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Pick Low-Hanging Fruit To Make An Existing Building Smarter

By Kurt Karnatz, Robert Knight, and Rick Szcodronski - September 2014 - Building Automation


Pick the low hanging fruit: These seven steps can make any existing building smarter.

  • Occupancy sensors that determine whether a space is occupied to control the lighting can and should be used to control other systems as well, such as adjusting the HVAC set points when a space is unoccupied, turning off displays and speakers in unoccupied conference rooms, and sending alarms to the security intrusion detection system if unauthorized movement throughout the space is detected.
  • Secure, web-based control of temperature and lighting controls with a common schedule.
  • Smart, in-building transportation systems such as destination dispatch elevator controls and escalators that slow down or stop moving when unoccupied to save energy.
  • Energy, water, and waste benchmarking with a formal measurement and verification plan.
  • Energy-efficient equipment selection and systems design. This encompasses thousands of items, but is important and relates to making sure the building is fit and functional. (See Step 1.) The easiest way to save energy and dollars is usually the equipment selection and the system design before trying to squeeze small incremental efficiencies via integration or control strategies. Examples include: LED light fixtures, daylight dimming, ECM fan-powered VAV boxes, VFDs for HVAC fans and pumps, and low-flow water fixtures.
  • Security system integration allows the access control and video surveillance systems to help each other. For instance, cameras that are monitoring doors can be set to record upon door contact sensor opening. Likewise, a camera that has analytics and detects suspicious activity may inform the access control system to lock down an area.
  • Digital signage can be used to show upcoming events, for branding, real-time and historical building performance, wayfinding, and dynamic video that captivates people passing by.

The Next Frontier

Once the fundamentals of a smart building are in place, the next step is for the building to take the leap towards intelligence. An intelligent building will take all of the information from its smart building components and analyze, package, and distribute the data automatically with the goal of continuous and automatic improvement. This will make the building an adaptive, "living" organism, able to react and change gears automatically as needed without human intervention. This will promote content-driven behavioral change by optimizing the building in an integrated way. The smartest buildings of today will surely have a head start on becoming tomorrow's most intelligent facilities.

Kurt Karnatz (kkarnatz@esdglobal.com) is president, Environmental Systems Design, Inc., Chicago. Robert Knight (rknight@esdglobal.com) is a senior associate and Rick Szcodronski (rszcodronski@esdglobal.com) is a senior associate, technology consulting, with the firm.





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