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GCN : November and December 2014
[BrieFing] The federal government uses a lot of energy. According to the Energy Department's Comprehensive Energy Data and Sus- tainability Performance annual report, federal agencies in FY 2013 spent $6 billion in energy costs for buildings sub- ject to energy reduction requirements. So using technology to trim even a frac- tion of a percentage in costs can add up to huge savings. The General Services Administration has released a request for information on innovative building technologies as part of its Green Proving Ground program, which leverages the agency's real estate to evaluate energy saving technologies. So far the agency has adopted technologies such as wireless network sensors that provide real-time informa- tion enabling facility operators to better manage heating and cooling systems. And advanced power strips with sched- ule controls have resulted in a 26 per- cent energy reduction at workstations with advanced computer management already in place. Other agencies are likewise working to cut energy use in buildings, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is testing the use of intelligent agent technologies. "Adapting intelligent agent technolo- gies from other elds offers the promise of signi cant improvements in building operations," said Amanda Pertzborn, a mechanical engineer working in NIST's Embedded Intelligence in Buildings Pro- gram in the agency's announcement. "The idea is a kind of 'one for all approach'-- use networked intelligent agents to manage and control devices and equipment subsystems to enhance the overall performance of a building rather than to optimize the operation of each component independently of all the others." Intelligent agents are combinations of software and hardware such as sensors, mechanical devices and other arti cial intelligence tools. NIST is converting one of its laboratories to a 1,000 square foot mock of ce building to test whether the tools can be collectively used to optimize building performance, including minimizing energy use, enhancing em- ployee comfort and improving security. The arti cial intelligence tools can perceive their environment, make deci- sions, take actions as well as learn, predict and adapt to changing situa- tions. According to the DOE's Building Energy Data Book, in the United States, the buildings sector accounted for about 41 percent of primary energy consump- tion in 2010. The lab will initially test how to improve the most energy-intensive of building operations: heating, ventilating and air conditioning. HVAC systems in commercial buildings account for about 7 percent of total U.S. energy consump- tion, according to NIST. When initially installed and tested, an HVAC system "starts out performing at peak ef ciency. Over time, however, ef ciency tends to degrade ... requir- ing retesting and retuning the system," NIST said. "Intelligent agents distributed throughout a HVAC system would en- able continuous tweaking to orchestrate the operation of all components so as to maintain peak performance and ef cien- cy throughout the building's lifetime." The testing mirrors work done by the Lawrence Berkeley National Labora- tory, which is also working on improving building ef ciencies. Originally proposed in a 2008 paper by lab researchers Bruce Nordman and Alan Meier, the idea is called "implicit occupancy sensing," and it posits that using existing infra- structure for occupancy sensing could reduce energy usage. Similarly, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the Energy Department, is working on a new, ef- cient data center, the Energy Systems Integration Facility. The super-ef cient data center, in Golden, Colo., is designed for research- ing how to best use renewable energy. The facility will carry out research, devel- opment and megawatt-scale testing to improve the ef ciency of electricity, with every bit of energy at the facility being reused in some way.• The Department of Energy sponsors the development of a variety of soft- ware, including these that simulate whole-building energy performance: Energy Plus: A whole building energy simulation program that en- gineers and architects use to model and optimize building design to use less energy and water. DOE-2: An hourly, whole-building energy analysis program that calculates energy performance and life-cycle cost of operation. Building Design Advisor: Pro- vides building decision-makers with the energy-related information they need in the initial, schematic phases of building design. SPARK Models complex building mechanical systems that are be- yond the scope of EnergyPlus and DOE-2. Good for modeling short time-step dynamics. Runs 10-20 times faster than similar programs. DOE's building energy software toolset BY KATHLEEN HICKEY How AI tools help agencies cut energy costs 6 GCN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 • GCN.COM