4  FM quick reads on

1. Strategic Road Map Leads the Way to Good Security

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is be prepared when it comes to security planning.

For facility managers and security directors, being prepared means more than having security measures in place to address the biggest risks to life and property. It means having a strategic road map that will guide security decisions and enable a facility manager or security director to make the right choices if a headline-making emergency leads to the question, "What are we doing to make sure this doesn't happen to us?"

All too often, funding for security measures is very difficult to come by — until something goes wrong. That's especially true given the state of the economy.

Concern for security rises when senior executives read about an incident at another facility. And it's up to the facility manager or security director to be prepared with the right answers if questions come from higher up in the organization.

A strategic security road map can help provide those answers, says Robert Lang, assistant vice president, strategic security and safety, and chief security officer, Kennesaw State University. That road map is based on a careful, ongoing analysis of facility needs as well as technologies, policies and procedures that can address those needs. Lang's road map extends five years into the future. He knows he won't get funding for everything he'd like to enhance the security program, at least not right away. But the road map shows what he'd like to do and when.

Smart Grid Offers Big Benefits

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to support the Smart Grid to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers.

Institutional and commercial facilities represent about 20 percent of the load on the electrical grid, so maintenance and engineering managers in these facilities have a significant impact on utilities that produce, transmit, and distribute electricity. In turn, the way those utilities produce and distribute electricity efficiently, intelligently, and economically also affects these facilities.

This naturally symbiotic relationship between supply and demand means managers should have a great deal of interest in the Smart Grid.

The Smart Grid is an overlay or enhancement of the existing electrical grid using digital technology and smart meters to control the flow of electricity. It gives the utility better insight into when the grid is reaching peak loads in much greater detail, as well as the ability to control demand to avoid peak-demand periods. Rather than buy power on the spot market or bring additional supply online — usually at great cost — utilities use the Smart Grid's automation component, which allows them to control demand.

Utilities can control demand in two primary ways, and both rely on economic incentives to affect customer behavior. First, utilities can set up demand-reduction-incentive plans with facilities. The utility offers a facility a reduced rate for electricity with the understanding they can control some of the facility's load and shut it down during peak power periods. Second, they can offer a pricing structure that includes critical-peak pricing tariffs, under which electricity rates increase quickly during periods of high production and use.

In either case, managers have great incentive to adjust demand patterns as an intelligent, autonomous entity and support the Smart Grid. They can do this by using smart meters, load-communication schemes, and software programs that allow for a smart energy-use policy.

Minimize Distractions When Using Open Designs

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to take minimize distractions to take full advantage of the benefits of open office designs.

Many organizations have found that a more open environment, with movable partitions and plenty of meeting places, is more conducive to productivity than the permanent offices that prevailed 30-some years ago.

At the same time, however, openness means that employees are likely to be distracted by other employees' conversations, cell phones ringing and the like. In fact, more than 20 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents to a survey by consulting firm Randstad US ranked loud noises as their top workplace pet peeve. What's more, extraneous noises can be more than simply annoying. They also can impair workers' productivity.

The objective for facility managers is to leverage the benefits of open office designs while minimizing distractions. A range of acoustical goals come into play. These include controlling the noise in common areas, creating some level of privacy and sound absorption for workers at their desks, and enabling privacy in rooms where confidential discussions occur.

Specific needs and objectives vary from one type of building to another. Government offices, for instance, often require high levels of privacy. In most commercial buildings, the goal is to minimize distracting noises and provide enough sound absorption or background sound that employees can concentrate. In a few businesses — advertising comes to mind — managers actually may want a slightly higher noise level to project an environment of excitement and busyness.

Whatever the specific goals, it's easiest to achieve them when the building is designed with acoustics in mind from the start.

Cooling Plant Optimization Offers Data Center Benefit

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that cooling plant optimization can offer energy-saving benefits in data centers.

Cooling plant optimization includes several key elements that, when combined, can produce significant savings in energy use over the life of the facility.

The first element is supply temperature control. Eliminating humidity control from the air conditioning units (ACUs) on the data center floor allows for the humidifiers and reheat coils to be removed from the ACUs. The result is a lower first cost and lower maintenance and operating cost for the system.

Because some outside air is required to ventilate the raised floor environment, an effective solution is a central ventilation and humidity control system that utilizes an ACU using 50 percent outside air and 50 percent return air to humidify and dehumidify the data center. The amount of moisture needing to be added or removed from the space is not a function of the total air circulated in the data center, but purely a factor of the condition of the outside air used for ventilation and the moisture migration through the building skin.

An efficient option is ultrasonic humidification, which uses high frequency sound waves to evaporate water and operates on one-tenth the energy of a conventional electric system that boils water. Ultrasonic systems use de-ionized water, which some view as a complication not worth the hassle. However, modern packaged de-ionized water systems are highly reliable and provide a boon in maintenance savings.

Elevating the chilled water temperatures is another element that will help optimize a data center's cooling plant. Because the data center can be cooled effectively with 60-degree supply air, it is possible to supply 50-degree water. This increases the efficiency of the chillers, and significantly extends the annual hour of free cooling with a water-side economizer cycle.

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