Aligning Time, Space, and Energy
Monday, December 17, 2007 at 09:39PM
Toby Considine in Background, Re-thinking things, Synergies

Whenever time, space and energy are misaligned, you are spending too much. NBIMS (National Building Information Model Standard), now buildingSmart, is a standard for the definition and creation of space for work and life. The functions inside buildings are the largest users of energy in North America. Time is the missing component, the piece which is never aligned.

When we use energy at the wrong time, we require too much from the power grid. When we do not know the scarcity or plenty of energy, we will not use energy at the right time. Energy availability has seasons, as do other perishable commodities such as fruits and vegetables. Where the seasons of produce are the seasons of the year, the seasons of energy are the hours of the day. Using energy in the afternoon is like consuming raspberries in February, a profligate act. To know the scarcity or abundance of energy, we must have pricing that varies during the day.

When buildings are uncommunicative, they cannot respond to our needs for space. They cannot prepare space to be optimal when we need it. The cannot release their claim on the energy needed to prepare space when we do not need it. If we cannot communicate with buildings whether one person or twenty will use space, then the building must lay claim to the same energy for either case. When we can let buildings know what our space needs are, then they can use energy by preparing just what we need.

If we knew the scarcity of energy, would we change how we move through time and space? Human Resources may tell me to stay at home for a snow emergency. Why not tell me to stay at home for an energy pricing emergency? It would certainly save me time, and a lot of energy, to not commute to a building that is temporarily over-priced.

Space need accurate time. Too many building systems have no way to update time, no way to calibrate their clocks. To be responsive to time signals, building systems must pick up network time as do all other networked systems.

Managing space is old hat.

Managing energy is so ‘70s.

Managing time is in every self help book.

But to manage all three together requires standards, and interoperability.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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