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GSA's Building Links Project Centralizes Data To Cut Costs

By Rita Tatum - January 2013 - Energy Efficiency


Though they're not on a single campus, GSA is likewise working towards tracking a similarly large dataset. 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 Santella. 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.

Green, Grid-Wise

By helping to ensure that energy is used wisely, intelligent buildings support efforts to make buildings more green. "Buildings that run efficiently use less energy and generate fewer emissions," says Santella. "Smart buildings is one strategy for accomplishing that."

"If you think of the U.S. Green Building Council's broad definition, you realize that you are going to need some level of intelligence to accomplish it," says Ehrlich.

Intelligent buildings are also well-positioned for more interaction with utilities, whether through the proposed Smart Grid or other avenues.

As the Smart Grid concept matures, Santella believes the advanced automation in intelligent buildings will allow facility managers to manage loads and interact with the grid.

Ehrlich already sees the move to real-time costs in wholesale and deregulated markets. "Ultimately, I think we'll see real-time price signals," he explains. "On a hot day when the wind drops off, the price of real-time energy could go from 10 cents a kilowatt-hour to $1." Smart buildings can react in real time to change setpoints, turn off nonessential subsystems and stop charging electric cars until the real-time price drops. That can help hold down the total amount due to the electric utility now and even more so when real-time pricing arrives.

- Rita Tatum, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, has more than 30 years of experience covering facility design and technology.





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