Feature Article

Measurement and Verification: Monitoring Building Systems for Optimal Performance

Tracking the performance of a building's mechanical and electrical systems is essential for energy savings that persist over time.

Some modern building operations centers, such as this one in Johnson Controls’ LEED-certified Brengel Technology Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, evaluate information from many facilities.

Photo: Johnson Controls, Inc.
Andy Shapiro noticed something funny when he examined the energy use of the new manufacturing facility for NRG Systems, Inc., in Hinesburg, Vermont: lights were turning on at night when nobody was using the space. The LEED® Gold building’s sophisticated measurement and verification (M&V) system, which records when and where the building uses energy, allowed Shapiro, principal of Energy Balance, Inc., in Montpelier, Vermont, to see the unexpected blip of energy use and to solve the mystery. The culprit was neither a ghost nor a system malfunction, but Otis, the company cat, who was tripping the occupancy sensors during his midnight prowls. A simple adjustment to the system’s sensitivity reduced the building’s energy use and allowed Otis to continue his adventures in the dark.

While M&V is helpful for pointing out anomalies like this, it can play a much more significant role in reducing energy use. The LEED Platinum Alberici Corporate Headquarters in Overland, Missouri, was designed to use half the energy of a comparable, conventional building, but one year after it opened it was far from meeting those expectations. Thanks to the M&V system, the building, which opened in December 2004, will be meeting its performance goals by the end of 2006. “Without it, we wouldn’t have known how to tweak it,” says Thomas Taylor, general manager of Vertegy, a subsidiary of Alberici Corporation. “We would have been fumbling in the dark looking for the light switch.”

 

Published June 7, 2006