As #smartbuilding buzzwords go, Monitoring-Based Commissioning or “MBCx” has a more robust history than some. As a concept, MBCx or Constant-Commissioning has been around for more than 2 decades, with its origins in the research work conducted at Texas A&M University and at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as far as back as the 1990s. The first commercial implementations of MBCx started more than a decade ago. Since MBCx is a not a buzzword du jour, what explains the reason why ACE IoT has seen a rather dramatic increase in the number of customers and potential customers exploring MBCx?
What is MBCx?
In principle, the idea behind MBCx was solid: new-build commissioning (#Cx) and retro-commissioning firms would leverage building analytics software to provide an on-going commissioning service (#MBCx) that would help ensure that a building’s performance would be evaluated and optimized not just before the Certificate of Occupancy or after a retro-commissioning project, but on an on-going, regular basis. The proposed outcomes were compelling: the building-owner would get a well-performing and energy-efficient building and the Commissioning firm would get a new source of revenue and a new offering through which it could demonstrate its value to customers. And, of course, the planet would benefit from lower carbon emissions.
While there are MBCx success stories, it did not become a widespread offering in the Commissioing industry, despite its appealing promise. Over the years, we’ve spoken with folks at organizations who have invested time and money in the development of an MBCx solution, but do not offer MBCx as an offering. From these conversations, we’ve concluded that when a development effort around an MBCx offering failed it was often due to one or more of the following reasons:
Establishing the MBCx offering involved surprisingly high upfront costs.
Deploying the building analytics software in a building was challenging and often required a Commissioning firm to hire new resources to install, configure, and manage the software.
Once an MBCx solution was deployed, the customers were overwhelmed by the number of alarms and/or didn’t have either the internal or external resources required to address the issues identified by the MBCx service.
Fast forward to 2023 and we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of Commissioning firms and Energy-Efficiency Advisors considering or revisiting what we might term an MBCx 2.0 offering – or perhaps better described as Commissioning-as-a-Service-“CaaS” offering. From what we can determine, the renewed interest is the value placed on the recurring revenue the MBCx can deliver and today’s business climate of increased regulation and corporate commitments to emissions reductions. At ACE IoT, we believe MBCx offerings in 2023 will be a lot more successful than offerings in, say, 2013.
How ACE IoT Supports MBCx
Why will MBCx 2.0 offerings find a market where MBCx 1.0 failed to stick? Well, for starters, there are companies like us around! ACE IoT Solutions offer tools that firms considering MBCx can use to avoid the pitfalls that befell previous attempts. Our services include:
Turn-key data acquisition using open-source technology VOLTTRON. Developed by Pacific Northwest National Lab, ACE IoT uses VOLTTRON to integrate with HVAC, power meters and an array of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) including EV chargers, BESS, and PV. Using the combination of VOLTTRON and widely used protocols including BACNet, Modbus, LoRaWAN and others, ACE IoT establish and maintain reliable and cost-effective data pipelines.
Leveraging the open-source, time-series data visualization platform Grafana. This platform enables us to produce custom visualizations of time-series data from HVAC equipment, power meters and IoT sensors without needing to program the building automation system (BAS) – all of which support MBCx workflows. ACE IoT makes available to our customers data dashboard templates designed to: 1) Verify reset strategies; 2) Verify PNNL’s building re-tuning guidelines, and; 3) Provide heat maps visualizing devices deployed in a building (e.g., VFDs) in a single step. Using the combination of ACE IoT’s data management platform and Grafana, our customers can often avoid the tedious work of setting up trends in the BAS.
Ability to collect and visualize data from geographically distinct locations without the need to install a JACE at all the sites. An approach like this can provide a cost-effective solution that establishes visibility for clients seeking to monitor, measure or assess the performance of sites distributed across the country
On-going support. At ACE IoT, we’re committed to our customers’ success. Our standard offering includes ensuring that the data flows that are critical to your company’s MBCx continue to function. If data stops flowing, we are responsible for troubleshooting and resolving the issue.
For MBCx to be viable, does a building need to be tagged?
In terms of MBCx, we are often asked about Project Haystack and Brick Schema:
“Q: Does a building have to be tagged with Haystack or Brick Schema for a building owner to see value from an IDL and/or a MBCx offering?”
“A: Buildings do not have to be fully tagged to realize value from an IDL or from MBCx. Ingesting available metadata (regardless of naming convention), we help our customers identify and collect the data needed to implement key Energy Conversation Measures (ECMs) and/or monitor the performance of important HVAC equipment.
Whether you’re an energy engineer, commissioning agent, or sustainability advisor, we believe the time is now to revisit monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) solutions on behalf of your clients. At ACE IoT, we can help ensure you have reliable access to the time-series data you will need as part of any MBCx solution. Contact Bill Maguire (email@example.com) to discuss.
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