Overview - AWS Prescriptive Guidance


Energy optimization gives an organization’s facilities team an easy way to reduce costs and carbon of HVAC systems. Although building maintenance systems often have a long lifespan and can be expensive to update or replace, cloud technologies can breathe new life into a building’s existing technology stack. The flexibility and agility of the cloud enables you to add advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) features to your existing suite of HVAC software. With little to no adjustments to a building’s physical technology the cloud provides a cost-effective way to bring about change at many facilities around the globe.

AI/ML plays a pivotal role in advancing building management and energy optimization. These technologies enable predictive maintenance by analyzing data to predict equipment failures. They also enhance energy efficiency by optimizing consumption based on historical patterns and real-time data, contributing to reduced costs and environmental impact. Occupant comfort is improved through dynamic adjustments of lighting, temperature, and ventilation. AI/ML facilitates demand response and fault detection, aiding in grid stability and swift issue resolution. By processing diverse data sources, informed decisions can be made to upgrade equipment and conserve energy. AI/ML-powered simulations assess system changes and aid decision-making, and customized recommendations cater to specific building needs.

Data-driven approaches are critical to achieving optimal energy usage. Data serves as the cornerstone for informed decision-making and effective strategies in energy optimization. Historical energy consumption data establishes baselines, whereas real-time sensor data guides immediate adjustments. Analyzing data reveals usage patterns, anomalies, and trends, and helps identify inefficiencies. Models and simulations rely on data for accuracy, and predict the outcomes of changes. Optimization algorithms use data to determine ideal control strategies. Predictive analytics forecast demand and faults, and load balancing distributes consumption efficiently. Energy production data from renewables informs integration. Feedback loops driven by data enable ongoing improvement. Data on occupancy and preferences align comfort with energy goals. Information about pricing and grids optimizes demand response. Ultimately, data empowers efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable energy practices in building operations.

Energy optimization seeks to reduce the cost of HVAC operation while conserving or improving the conditions within a building. After monitoring the energy usage of your HVAC systems against their temperature and humidity benchmarks, energy optimization seeks to conserve those baselines while using less energy. Non-quantitative approaches, such as manually adjusting the configurations of HVAC equipment, are labor intensive and do not scale well to hundreds or thousands of facilities.

Reinforcement learning (RL) for energy optimization involves training AI agents to make decisions in building environments to maximize energy efficiency. Through trial and error, these agents learn to control systems such as HVAC and lighting with the goal of achieving optimal energy consumption while adhering to constraints. RL enables adaptive decision-making by allowing agents to interact with the environment, learn from outcomes, and receive rewards or penalties. This approach is particularly useful for dynamic and complex energy optimization challenges, where traditional rule-based methods fall short. When you adopt RL solutions, your buildings can adapt to changing conditions, and you can enhance energy efficiency beyond manual programming capabilities.

RL has been shown to be a leading methodology for optimizing the energy consumption of HVAC systems (see Applications of reinforcement learning for building energy efficiency control: A review in the Journal of Building Engineering, June 1, 2022). The agent is rewarded for identifying HVAC configurations that reduce energy consumption while maintaining or improving interior temperature and humidity. An agent is trained for each building, so the RL approach is agile yet scalable for large portfolios of buildings.

Regardless of the success RL has had on optimizing energy usage, building systems inherit many complexities that must be addressed. These range from identifying the data source, defining the data ingestion mechanism, establishing the telemetry store and asset management solution, training a ML system, and deploying the solution.

Some of the key challenges for facilities management are:

  • A building’s lifespan is 50 or more years, and a facility’s system sensors are typically installed on day one. Many new cloud-native sensor options come to market every year, but building management systems (BMSs) are not designed to integrate with new market solutions.

  • A wide range of technologies, standards, building types, and designs exist within each real estate portfolio, and these are difficult to manage over their lifecycles.

  • Building management and automation systems require a third party to own and modify production data, and licensing fees aren’t based on consumption pricing.

  • Facilities teams generally lack the cloud expertise required to design a custom management solution, and their IT teams often don’t have product-level experience to build a BMS.

Targeted business outcomes

  • Reduced energy usage while balancing factors such as throughput, quality, human safety, and comfort. Energy reduction is achieved by reducing equipment usage, including:

    • Reducing HVAC compressor runtime while maintaining comfort

    • Reducing chiller usage while maintaining process temperature

    • Reducing furnace utilization while maintaining part quality

  • Real-time setpoints recommended by the ML model to achieve optimal energy usage

  • Easy to use, yet powerful dashboard to monitor optimization performance

  • Cloud-native pipeline to efficiently scale to additional equipment and any number of lines

  • In-house data scientist and developer enablement

  • Hands-on experience with AWS consultants through joint project staffing (optional)