There is no single template for a smart building, but one thing that intelligent buildings often have in common is linking multiple building subsystems to building automation systems (BAS). The important capabilities or elements for smart buildings depend on "what brings value," says Paul Ehrlich, founder and president of Building Intelligence Group.
Intelligent buildings often use 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.
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.
Another 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. The General Services Administration 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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