Measuring Campus Performance through Submetering
A Case Study Analysis
Many college campuses are billed for utilities based on a small number of meters shared by multiple buildings. As a result, utility tracking systems provide aggregate usage measurements, instead of providing building-level data. This approach to utility measurement often reduces utility rates or reduces installation costs for district heating/cooling systems, but it obscures the true performance of individual buildings. “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”¹ Measuring utility use for individual buildings is a necessary step towards making college campuses more resource efficient through targeted improvements for poor-performing buildings.
The following guide is intended to provide you with an understanding of the value of submetering on a campus and how to set-up and maintain a submetering program. Case studies from four prominent schools are included to illustrate different solutions for campus submetering. To learn more about reducing energy and water consumption on campuses through benchmarking, upgrades and behavior change, review the companion document Campus Benchmarking Guide.
Spelman College is a private women’s institution with 2,050 students, located in Atlanta, Georgia. For years sustainability initiatives have been interwoven into Spelman’s core strategic plan. Concerns for both building and occupant well-being have been driving forces in the implementation of different energy management systems.
What you need to know
- Six out of twenty-five buildings (29% of campus area) are submetered for electricity and water.
- Submetering has helped with the early identification of building system problems contributing to wasted energy and water. Case in point, large spikes in interval submetering data over a school holiday led the facilities manager to inspect the cooling tower and discover valves which had malfunctioned, a problem that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. With the submetering technology, they were able to identify and correct the problem before it accrued unnecessary costs.
- A service contract with Siemens Building Technologies allows for 24/7 HVAC controls and maintenance support. Siemens staffs a controls representative and a maintenance representative on the Spelman campus every day.
- Facilities staff installed WaterSignal Technology in the Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center, allowing them to receive instant water consumption data along with leak/spike alerts.
- Spelman finds the submetering technology valuable and they are continuing to add electric and chilled water meters at their Camille Cosby Academic Center.
With every implementation of new technology there are bumps in the road. Spelman’s main challenge is having the staff resources to analyze the submetering data they are receiving. Next steps for Spelman in their sustainability journey are to increase the submetering infrastructure in more buildings on campus and continue monitoring the data through their BAS system and EnergyDirect.com, an online reporting tool available to Georgia Power customers.
O. Lamar Allen Sustainable Education Building
As a public research institution with over 25,000 students, Georgia Tech has made a significant effort to submeter their buildings. The initial motivation to install submeters on all campus buildings was to bill individual departments for their utility use. However, submeters were later used to find significant opportunities for energy and water conservation, especially in the O. Lamar Allen Sustainable Education Building (SEB).
The SEB is a three-story building that houses classrooms, office space and a data center. Twelve years ago, Georgia Tech had only a few electric meters for the majority of buildings on campus. Now, in one building alone, they have twenty system-level electrical submeters.
What you need to know
- Submeters in the SEB are designated by floor and monitor the energy usage of various systems including lighting, plug-loads and HVAC systems. Server rooms and elevators are submetered separately. The submetering design allows facilities staff to have an accurate understanding of how much electricity and water is being used by space-type rather than relying on industry averages.
- Metering devices in SEB are attached to a wireless network and automatically sent to Georgia Tech’s storage server, the Ion System. System-level data from the Ion System is displayed on a dashboard allowing facilities engineers to view information about the building’s energy end-usage and allowing operators to analyze the granular data behind the dashboard.
- Georgia Tech also uses EnergyCAP, a consumption interface that receives data from the Ion System. This tool is used to track energy by specifying consumption and billing. The EnergyCAP system generates an internal bill which allows Georgia Tech to accurately track and allocate utility costs across campus.
- The Facilities Management department is engaging Georgia Tech’s own Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory research team to help create a functional tool to manage the raw data generated by the submeters. This tool will also contribute towards a user friendly graphical user interface planned to be available for use by executive managers, students and the operations and maintenance team.
Georgia Tech is going a step further by engaging students and offering curriculum that teaches energy analysis and how to perform energy models, based on the real-world utility data tracked by Facilities Management.
At times it may seem that both the Ion and EnergyCAP systems are bringing in too much raw data, but the implementation of this technology allows Georgia Tech to accurately allocate utility costs for the campus. It also is allowing facilities to see the building’s energy consumption in both interval and monthly values. In addition to raising departmental consumption awareness, submetering is allowing Georgia Tech to identify potential energy reduction projects and validate savings estimates.
Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is a non-profit arm of Georgia Tech whose mission is to solve complex problems through innovation, research and education. GTRI acts as a research arm for the Georgia Institute of Technology, but management of the GTRI building portfolio is completely separate from the university. GTRI’s building portfolio covers one million square feet with properties located in downtown Atlanta and outside of the city in Cobb County, Georgia. Facility types range from labs to offices and event spaces.
What you need to know
- GTRI has ten electricity, three steam and three chilled water meters in their buildings.
- GTRI buildings were allocated utility costs previously based on square footage but switched to consumption billing using submeter data. The switch was the catalyst that engaged GTRI to implement energy conservation measures—in one year they saved close to $150,000.
- To assist with facility management, GTRI staff, in collaboration with Georgia Tech mechanical and electrical engineering students, developed their own dashboard with a graphical user interface for monitoring building energy use. Different than Georgia Tech’s main interface, this cost-effective dashboard works in tandem with the building automation system (BAS) to display submeter data.
- GTRI’s qualified staff working with students are able to gather all data in-house. This reduces implementation costs and also allows students to get real world experience.
- Staff and students use the dashboard to analyze building performance.
- GTRI’s facility operators have set up alarms on air handlers to alert maintenance staff to problems as they occur.
The decision to submeter was not only a sustainable one but also a business strategy. GTRI has created an educational, hands-on experience for their students and staff while saving money on utility costs.
Emory University is a private institution with close to 15,000 students located in Atlanta, Georgia. Emory committed to sustainability initiatives envisioned in the school’s 2005-2015 Strategic Plan. Since 2005 Emory has completed rigorous projects to reduce energy use by 25% by 2015. Emory achieved the 25% energy reduction goal ahead of schedule and recently set a new goal to reduce energy by 50% per square foot by 2025.
What you need to know
- Close to 95% of buildings on campus are submetered, with one to five submeters per building. Utilities metered include water, gas, electric, chilled water and steam from the campus’ central plants.
- The university has three chilled water plants supplying 51 buildings with chilled water submetered to track use.
- Emory manages an internal “Utility Company” that invoices campus departments for their monthly energy and water use which helps provide transparency of data to the campus.
- The meter information Emory receives, along with that from their Building Automation System (BAS), has given Facilities Management the ability to manage building systems and operations. Looking at energy usage data allows them to compare current consumption with previous days or months to see if consumption has changed or whether there is a system that needs to be addressed.
- Emory’s Sustainable Performance Program (SPP), a continuous commissioning initiative, is a key energy saving program for Emory. The program studies factors causing performance degradation of HVAC systems leading to increased energy consumption and on-going commissioning practices to maintain high-performing buildings. Emory uses submeter data to validate actual energy savings due to the SPP and a successful re-commissioning program.
- Emory is currently collaborating with other schools across the nation through various working groups to learn best practices for sustainability and efficiency of campus facilities and operations. They are constantly finding new methods to measure and monitor their energy consumption.
- Emory currently uses ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager as well as a dashboard system to share with the public its water and energy usage for certain buildings and Emory campuses.
- Emory’s transparency with their consumption data allows students and staff to take accountability for their energy and water use.
- Emory has put forth many efforts to engage students as a community to participate in reaching sustainability goals. Each October the university hosts campus-wide energy reduction competitions—students and faculty all take part to compete to use the least amount of energy in residence halls and other campus buildings.
Submetering data is vital to supporting Emory’s ability to manage building operations and performance. The energy and water use metrics derived from submetering are key to engaging the Emory community, including students, faculty and staff, in initiatives to support campus resource use reduction.
Agnes Scott is a women’s liberal arts college located in Decatur, Georgia, with an enrollment close to 1,000 students. In 2007, after signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Agnes Scott began implementing plans to reduce energy and water use on campus. All efforts to reduce the consumption of these resources are managed by a team including staff from: facilities, business, accounting and the Center for Sustainability.
What you need to know:
- Agnes Scott uses a combination of solutions to analyze and report electricity submeter data on campus. The Automated Logic Controls (ALC) system is used as the building automation system and the building control system. The ALC system tracks electricity in 17 of its 30 campus buildings. In addition, the College tracks 11 electric utility meters using Energy Direct, an online reporting tool available to Georgia Power customers. The utility meters include one main meter for the majority of campus buildings and 10 meters serving two or more buildings and outdoor lighting (i.e., parking lots). Natural gas is tracked in 29 buildings using the gas utility provider’s meters.
- The college is limited in their ability to track water use per building due to utility meters serving multiple facilities. Smaller buildings, including residential buildings that now serve as offices or shared student housing are individually metered.
Recorded data is used by the part-time energy manager consultant, facilities and the Center for Sustainability staff to track building performance compared to baseline benchmark years. The data is analyzed and reported using Metrix 4 Accounting Utility Software. Agnes Scott is also benchmarking in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager using data exported quarterly from Metrix 4.
- The college’s Green Revolving Fund (GRF) had sparked the need for more attention to submetering and tracking options. Thus far, the GRF decisions and payback are managed based on projected savings. The college will soon be documenting actual savings and analyzing the full impact of the GRF to date.
Agnes Scott made the decision early on to reduce energy and water consumption using existing systems more efficiently. Increasing the level of data available provided the college with the information needed to prioritize their reduction efforts. Now that the college has been undertaking projects for several years, it is aware of the limits of these current systems and is considering both upgrades to the ALC system and/or more submetering to have additional data. With older meters there is a higher chance of inaccurate readings. Agnes Scott’s facilities department flags erroneous data to inform reporting.
With new sustainability efforts, there can always be issues with time and capacity of staff. Agnes Scott’s next steps include more focus on data collection and more training on how to analyze the data and catch anomalies so they can better understand their energy and water consumption for the long term. Additional support will be provided by student sustainability interns.