Center for Environmental Building & Design

Building Energy Reporting and Performance Analysis, 2016

University of Pennsylvania, Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES)

The capacity of technology to capture and store data from utility meters has increased dramatically in recent years. However, while virtual mountains of information are being collected, in many cases the question of what to do with that data in order to make it useful has yet to be answered. The Center for Environmental Building & Design (formerly the T.C. Chan Center) has assisted the University of Pennsylvania’s Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) in the analysis of energy consumption and greenhouse gas production for nearly a decade. As energy meters in individual building around campus have come online in recent years, this work has sought to answer that core question: now that the data has been collected, what can we do with it to increase its utility and value?
 
The Center for Environmental Building & Design (CEBD) has been centrally involved in the environmental initiatives of University of Pennsylvania since 2005-06, when the first Sustainability Plan was prepared. That initial research report concluded that building energy consumption was one of the key elements of campus operations to be regulated, and proposed both that buildings be individually metered and that a provisional program of building auditing begin immediately. For the following two years, performance assessments were conducted using a Building Performance Assessment Tool (BPAT) that combined “walk-around” audits of buildings with simplified performance simulations, allowing the University of identify buildings for renovation and upgrade. That program continued over the following years with more detailed systems evaluations and helped initiate a program of continuous re-commissioning.
 
Beginning in 2007, when the University President signed the carbon reduction pledge, the CEBD provided most of the data analysis and research that was used as the basis for the Climate Action Plan 1.0. While this analysis has followed many different paths, the ongoing service provided by the CEBD has been the calculation of the current carbon footprint for the campus and the projection of that footprint into the future under a variety of envisioned scenarios. In the initial action plan the campus was examined as an aggregated whole and the reductions possible from each category were estimated over the course of a 30-year scenario. This method was used to set initial targets for reductions in the 5-year timeframe once the plan had been enacted and to estimate the scale of reductions that would be possible before 2042. The built environment of the University of Pennsylvania accounts for approximately 85% of the carbon produced by the main campus through the use of electricity, steam, and chilled water.
 
After the launch of Climate Action Plan 1.0 in 2009, the CEBD began to explore the question in greater depth by breaking down the aggregated campus into individual buildings with different degrees of improvements. It created the framework for more accurate projections of carbon reductions once meter data becomes available. In 2012 a financial calculator was added to the individual carbon projections to evaluate the net present value (NPV) of renovation scenarios. Estimates of the cost and effectiveness of each renovation planned within a scenario can be calculated; the NPV of the costs and the growing energy savings from each project can be estimated as well. The combination of these individual building worksheets and financial calculators allows for a more detailed examination of the potential for carbon reductions in the built environment.
 
All three tools were used together in 2013-14 to develop a more nuanced and realistic Carbon Action Plan 2.0, though this was still based mostly on estimates of individual building energy consumption. The 2.0 scenarios considered a range of options for the renovation of campus buildings focused around the Century Bond projects and the potential improvements that could be achieved by bringing the worst performing facilities up to a contemporary standard. The final scenario was developed by assuming that the top 20% of poorly performing buildings would be renovated and that they would be brought to current or next generation code.
 
The 2015 fiscal year (FY15) was the first for which most of the meters were operational for the entire year, making it the first year that this type of research was possible. The meter data was aggregated, normalized, and compared against regional benchmarks by building type in order to identify those that had the greatest potential for energy reductions. The 40 buildings with the most potential for reductions were put forward for further investigation. In order to better communicate energy information regarding these buildings an annual report was developed to present this data on a building’s performance with as much clarity and information on one page.
 
However, there were a number of limitations that hindered the utilization and presentation of the gathered energy information. This year’s work has been to overcome those limitations and to expand the utility of the meter data that has been collected. The first issue has been largely self-correcting and is regarding the quality of the raw data being recorded. As FY15 was the first year of operation for most of the meters, many experienced calibration issues, recorded in the wrong units, or simply had large gaps in the data. By FY16, however, most of these issues had been corrected and so the errors encountered were of a smaller scope.
 
A second limitation in the previous year’s work regards the means of handling and storing the data. This was largely due to the use of Excel to store the aggregated data used to generate the annual energy reports. The size limitations and limited data import capabilities of Excel required the raw data to be aggregated as a separate process to generate an output of monthly energy consumption for each building, losing the original temporal resolution recorded in the raw data. Additionally, the manual importing of data required by this process made it prone to transcription errors that complicated the efforts. Further, the data was only available as a backup file of the FRES database for the entire year, which made it more difficult to obtain and extract the data.
 
To overcome these limitations, by switching from Excel to a Filemaker database this year the process of obtaining the energy data was streamlined and standardized. Because Filemaker is as a true database, it provides better importing and handling of large data sets. This allows more information to be captured and the process of collecting and entering it into the database to be more automated, reducing the potential for human error. Filemaker was also chosen for its ability to generate custom reports, allowing the energy information collected to be presented in a variety of different ways depending on the intended audience.
 
In addition to overcoming setbacks encountered in the previous year, this year’s work sought to improve the utility of the information that has been collected. One method of accomplishing this has been through the identification and development of energy metrics most pertinent to specific audiences and the generation of reports that are tailored to those metrics. A second tactic has been the use of mathematical techniques to correlate energy consumption to external and internal variables such as weather data, occupancy schedules, and data from SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems. These techniques provide the potential for fault detection, load management, and the overall analysis of a building’s performance.
 
Team Members
University of Pennsylvania, School of Design Faculty
William Braham, PhD, FAIA, Professor of Architecture and Director, Center for Environmental Building & Design
Yun Yi, PhD, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Research Associate
Alex Waegel, PhD
Graduate Students
Pengyuan Shen, PhD Candidate Architecture
Madhur Behl, PhD Candidate SEAS
Evan Oskierko-Jeznacki, Master of Environmental Building Design
Seung Bae, Master of Architecture
Facilities and Real Estate Services
Administration
Anne Papageorge, Vice President Facilities & Real Estate Services
Ken Ogawa, Executive Director of Operations & Maintenance
David Hollenberg, AIA, University Architect
Daniel Garofalo, Director Environmental Sustainability
Staff
Sarah E. Fisher, Sustainability Strategic Planning Associate
Andrew Zarynow, Energy Planning Engineer
Benedict Suplick, Director of Engineering and Energy Planning
Eric Swanson, Operations Engineer
Christian Hanson, Data & Documentation Manager
John Zurn, Century Bond Director