it is
cool outside and thus need AC because there is no mechanism in place to bring
in the outside air. IBM implemented 16 free air cooling projects, which utilize
the temperature of the outside air rather than chiller systems to cool water,
saving more than 16,000 MWh of electricity use. Ok, now that we have shut the doors and
windows (or virtually ‘opened’ windows on a cool day) let’s look at some more hidden and pervasive reasons
for simultaneous heating and cooling that can be detected and prevented by
IBM’s Intelligent Building Management.
These include dampers left open or out of adjustment, sensors out of
adjustment, units inadvertently left in override, independent uncoordinated
thermostats, discharge set points not properly adjusted for seasonal shifts, or
just incorrectly maintained equipment. Real time monitoring for these
conditions and applying rule based management systems have already resulted in significant efficiency gains in one of our biggest energy using plants. And we expect the maintenance bill to
also drop by the same percentage which is an added bonus.
2) Heating, cooling, and lighting unoccupied or
underutilized space. Motion detection,
timers, carbon dioxide monitoring, RFID, and security scanners are technologies
that can be leveraged more intelligently to match lighting and temperature with
the actual presence and concentration of humans. HVAC and lighting systems are
often found running beyond the scheduled operating hours like when someone manually
overrides set points or adjusts the schedule and doesn't restore it back to the
normal operating schedule. Set points are not always adjusted as the mission of
the building changes. Software that can perform near real time analytical forecasting
of use can help manage proactively instead of reactively and drive real
savings. This includes improving your
ratio of people to space.
3) Lighting. Many
spaces have all the lights on during the day even when the sunlight is more
than sufficient for the task. Ambient
lighting by harvesting daylight should be tied to the task of each particular workplace
and dynamically adjusted with control systems. Look for areas where you can
decrease lighting without compromising performance and consider task specific
lighting instead of lighting up an entire room or space. It is interesting to
note that today there is nearly 400 times as much artificial lighting in buildings than there was a century ago—and research is showing that the
standards of even ten (10) years ago put more light than we need in offices.
4) Water. Sprinklers that use ‘dumb’ timers turn on while it is raining or when the sun is directly overhead and the evaporation rate is at a high point of the day. Potable water is used for flushing toilets and watering landscapes. Most people think of water and energy as separate but in fact they are inextricably linked. The California Energy Commission has documented that 19% of the state’s electric energy load is related to the pumping, treatment and distribution of drinking water and the collection and treatment of wastewater. On the other hand hydroelectric power, a major source of California's electricity, provides substantially less than 19% percent of the state’s electricity. So the state’s 400 hydro electric plants (14,000 MW) are insufficient to transport water to and from the state’s cities and buildings. Not even a wash! Again we need to take a closer look at how we are using water. Studies show that we easily waste as much as 50% of the water in buildings. Water efficiency programs can vastly reduce the use of energy to pump, treat, and pressurize water and increasing water efficiency can forestall the need for energy required for intensive new water supply development.
Rain water (naturally distilled, evaporated, and condensed) is mostly lost on buildings and their impervious parking lots. This wash-off transports fertilizer, oil, and other contaminants into our waterways. ( IBM is helping San Jose, California, monitor 30,000 storm drains that empty into 136 miles of creeks and streams.) Solutions such as pervious parking pavers and rain water collection systems are economical and a great environmental choice. In the past year IBM has built a rainwater collection system in North Carolina which generates non-potable water to be used in the facility. With the annual rainfall in Raleigh averaging around 41 inches, a 160,000 square foot roof area can collect approximately 3.5 million gallons per year which can then be used for landscaping and toilet flushing. In Burlington Vermont, IBM was able to cut the purified water bill in half with a water management initiative that includes a data-rich system for managing all of the water used in the plant. Recycling gray water for landscaping and flushing should also be part of the plan.
I have provided just a few examples of where do start leveraging technology to drive more efficient delivery and use of our precious resources. The need for efficiency is clear. By 2025, buildings will be the #1 consumer of energy. Up to 50% of energy and water in buildings are often wasted. Real estate is the 2nd largest expense on the income statement. The good news is the benefits from improving building efficiency are real. Energy usage can be reduced by up to 40% and the associated maintenance cost by 10-30%. Studies have shown that more efficient, smarter buildings have higher occupancy rates and higher productivity. The majorities of today’s workforce not only appreciates but are willing to contribute to energy and water efficiency programs. We can change by managing our buildings in a smarter way. Many of the ideas can be implemented at a very low cost with an excellent payback and return on investment. The great news is we are capturing all of these lessons and implementing them in a set of preconfigured rules in our IBM Intelligent Building Management that is now externally available. This solution takes a holistic approach always considering the interactions among all system components.
This is only a start and there is much to be done. Collaborative innovation can help us to transform smarter, quicker, and more effectively. Working together to make this happen is key.