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The cold weather is here at Verdigris HQ (yes, it gets cold in California!) and we received the annual email titled,”Use of Office Space Heaters,” from our landlords. This email was unsurprising: our NASA research campus building is old and inefficiently heated. My co-worker has his toasty toes next to a radiator, while I shiver 10 feet away in front of a drafty window. While Verdigris employees don’t use space heaters (the force is with us!), it’s easy to see why portable heaters are popular in offices with poor temperature control. The email goes on:

“Portable space heaters are devices employed to heat a small, partially enclosed area. Unfortunately, space heaters are highly inefficient, may sometimes impede the proper operation of the buildings heating and ventilation system and pose a serious fire hazard in the workplace when not used properly.” …

Poka-yoke (ポカヨケ) is a Japanese term used at Toyota which means “mistake-proofing”. If you’ve never heard of it before, that’s okay. Not many people I know outside of Toyota actually heard of the term. It’s basically what we know as “foolproofing” (poka-yoke actually used to be called baka-yoke, baka meaning fool, but was deemed too offensive and was changed). But in every day life, you’ll come across poka-yoke without realizing it. Have you pressed the open button on your microwave while it was running and seen it shut off? You’ve just experienced poka-yoke. Instead of requiring you to manually turn off the microwave before opening the door, that safety switch corrected the power state so that you don’t have to be irradiated as a result of your “mistake”. If you’ve plugged something into the USB port, you’ve experienced poka-yoke. Notice how it’s impossible to plug it in the “wrong way”? …

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Is your facility on Time of Use billing?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, there’s a large chance you have thousands of dollars to save by digging deeper.

New digital smart meters collect electricity consumption data at regular intervals (typically every 15 or 30 minutes). This evolution in metering led to complex, time-based electricity billing plans that charge MUCH more for energy at certain times of day.

Rate schedules vary between utility company and customer, but common TOU plans may:

  • Charge the most per kWh for peak times of day for the entire utility territory, usually between…

What is Short Cycling?

Short cycling is the rapid turning on and off of a mechanical system, and occurs frequently in air-compressors, furnaces, chillers and AC units. It can be caused by dirty air filters, an oversized system, or the differential pressure being set too small. This rapid state-change adds unnecessary stress on the system, reducing its lifespan and efficiency. Without monitoring and automated detection, facility personnel would need to be within earshot of the equipment at the time of malfunction. In practice this can mean days, weeks and months of wasted energy and damage to the equipment before the condition is even noticed. …

Generating revenue is better than avoiding costs — pretty much any business school will tell you that. What you may not know is that when your product is real estate, it’s possible to do both at once.

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For a commercial real estate manager investing in sustainability, Verdigris provides high definition energy data that can generate huge additional value by:

  • Reducing your building’s operating expenses, driving bottom line value directly to your cap rate
  • Raising occupancy rates by increasing your appeal to sustainability-minded tenants
  • Increasing net rents by offering enhanced transparency for tenant charges

Green Matters

The U.S. Green Building Council awards the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED certification. Whether silver, gold, or platinum, buildings can be recognized at various levels for their commitment to best-in-class building design, strategies, and operational practices. …

One year ago we launched our fifth generation of Verdigris hardware. Our proprietary hardware crucially samples current and voltage at an extremely high frequency (8 kHz, or 8 thousand times every second). Our algorithms use this information to create a virtual physical layer of data. One of these enhanced data streams is virtual equipment-level energy information. This process is commonly known as high-frequency energy disaggregation.

The big problem

Modern commercial buildings need consistent, reliable energy to operate. These operations range from space heating and cooling, to lighting, to conveyance, refrigeration, and machine operation. With each passing year these environments become increasingly complex and energy intensive. Our presence in these buildings correlates.

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It’s that time of year: the smell of Christmas trees, sugar cookies, and the flu bug are in the air. Employees are getting sick, vacationing, and no-showing during the time of year when hotel needs them the most. Holiday travelers are expecting a top-notch experience to match with their top-notch holiday moods, and that requires the appropriate level of staffing behind the scenes to keep the building safe and comfortable for guests.

Here are 3 ways chief engineers and directors of engineering can prevent the holiday under-staffing blues:

1. Staff More Than You Think You Need
Your normal staff is 10 per shift, so you staffed 12 this year, but ended up only with 8. From this you know you’ll have a holiday no-show rate of 4/12, or 25%. It may be too late this year, but use the pain you’re experiencing now to plan ahead next year’s schedule. This might even mean hiring seasonal staff to fill in the gaps where possible, and use the results from this year’s issues as evidence for budget requests for next year. …

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Everyone is worried about data security these days. And rightfully so — good actors and bad are constantly trying to access your data.

The recent dustup between Apple and the FBI shows that protecting personal data is a constant concern, especially when that personal data includes sensitive information like financial accounts or health data.

But what about data regarding your building’s health?

With the number of sensors on the “Internet of Things” growing exponentially, IoT security is becoming an area of ever bigger focus. …

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Corporate are increasingly looking at their employees to be superheroes in the good fight against energy waste. This year 57% of corporations have formal energy reduction initiatives, up from 46% last year. That’s a lot of corporations, and a lot of energy waste to conquer!

Corporate energy reduction initiatives often come in the form of year-over-year savings, or 5 to 10 year benchmarked goals. But the irony is that the best facilities managers, chief engineers, and sustainability mangers have been informally tackling the low hanging fruit energy projects for many years. …

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What’s your Halloween costume?

I have a feeling nobody will be dressed as an energy-sucking overnight-running computer monitor.

But if you’re a commercial building engineer — or a cost-conscious homeowner — you can be sure that unknown devices in your building are sucking up energy when you don’t know about it.

These “vampire loads” are feeding on $19 billion of wasted energy each year.

In my home, I use consumer-grade devices to measure energy use at the plug load. After one plug-in, I learned that my DVR draws a constant 40W of power.

I spend almost $50 a year of use just to catch that one can’t-miss episode of The Walking Dead. …

About

Thomas Chung

Builder, Day Dreamer, Idealist, Persister, Reader, Runner, Learner, and Father.

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