“There’s definitely going to be a lot of measurement and verification of energy efficiency savings as a result of these national energy efficiency targets,” says Eric Bloom, senior research analyst contributing to Pike Research’s smart buildings practice with a focus on building systems, high-efficiency lighting and controls, and energy-efficient building design, construction, and operations. According to one of the firm’s recent reports, advances in technology and the availability of much more detailed data and information on how buildings can use energy more efficiently have sparked growing interest in, and rising sales of, building energy management systems (BEMS).

Pike Research estimates worldwide revenue from BEMS, with North America leading the market, will increase at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 14% through the rest of this decade, reaching just under $6 billion a year by 2020. “The BEMS market is evolving rapidly and is enjoying a burst of innovation, leading to an explosion in the amount of data that is available on the energy performance of commercial buildings,” says Bloom, who points to the ability of BEMS to benchmark buildings’ energy use, efficient or inefficient, according to the prevailing average energy cost per square foot. “Just knowing how a building performs — and how it performs to comparable buildings — is a huge benefit in which few companies or building owners invested in the past.”

In an additional report, Pike Research reveals that the market for the commercial building automation systems (BAS) is in the midst of revolutionary change in terms of technology and relevance to building energy management. From the 1970s until the mid-1990s, modern building automation consisted of individual systems, or silos, with simple control panels for switches, timers, and alarms. New systems, however, are designed to perform complex tasks and play a more central role in efficiency. Overall, the market for commercial BAS is expected to double over the next decade, increasing from $72.5 billion in 2011 to $146.4 billion by 2021.

Because commercial buildings consume roughly 23% of all electricity globally, the automation systems that improve, measure, and verify efficiency are a critical part of global energy management, concludes the report. “Software systems are being developed to listen in on data being produced by BAS and other sensors in buildings and using that data to tell the right people within an organization — be it the CEO, CFO, or facility manager — about how energy is being used in their buildings and how energy can be used better in their buildings,” says Bloom. “It’s really about the evolution of the technology itself.”

According to Bloom, five years ago, there were no software systems that provided that type and amount of information. “There weren’t that many buildings that had sophisticated enough building automation systems with digital controls that could actually feed this kind of information into any kind of software platform,” says Bloom. “Today, there’s more of a critical mass of buildings being built, and new buildings are much more intelligent than buildings built 10 years ago.”

Integrating software with those systems allows building owners to get insight into how energy is being used. “As a result of the advance in technology, what’s really happening is that energy is being transformed from basically an inevitable cost of doing business to something that can actually be managed,” says Bloom. “More than anything else, it’s just the availability of such a system.”

However, despite significant growth and much publicity, the green construction and technology market still accounts for only a small percentage of the existing commercial building stock. Newer buildings built within the last 10 years may contain digital controls that can be updated. But older buildings, which may contain pneumatic or analog controls, are out of the market for installation of these types of energy management systems. “What you can do for an older building is replace old chillers or other HVAC equipment with more efficient equipment,” says Bloom. “The payback, depending on how old and inefficient the building is, can be pretty strong.” Yet, these buildings still need an energy use benchmark.