Smart Operations are a necessary part of Smart Energy. Maybe GBXML is, too.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 09:58PM
Toby Considine in BIM, Data Center, Design, Enterprise Interaction, Microgrids and Distributed Systems, Smart Grid, Zero Energy Buildings

It is easy to think we are playing the end game, but we are really working on the early stages of smart energy.

Smart grids may end at the edges of the grid, they may know no bounds, i.e., ZigBee and SEP, or they may end at the meter. Beyond the meter may be a collection of dumb systems, a minimal collection of defined systems with defined responses, or a micro-grid with its own economy, and own dynamics. I think that every node a microgrid is the future.

I was pulled back to thinking about buildings as I prepared to speak at the AHR show in Orlando next week, and by an announcement about an upcoming seminar on GBXML (GB = Green Building). GBXML is a format designed for the exchange of engineering information, particularly that related to energy use and energy efficiency, during the design process. GBXML may be the key to understanding microgrids in buildings.

The challenge when we treat the end nodes as micro-grids is categorizing and measuring the services they provide. These may be relatively clear in the data center, but even there, understanding HVAC support services is relatively obscure to the IT operator. Going a step further and treating the data center as the district energy center for thermal distribution is hard to understand, harder to account for, and therefore difficult for most enterprises to work with. What are the services in the end nodes?

So, after a building has been partially renovated a few times, and has three EMS (energy management systems), each managing a dozen zones, what effect is there on which part of the business when load is shed in a particular way? Which departments, or tenants, are even affected? Do tenants have QOS agreements, and if so, how are they affected.

Full-fledged BIM (Building Information Model), as defined in NBIMS and BuildingSmart, is too fat, too heavy to use in everyday operations. GBXML is a light-weight one-off of the IFCs in BuildingSmart. It was developed to model energy use, and to exchange energy models within buildings. GBXML includes formal definitions of geometries and spaces, and common models for the components of the energy using systems in buildings. It might just be the map between the design, the operations, and the services. GBXML might just be BIM-Light.

Somewhere between the intriguing, but not yet all that useful Microsoft Hohm and Google Energy, there needs to be a path for buildings as service providers. Understanding services in buildings requires understanding tenants, and their purposes. Perhaps Building Service Profiles link to the spaces in the light-weight BIM (GBXML) and therefore to the tenant services.

Energy profiles linked to the Building Service Profiles, then, become the links between Demand Response and graphical, tenant aware interfaces for building operations.

Last week, I received an announcement of a GBXML seminar in building design (http://www.gbxml.org/events.php). So far, efforts such as LEEDS have not yet delivered on the vision of sustainable energy-efficient high-performance buildings. The unhappy truth today is that most "green" buildings are poor energy performers within a couple years of delivery. Commissioning is a one-time act with no visible links to ongoing operations. Maybe using GBXML to both define the services of buildings and to operate/visualize their operations will not only enable stronger DR, but will lead to better every-day operations.

I am convinced that long term models for distributed energy, and for rapid innovations in energy use, come in this area. All the early incentives of DR, and the early visualizations of Google Energy and Hohm, are merely the tip of wedge for DER and smart energy in the end nodes. We need an interface between design, construction, operations, and smart energy. GBXML may be the most important enabler of net zero, near grid, and off-grid facilities. It may be what we need to apply the facilities capability management approaches pioneered by the Coast Guard to the policy-based net zero security and survivability of the NZ Army base.

I recommend that you check out the seminar on GBXML if you are interested in the real potential of smart energy.

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Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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