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4  FM quick reads on intelligent buildings

1. GSA’s Approach To Intelligent Buildings Combines Technology, People


Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. GSA's Building Links Project is installing smart building technology in 50 of its highest energy-consuming properties, representing 32 million square feet, according to Frank Santella, director of smart and sustainable buildings for GSA's Public Buildings Service facilities management and services programs. Under the project, data from building performance nationwide will be streamed to a central facility. When fully operational, the concept is expected to reduce maintenance and operating costs of the federal building portfolio, saving an estimated $15 million annually.

The Building Links Project will allow tenants to view building performance on dashboards with real time metrics on energy savings and recommendations on increasing efficiencies. "In a few years, we hope to have 200 buildings, representing 75 percent of our energy use on the Building Links Project," says Santella.

As buildings are constructed or upgraded, they also will be managed on this new cloud platform. The new technology will provide facility managers with real time information and diagnostic tools to keep buildings performing at peak efficiency.

Just because intelligent-building software exists in the marketplace, it does not mean the smart components will operate properly in the building. To accomplish that, someone needs to police the specifications, says Jack McGowan, president of Energy Control, Inc. "You need to make sure the capability is going to work."

The people operating the building also need to understand how to use intelligent technology and how to optimize it. Otherwise, after commissioning, building staff may circumvent or disable crucial elements of the system. "Eventually, those intelligent technologies may not be allowed to do the work they were installed to do," warns McGowan.

The GSA understands the importance of building operators and managers. In fact, people operating the building are one of GSA's three pillars for intelligent buildings, along with the building itself and technology.

"We can engineer to get data out, and software applications can identify areas for improvement and energy savings," says Santella. But he believes it's even more important that people are positioned to extract those benefits.


2.  How Intelligent Buildings Bring Benefits To GSA

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. One good example of an intelligent building that uses system integration as a core strategy is the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. The courthouse is using smart technology to reduce energy use by at least 30 percent compared to a typical building of the same size. GSA is converging data from multiple building subsystems on one network. Once data is normalized and converged, "we have the capability to try some things," says Frank Santella, director of smart and sustainable buildings for GSA's Public Buildings Service facilities management and services programs.

Santella says that a conference room serviced by HVAC has its lighting on occupancy sensors. So, when occupants leave, the occupancy sensors detect the room is empty and set back the HVAC system. That's a fairly typical smart application. "When you add information from the building's scheduling system to the BAS, then you know that room will be in use from 10 to 11, then 2 to 3 and 4:30 to 5," Santella explains. The temperature then can be reset to occupancy status 15 minutes prior to each of those meetings. "Not all of that happens on Day 1," Santella admits. But designing intelligence into the building allows these concepts to be tested, charted and incorporated into future standards for public buildings.

The use of smart technological standards starts saving money during construction. The Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt federal building in Portland, Ore., links eight building subsystems onto one network. Certainly, the benefits will help the building in its effort to achieve LEED Platinum certification. But Santella points out that the approach has an immediate bottom-line impact. "They all plug into one communications riser," he explains. If each was a standalone system, as many as eight risers would have been required.

What's more, intelligent-building technologies are increasingly seen as a way to reduce costs. One of those technologies — the software for fault detection — actually monetizes the problems it finds, explains Jim Sinopoli, managing partner at Smart Buildings. "So you see that leaky air damper is costing $1,000 a year," he says.

3.  How Fault Detection And Diagnostics Reduces Energy Costs

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. Microsoft has seen significant energy savings from deploying fault detection and diagnostics across its campus. In 2012, more than 4 million square feet of space on the Redmond campus have the smart solution in place, and Darrell Smith, director of energy and facilities, expects to save $1.5 million in energy costs for fiscal 2013. That savings is coming from "casting a net" of fault rules across the buildings to identify assets that are wasting energy because they are not working as designed or have incorrect set points. The payback is less than 18 months, which is particularly noteworthy since the state of Washington has rock-bottom power prices. "We have the third lowest utility rate in the country," Smith points out.

It's not that the buildings were designed inefficiently. A number of the worst performing were built to LEED Gold and LEED Silver standards. But under the old system, each building was retro-commissioned once every five years to make sure it was operating as designed. It was simply impossible with so many buildings to get to each one any faster.

That lag led to problems. For example, a sewer pump developed issues so the exhaust fan was taken off the carbon dioxide sensors and run at 100 percent. The override remained that way for a year before it was found and reversed.

Facilities personnel used to go and look to see what was broken. "Now, I know the actuator's broken before you tell me and I know how much it will cost if I don't make that repair," observes Smith.

But the intelligent building management system does more than indicate a $50 variable air volume fault versus a $20,000 air economizer problem.

"It also lets me drill down to the floor so I can evaluate the asset value and determine the priority," explains Smith. "It may be a $300 fault, but the impact on our business [could be] such that it's actually more important to fix the $300 fault before another fault that could represent $15,000 in wasted energy."

In addition to fault detection and diagnostics, Microsoft's system also manages alarms and assists in energy management functions. Smith estimates 2 million data points are currently connected across the campus. When all Microsoft buildings are on the new system, it may be handling 500 million data transactions every 24 hours.

4.  What Is An Intelligent Building?

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. There is no single template for a smart building. The important capabilities or elements for smart buildings depend on "what brings value," says Paul Ehrlich, founder and president of Building Intelligence Group.

But one thing that intelligent buildings often have in common is linking multiple building subsystems to building automation systems, often using middleware to move the necessary data from its source to a common platform.

"Initially, building automation systems addressed only HVAC systems," explains Jack McGowan, president of Energy Control Inc., an OpTerra Energy Group company. "Today, there are technologies to incorporate fire/life safety, access controls and other building subsystems." McGowan says that intelligent technologies are so prevalent that they are becoming commodities.

Intelligent buildings feature three levels of integration, says Jim Sinopoli, managing partner at Smart Buildings. The first layer is physical integration at the cabling and infrastructure level.

Next is integrating various building systems, such as HVAC, fire, access control, elevators, lighting, pneumatic tube systems and other conveyance equipment, etc.

The third level of integration takes building information beyond simple facility management into asset management, preventive maintenance, external energy market data and beyond, using analytics and fault detection, says Sinopoli.

The new headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a poster child for integrated building systems. The 13-story structure, which is aiming to achieve LEED Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council, has a sophisticated BAS that is connected to a wide range of building systems, including exterior sunshades for daylight harvesting and glare management, solar panels, water management — including on-demand water heaters and faucet sensors — wastewater treatment and rainwater harvesting for irrigation. The BAS at the 277,000-square-foot building provides demand response for various energy curtailment levels, building performance analytics with ongoing commissioning, alarm management for all subsystems, occupancy sensors, preventive maintenance elements and public information/education.


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