The integration of AI-driven tools like SkySpark into commissioning opened a world of possibilities for enhancing building performance. Yet, it’s crucial to recognize that while building data analytics can uncover issues, an on-site equipment evaluation remains the linchpin in delivering lasting energy and money solutions. By pairing monitoring-based commissioning with a site audit, you can ensure HVAC performance optimization and achieve optimal efficiency, comfort, and cost savings for your facility while reducing scope 2 emissions (indirect GHG), and contributing to electrification and decarbonization goals.
Amidst this whirlwind of innovation, one standout platform for monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) is SkySpark. What makes SkySpark remarkable is its ability to transcend building automation systems, allowing you to tailor your view of a building’s performance using your preferred lens. By incorporating a touch of programming, you can create a set of fault-detection rules, affectionately known as “sparks” in the SkySpark lexicon, capable of alerting you to potential issues long before conventional alarms trigger.
Continuous Operation Reveals Persistent Issues
The true beauty of these analytics lies in their continuous operation. When harnessed effectively, they can transform your organization’s maintenance approach from reactive to predictive. By utilizing live diagnostics in this manner, you not only enhance the overall operation and maintenance of your building but also reap the most significant benefits shortly after deployment. SkySpark often uncovers persistent issues concealed over time, masked by temporary fixes such as overrides in the building automation system or manual valve adjustments. If you haven’t seen SkySpark in action reach out to kW Engineering for a demo!
Implementation Costs Often Offset By Immediate Gains
The upfront costs of implementing a monitoring-based commissioning platform can be rapidly offset by the immediate gains. Many identified fixes are typically straightforward, low-cost energy conservation measures achievable through reprogramming the building automation system. Another set of issues may require physical repairs or may involve broken equipment hidden behind control sequences adapted to accommodate the problems. Our kW Link platform helps facility managers, technicians and energy managers save time by giving them the information that they need when they need it.
Pair Remote Monitoring with an Energy Audit
Some experts and vendors advocate for the use of remote monitoring systems in isolation to identify and address control issues, but a purely remote assessment can sometimes exacerbate hidden problems. We recently encountered this at a site where our commissioning team deployed analytics.
Surprising Discovery During an Onsite Energy Audit
Our team discovered that one of the ten air handling units had 54°F chilled water entering the coil. Remote scrutiny of the “as-built” drawings indicated the presence of a 3-way valve, potentially causing the issue by allowing return water from the coil to short circuit back into the supply. However, upon consultation with the operator, it became evident that the drawing was inaccurate, and there was no 3-way valve. The operator’s workaround was to run the central plant at 42°F, below its designed 44°F setpoint, to prevent the water going to this AHU from exceeding 54°F, effectively implying that the other AHUs were also receiving 42°F chilled water at their coils and requiring reheat at the VAV box level.
This situation resulted in a flurry of sparks and recommendations to reverse these adjustments, potentially leading to a wild goose chase for solutions. A physical, on-site examination of the air handling unit yielded crucial insights. Upon inspection, the cooling coil appeared to be correct, with supply chilled water entering and leaving at the right inlet and outlet points. However, the problem lurked about 25 feet away, hidden in a dimly lit corner. The line labeled “supply” to the air handler’s cooling coil was incorrectly connected to the chilled water return main, while the line labeled “return” was erroneously tied to the supply main. A plumbing crossover error dating back to the building’s construction over a decade ago had forced operators to run the building inefficiently, as this air handler relied on return chilled water to meet its setpoint cooling temperature.
This problem was virtually impossible to detect through remote monitoring alone. While data-based approaches like MBCx can pinpoint areas of concern, a physical evaluation by a qualified engineer is often indispensable for resolving root-cause issues. Analytics-driven methods can guide you to the trouble spots, but it’s only through collaborative efforts between on-site technicians and commissioning engineers that you can expect to identify control issues, devise practical solutions, and implement permanent fixes.
Remote Commissioning + Physical Evaluation = Lasting Solutions
The equipment problem at that site was virtually impossible to detect through remote monitoring alone. While data-based approaches like MBCx can pinpoint areas of concern, a physical evaluation by a qualified engineer is often indispensable for resolving root-cause issues. Analytics-driven methods can guide you to the trouble spots, but it’s only through collaborative efforts between on-site technicians and commissioning engineers that you can expect to identify control issues, devise practical solutions, and implement permanent fixes that lead to increased building performance and comfort, and a reduction in energy use and related GHG emissions.
kW Engineering is a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) of SkySpark and has developed kW Link, which includes several pre-built modules that assist our customers in managing their energy use, peak demand, and energy costs throughout their building stock. These modules include building and portfolio-level summaries as well as detailed views and fault detection tools down to zone-level HVAC systems. kW Link combines kW Engineering’s decades of experience in the energy efficiency industry with SkySpark’s integration and data aggregation capabilities to provide an optimal tool that is designed to deliver real-world, on-the-meter energy and demand savings to our customers. Reach out to us to schedule a demo today.