What do Germany’s Siemens, Korea’s LG Electronics, and America’s Abbott Laboratories have in common? All are identified as industry group leaders in the latest Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. This is indication of a trend worldwide where companies commit to – and are rewarded for – sustainability.
Those rewards are not just in public recognition of their efforts, although there is value in that. The payoff is also to the bottom line, benefiting the enterprise and the planet.
These three companies, along with the other 20 industry leaders, must demonstrate sustainability. One way to do that is to reduce the energy consumption of their buildings and report on this progress regularly. Consuming less energy helps the bottom line and can do so quickly. Simply shutting off lights a few extra hours a day can pay for an automated system within a few months, depending upon the situation.
However, the sustainability industry group leaders operate in multiple buildings and locations. So, managing all of these is a tall order. It is made a bit taller because it involves diverse systems, including HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), lighting, and other equipment.
One approach is to throw people at the problem. There are firms today, for instance, that keep an array of analysts busy at the home office, monitoring energy consumption at multiple sites. This works but people are, as they say, only human. Attention can wander and mistakes can be made in either the monitoring or reporting. Just imagine what can happen when a string of numbers are entered manually into a spreadsheet.
A better approach is the use of a state-of-the-art building energy management system, or BEMS. According to the analyst firm Navigant Research, BEMS is defined as:
“IT-based monitoring and control systems that tie into existing energy-related data streams of a building’s infrastructure, such as its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting systems, and provide visualization and analysis of that data to enable better energy-related decision-making.”
BEMS is more than a building management system, which involves HVAC, lighting, fire & safety, security & access, and data centers. BEMS also includes utility data, with energy tariff information, demand response events, and dynamic price signals in the mix. There can be facility operations aspects, such as occupant comfort, utility bills, and local weather data. Finally, capital and operational budgets, carbon emissions and sustainability targets can come into play.
In looking at BEMS, Navigant notes some barriers. One is that only about 30 percent of building stock worldwide has the necessary digital control infrastructure. Another is that BEMS is still a new concept and so the capabilities of these systems may be unknown.
Because of such factors, it might best to go with what Navigant characterizes as leaders in the BEMS space. These are vendors that score 75 and above in terms of both strategy and execution. The research firm looked at 14 vendors and found that two fell into the leader category, with the top spot going to a company that offers products that span from the shop floor to the top floor.
For the former there are building automation technologies that integrate wired, wireless and web technology to improve the interoperability of automation systems. That can be extremely useful, particularly if this is done across various standards and networking platforms.
As for the utility of such offerings to the top floor, advanced tools and analytics ensure that management can hit sustainability targets. The reports possible with analytics provide the documentation needed to prove the success of such efforts.
Go look at the BEMS report, arm yourself with information and draw your own conclusions. As for who’s the number one vendor, I’d tell you what company was there but I’d rather not brag.