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Insight into Multi-family Building Energy Use

Typically, new multi-family buildings provide an efficient use of space and energy resources. A centralized location for living space, heating, cooling, and hot water makes financial sense in urban areas. People want to live in cities, and apartment buildings help make it possible.

Architects, builders, and developers expect these construction projects to work out in terms of value and some degree of efficiency. But how is success determined beyond profit or positive cash flow? The answer is measuring the building in terms of heating, cooling, hot water, and energy. Knowing the input and output these systems, plus how they are used by the building and its occupants, demonstrates a positive or negative performance.

Monitoring technology makes this possible. Easily see how the energy resources are allocated. These multi-family building monitoring projects often take a top-down perspective on energy. The projects start with measuring the draw from an energy resource, such as a utility, fuel tank, or renewable energy source. The use can be as granular as needed. For electricity, monitor electricity by building, electrical panel, or circuit. For hot water, use a flow meter and temperature sensors to calculate BTU production, and then use by apartment or equipment. Propane and natural gas are evaluated similarly. Heating and cooling systems are judged by the fuel input and the output. The output could be radiant heating or cooling, room temperatures, air quality, or relative humidity.

With input and outputs known, an efficiency or coefficient of performance can be calculated. Renewable energy system production can demonstrate the savings.

The best feedback on a new multi-family building is knowing the building is efficient and provides a comfortable conditions. When monitoring energy and environmental conditions, buildings can be evaluated. If there are problems, many times mechanical systems can be tuned to run better. This knowledge can not only improve a current building's performance, but also guide design and mechanical system sizing for future construction projects.

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