Unmasking a BAS opportunity

How a commercial real estate company put its energy waste on lockdown.

The story

Great adversity and disruption can sometimes reveal great insights - like knowing when to upgrade your building automation system (BAS). That was certainly the case for an Ottawa-based company that owns and manages commercial real estate. They were quick to find a smart energy management solution to improve their buildings' energy efficiency, after the opportunity was made evident during a COVID-19 lockdown.

The two buildings in question were over 20 years old, and the various BAS equipment that controls the office HVAC systems was reaching end-of-life.

As equipment failures happen, an aging HVAC system might still deliver the right temperature to keep occupants comfortable, but it's likely doing so in highly inefficient ways.

This reality isn't always easy to spot. But when energy costs failed to drop while these two buildings were left largely empty after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, it became obvious to the owner and manager that something was wrong with their buildings' BAS system. So, they commissioned Envari to help figure things out.

A building system evaluation revealed that equipment failures had in fact reached a point where some of the BAS controllers - meant to integrate and coordinate sensors, thermostats, fans, heating, and cooling - were no longer functional.

As a result, functions of the HVAC systems, specifically heating and cooling, were running harder than they should have been - at times operating simultaneously - dramatically spiking energy use.

With the problem identified, the company wanted an open-minded assessment of its options.

They wanted to know how much equipment needed replacing and how quickly; and they wanted to avoid a smart energy management system that used proprietary technology, or that might lock them into a rigid long-term service commitment.

As an advisory firm, not a product vendor, Envari was able to begin a transparent dialogue and provide the company with a breadth of options and flexibility. They were also able to draw on a range of expertise and experience spanning engineers through to field technicians, encompassing both building automation and the mechanical systems involved with commercial HVAC systems.

Ultimately, both parties agreed on and implemented a phased approach, involving installation of a new master controller, capable of communicating with existing automation controllers, to re-institute effective control of the building HVAC equipment. Replacement of end-of-life sensors and controllers would be done as-needed - minimizing the utility of existing equipment. The new building automation system now provides remote access capability from any web browser on a computer or mobile device.

Today, the building managers are equipped with improved visibility on both overall system performance and building energy efficiency.

As an added advantage, Envari had the certifications and expertise needed to assist the company with a successful application for provincial incentive monies. The grant was available due to tight electricity supply constraints in the geographic area where the buildings were located - meaning that the company improved not only its own operations, but also the supply-demand balance and grid stability in a growing urban area.

A forecast of energy savings predicts a significant building cost reduction for as long as the buildings remain under-utilized - savings which otherwise would have been completely foregone.

Do you need help determining if your building automation and mechanical systems are still delivering energy efficiency and cost savings as designed? Do you need help maximizing comfort and air quality for occupants?

Contact us

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