Leveraging Building Energy Management Systems for Efficient Operations

January 29, 2024

In today's commercial real estate sector, efficient energy management is crucial. Energy and utility costs alone consume approximately 40% of the overall operating expenses of a commercial office building.

Rising energy costs and increasing focus on sustainability make energy-efficient practices a strategic necessity. Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) are at the forefront of this shift, offering advanced solutions for effective energy use management. BEMS are key in reducing energy consumption and costs, and they play a vital role in boosting the overall operational efficiency of buildings.

What is a Building Energy Management System (BEMS)?

A Building Energy Management System (BEMS) is an advanced framework designed to monitor, control, and optimize the energy usage of a building. Unlike traditional methods, a BEMS integrates various systems within a building, such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and power systems, into a unified platform. This integration allows for comprehensive management of energy consumption, often across multiple sites.

In an era of rising energy costs and environmental consciousness, BEMS play a crucial role. They enable businesses to mitigate operational costs significantly, while also addressing environmental impact through reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint. The ability to monitor and optimize energy usage translates directly into enhanced performance and cost efficiency.

In the below image, you can observe how a building energy management system takes data from providers on the left and enables the outcomes on the right.

Distinguishing Between BMS and BEMS

While both Building Management Systems (BMS) and Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) are integral to modern building operations, their roles and focuses differ significantly.

BMS: The Central Controller

A Building Management System (BMS) is designed for control, centralizing the oversight of a building's various systems, including elevators and fire safety. Its primary role is to ensure that all components function properly, thus maintaining operational integrity and safety.

BEMS: The Energy Efficiency Expert and Health Monitor

In contrast, Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) focus on energy, specializing in the monitoring, analysis, and optimization of a building's energy consumption. They offer comprehensive insights into energy usage and inefficiencies, enabling facility managers to implement strategies for energy savings and sustainability. Moreover, BEMS are essential for proactive fault detection and diagnosis, identifying mechanical issues early to prevent minor faults from becoming major problems, ensuring system health and operational efficiency.

Enhancing BMS with BEMS

While a BMS excels at controlling building environments, it lacks comprehensive energy management and audit capabilities. Integrating a BMS with a BEMS creates a more robust approach to building management. This integration enhances the traditional control functions of a BMS with the advanced energy monitoring, optimization, and fault detection capabilities of a BEMS, leading to improved energy efficiency and system health.

Here's a visual representation of a BEMS.

In the middle, you can see a CIM baser. This device connects to the BMS and then uses raw meter, submeter, and equipment to create root cause alerts, assign actions, share photos, and report progress.

The Brief History of Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS)

Building energy management systems as we know them today are a relatively new technology. Frequently, the lowest emitting commercial buildings are using a BEMS, heat pumps, and other new forms of technology to lower their emissions. In the US, the lowest emitting buildings today are 38% less energy intensive, per square foot and are 82% electric. To understand how BEMS have shifted the commercial real estate market, let’s revisit their history.

Integration and Centralization:

In the 1980s and 1990s, as commercial buildings grew more complex, there was a growing need for integrated solutions. This era saw the emergence of Building Management Systems (BMS) that brought together various subsystems like lighting, HVAC, and security into one centralized interface. This integration marked the initial stages of what would evolve into today's sophisticated BEMS.

Digitalization and the Dawn of Data:

The late 1990s and early 2000s heralded a digital transformation in building management. The proliferation of sensors and the advent of the internet enabled EMS to harness real-time data, leading to more precise monitoring, enhanced efficiency, and the advent of predictive maintenance capabilities.

Green Movement and Sustainability:

The global push towards sustainability in the 2000s reframed the purpose of EMS. Beyond cost savings, EMS began playing an integral role in reducing buildings' carbon footprints, aligning with LEED and other green building certifications.

IoT and Smart Buildings:

In the 2010s, the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) took BEMS to new heights. The era of 'smart commercial buildings' arrived, characterized by interconnected devices communicating seamlessly for more detailed control, automation, and energy optimization based on real-time data.

Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analysis:

Today, the most advanced BEMS leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These systems are capable of predictive analysis, not just responding to immediate needs but also forecasting future energy demands based on historical data, weather patterns, and occupancy trends. This represents a proactive approach to energy management, aimed at minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency.

From the earliest stages of manual control systems to the current age of AI-driven, predictive BEMS, the evolution of these systems mirrors the technological advancements and shifting priorities of society, particularly in sustainability and smart building design.

Core Benefits of Implementing a Building Energy Management System

Implementing a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) offers significant benefits. In particular, HVAC systems stand to benefit as they comprise 40% of energy consumption and experts estimate as much a ⅓ of HVAC energy usage is wasted due to malfunction, performance degradation, or improperly tuned controls. Here are the core advantages of using a BEMS system.

Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings:

  • BEMS optimize resource utilization, significantly reducing energy consumption.
  • Operational costs are lowered due to minimized energy wastage.
  • Real-time energy monitoring enables proactive adjustments for enhanced efficiency.

Enhanced Building Performance

  • BEMS maintain optimal environmental conditions, improving comfort and productivity.
  • Automated adjustments based on occupancy and usage patterns ensure consistent performance. 
  • Predictive maintenance capabilities reduce the need for costly repairs and downtime.

Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD):

  • Traditional building maintenance often relies on manual walkthroughs, which can miss or misidentify problems.
  •  A robust BEMS can accurately pinpoint issues, identifying the root cause with precision.
  •  AI-generated recommendations are provided to engineering and facility teams for targeted fixes, streamlining repair processes.

Environmental Impact:

  • Efficient energy management leads to a reduced carbon footprint, supporting sustainability goals. 
  • BEMS are aligned with green initiatives, aiding in achieving certifications like LEED, WELL, and BREEAM.

Compliance with Regulations and Standards:

BEMS ensures adherence to energy conservation standards and regulations.

They assist in documenting energy usage and efficiency measures for compliance and reporting frameworks like TCFD, SASB, and CDP or minimum standards like MEES. By integrating a BEMS, building operators not only conserve energy but also enhance operational efficiency, sustainability, and compliance. The added advantage of precise fault detection and diagnosis underscores the system's role in modern, proactive building management. Additionally, a BEMS system can be helpful in energy benchmarking and denote how a building’s energy performance compares to similar structures.

Key Features to Look for in a BEMS

When considering a Building Energy Management System (BEMS), it's crucial to ensure that it possesses key features that align with the operational goals and technological infrastructure of your building. Here are the essential features to look for:

Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) Capability:

The core of a sophisticated BEMS lies in its Fault Detection and Diagnosis capability. This feature allows the system to not just monitor energy usage but to also pinpoint where and why the building is underperforming. FDD enables proactive maintenance by identifying issues before they escalate, saving costs and preventing system downtime.

Integration with Existing Systems

A BEMS should be able to integrate seamlessly with existing systems within the building. This includes compatibility with BACnet protocols, ensuring that it can communicate with various building automation systems. Integration ensures that the BEMS can access and analyze data from all connected systems, essential for comprehensive energy management.

Real-Time Monitoring and Analytics

Continuous monitoring and analysis of energy data is vital. This feature allows for immediate insights into energy consumption patterns and inefficiencies. Real-time analytics support quick decision-making and adjustments to improve energy efficiency.

User-Friendly Interface and Accessibility

The BEMS should have an intuitive interface, making it accessible for all users, regardless of their technical expertise.

Mobile and remote accessibility enhance the convenience and usability of the system, allowing facility managers to monitor and control the system from anywhere.

Challenges in Implementing and Operating a BEMS

Implementing a BEMS comes with its set of challenges, but understanding and addressing these can lead to successful integration and operation:

Compatibility with Existing BMS

One of the primary challenges is ensuring that the BEMS is compatible with the existing Building Management System (BMS). Many BMS are outdated or not connected to critical systems, which can impede the effectiveness of a BEMS. Ensuring that the BEMS can tie into a BACnet-compatible BMS is crucial for full functionality. It allows for the comprehensive collection and analysis of data from all endpoints.

Data Quality and System Coverage

For a BEMS to deliver its full value, it needs access to high-quality data and coverage of every critical endpoint in the building. Incomplete data can lead to inaccurate analysis and missed opportunities for efficiency improvements. Upgrading or retrofitting parts of the BMS to ensure complete system coverage and data integrity may be necessary.

 Rules or algorithms will need to be set for the system to trigger alerts. A comprehensive and organized system like the examples below will make all the difference for project success:

User Adoption and Expertise Development

Another challenge is ensuring that the on-site team fully adopts and incorporates the BEMS into their daily management strategy. This often requires training and ongoing support.

Developing expertise within the team for using the BEMS is crucial for maintaining peak performance. Regular engagement with the system is needed for monitoring, assigning tasks to engineers, and making informed decisions.

By anticipating these challenges and preparing strategies to address them, a BEMS can become an invaluable tool for energy management, offering enhanced efficiency, predictive maintenance capabilities, and ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and cost-effective building operation.

The Future of Building Energy Management Systems

The landscape of Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) is rapidly evolving, with several emerging trends and technological advancements shaping its future:

  • Integration of Renewable Energy Sources: Future BEMS are expected to increasingly integrate with renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, facilitating a more sustainable energy mix.
  • Advanced Data Analytics: Enhanced data analytics, through more sophisticated sensors and IoT integration, will provide deeper insights into energy usage, efficiency, and potential savings.
  • Predictive Maintenance: AI and machine learning algorithms will advance predictive maintenance capabilities, identifying potential system failures before they occur.
  • Tenant preference: It is expected that occupiers will come to expect building to lower their carbon and energy consumption. A recent CBRE survey found 84% of cite features reducing energy consumption as impacting real estate decisions.

In conclusion, Building Energy Management Systems have transformed from simple, manual systems to sophisticated, AI-driven solutions that optimize energy usage and enhance building operations. Key benefits include energy efficiency, cost savings, enhanced building performance, and compliance with regulations. As technology continues to advance, BEMS are set to become even more integral in managing building energy efficiently and sustainably.

We encourage building operators and facility managers to consider implementing or upgrading their BEMS. Doing so not only leads to immediate operational benefits but also positions your buildings for future technological advancements.

To explore how CIM’s cutting-edge BEMS solutions can transform your building operations, we invite you to learn more about our offerings. Discover how CIM is leading the way in innovative building energy management and join us in shaping a more sustainable, efficient future for our buildings.

Connor Holbert
January 29, 2024