Building energy dashboards often miss – or mask – the root cause of a building’s energy-efficiency problems, and there needs to be a radical shift in the way such products are designed, built, evaluated and sold, according to several leaders in building automation and energy management.
A focus on return on investment during the selling of energy dashboards has created a “self-reinforcing downward spiral” between vendor and client that damages both parties, according to an article by EcoTech International’s CEO and founder Rob Watson – who founded the LEED building certification system – and the company’s COO John Pitcher, the founder of building energy management firm Scientific Conservation, on GreentechMedia.com.
Such approaches in selling only benefit the vendor that promises the most savings for the least effort and do nothing to solve underlying efficiency problems that may exist within a structure, and do not approach building science, the authors say.
Rarely do building evaluations look into how well a building is performing and therefore what can be improved, Watson and Pitcher said. In addition, ROI estimates can only be authoritatively made if there is a perfect future knowledge of what would have happened to the building without a dashboard installation, the authors say.
A far more successful way to target problems would be to focus on regular retro-commissioning, the authors say. A study by Texas A&M shows that regular retro-commissioning is the best way to combat the 10-to-30 percent drift in energy consumption that can happen in a building’s first two years of operation, according to the article.
Watson was the founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system. In 2009, Watson took umbrage with claims that the rating system had failed to guarantee efficiency savings at a federal building. The Youngstown, Ohio, facility failed to earn an Energy Star rating, but was awarded its LEED rating using an earlier version of the rating system. It won its award based on such things as adding native landscaping, recycling graywater for irrigation and other features that don’t directly affect energy consumption, the USGBC said at the time.
Pitcher left Scientific Conservation last summer to become Serious Energy’s vice president of research and development. Scientific hit back by filing suit in the Superior Court of Georgia, charging violations of trade secrets and breach of contract, among other allegations.