How Intelligent Buildings Bring Benefits To GSA

  May 6, 2014

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.


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