GSA’s Approach To Intelligent Buildings Combines Technology, People

  June 19, 2014

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.


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