3 FM quick reads on intelligent buildings
1. 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.
2. Microsoft Finds That Fault Detection Saves Energy
Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. The value of intelligent buildings compounds when applied across a corporate or governmental real estate portfolio. Microsoft has about 125 buildings totaling roughly 15 million square feet on its Redmond, Wash., campus, as well as another 15 million square feet spread across the globe. The Redmond campus is the size of a medium-sized city, says Darrell Smith, director of facilities and energy for real estate and facilities.
Buildings were built at different times and design standards were not initially set. So the campus had many disparate BAS systems. "Nothing was talking to each other," says Smith. "Reporting was labor intensive." To prepare a quarterly report on energy use meant physically going into several tools to extract the information from every meter, which took weeks.
Ripping out and replacing $60 million of BAS systems to make everything the same was not feasible for a company with literally millions of data points. The company was looking for off-the-shelf solutions built on Microsoft technology that would provide fault detection and diagnosis, alarm management and energy management on one platform.
The company expects to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. Microsoft began studying its options in 2009. By 2011, the company decided on three potential smart solutions from three different vendors and began installing and monitoring them in 13 buildings, representing about 2.6 million square feet of space. Some of the buildings were nearly brand new while others were more than 20 years old. The analytical layer from each vendor was installed above the existing building management systems.
Following a year of study and evaluation, Smith says all three program components performed well, "but fault detection turned out to offer the largest value. We saw a 17 percent savings in one building in just one week," he says. Now, Microsoft has selected one vendor from the three and is deploying the solution across its whole Redmond campus.
3. Taking A Close Look At Intelligent Buildings May Pay Off For FMs
Today's tip comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. To facility managers who have been in the industry a while, the idea of an intelligent building is nothing new. In fact, terms like "intelligent building" or "smart building" might seem like nothing more than buzzwords that keep getting recycled every few years. Whatever name they're called, the fact remains that a new generation of technologically sophisticated buildings is cropping up across the nation. Taking a close look at intelligent buildings may pay off for facility managers.
High IQ buildings aren't all new construction; renovations and installation of new systems are putting some older structures at the head of the class.
The technology that underpins these buildings isn't necessarily brand new. While intelligent buildings sometimes use relatively new technology — like the deployment of sophisticated analytical tools such as fault detection and diagnostics on practical and accessible dashboards — they also depend on extensive use of familiar technology like BACnet and other open or standard protocols, or middleware to transition subsystem data into a main network backbone.
The corporate interest in energy efficiency and sustainability features is helping to drive interest in intelligent buildings. U.S. commercial businesses spend an estimated $100 billion on energy annually. Experts estimate more intelligent buildings could reduce this cost by $20 to $25 billion annually.
Those industry wide numbers are gaining support where it counts — in the performance of individual buildings. One study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at a food services company with locations across North America. The company used analytics to cut its portfolio energy use 28 percent. Interestingly, 18 percent of that savings came from low- or no-cost fixes identified by the analytics. And Microsoft estimates that it will save $1.5 million in energy costs this year from the use of intelligent building technology.
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