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More Intelligent Energy Management: What Technology Can Learn from Nature

Taking cues from the natural world is not a new concept for sustainable buildings. Nature has long provided inspiration for efficient building design. However, only recently have building managers and engineers turned their attention to plants and animals for engineering inspiration too. Biomimicry is a burgeoning approach that emulates nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies to solve obstacles, like energy management and conservation.


Managing energy use is a huge human challenge for both a sustainable bottom line and a sustainable planet. According to the EPA, commercial buildings in the United States waste more than $120 billion in energy costs each year. That’s partly because only 14 percent of commercial buildings are even measuring and tracking their energy use, much less actively managing and optimizing it.


Smart energy management and biomimicry aren’t just buzz phrases, and innovative technologies are applying them to power-hungry HVAC units with inspiration from bees. In a bee swarm, each bee instinctually knows what behavior will benefit the entire swarm and acts automatically without specific instructions from the queen. Encycle’s Swarm LogicÒ technology combines this concept with building analytics to increase the efficiency of rooftop HVAC units, which typically cycle on and off with no knowledge of how and when other units are operating. In contrast, the patented cloud-based software enables rooftop HVAC units to autonomously communicate with one another to meet energy demands, allowing only the minimally needed units to operate at one time in order to maintain occupant comfort.


Mutualistic relationships are also a foundation of nature, and my company Zen Ecosystems saw Encycle’s Swarm Logic as the perfect complement to our existing energy management solutions. The Zen HQ platform is a connected wireless system that’s as easy to use as your calendar application and eliminates excessive expenses and installation time to focus on the biggest culprit of commercial energy waste: HVAC. This summer, we announced a partnership with Encycle. By integrating Encycle’s Swarm Logic feature into our Zen HQ intelligent energy management platform, we’ve enabled building managers to simply control their electricity usage and reduce maintenance costs even more. Together, we provide the data needed to proactively pinpoint inefficiencies and energy offenders.


The result is real benefits. Our boosted platform has already been deployed with customers nationwide, including at the California-based retailer National Stores, which has more than 350 locations. Using Zen HQ alone had already allowed National Stores to chop its energy bill by 25 percent compared to the previous year. The Encycle software addition will help National Stores and other Zen HQ customers realize an extra 15 to 20 percent reduction in peak demand charges.


Nature is founded on partnerships and adaptation. The Zen HQ and Encycle pairing make smart energy management an easy and affordable evolution.

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