Library Energy Project Replaced Outmoded Systems

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Todd Isherwood Transforming City of Boston's Energy StrategiesPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Centralizing Energy Management in City of Boston Buildings Pt. 4: Making Retrocommissioning a PriorityPt. 5: Boston's EPC, PPA Plans Have Potential Big Impact

One of the first projects Todd Isherwood worked on when he started with the City of Boston — the Central Library, with its outmoded building systems — illustrates the challenges he and the city's fcility managers face. Another challenge is dealing with an uncoordinated hodge podge of systems around the city.

The Central Library in Copley Square is the headquarters of the Boston Public Library system — it consists of two linked facilities, one built in 1895 (and restored in several phases in the 1990s and the early 2000s) and the other in 1972. The complex comprises an entire city block and about a million square feet. The biggest issue at the library was an outdated building and energy management system that had been installed in the 1980s. "It was a first-generation DDC system," says Isherwood. "It basically just started and stopped systems." But it wasn't even doing that effectively anymore.

"The system we had was more suited for the Smithsonian than to be an actual operating system in a building," says Jim Meade, superintendent of library buildings. The system, even in 2011, was still operating on Windows 95 computers, but the last straw came when the system broke down and the vendor didn't even have backup software to repair it. What's more, a mouse broke, and Meade couldn't find a new one compatible with the old computers. "We were literally out of business until we found a mouse to work with our system," Meade says. "We were a bit behind the times."

The library had been working on energy efficiency in other areas, so Meade and Isherwood made good partners right from the start. The two collaborated to procure a new state-of-the-art building management system — a process that included garnering a generous utility rebate — that would bring the library up to speed. As well, the two worked closely on some lighting retrofits (replacing T12s with T8s) and installing motion sensors in the stacks.

The project was a success, and Meade was happy. "We can look at real-time energy use in the building now," says Meade. "We can make adjustments and see immediate results. We can see what works, and what has the biggest impacts."

Isherwood says the expected savings were about 330,000 kWh per year, but for 2013 (against a 2012 baseline) the library saved more than 350,000 kWh. With the utility rebate, the payback on the projects was less than a year.

One Standard to Rule Them All

The library energy efficiency projects were one of Isherwood's first tastes of what he would be up against in terms of city facilities' badly needed upgrades. The city is a government entity, so its procurement process when projects go out for bid means the lowest bid is usually the one taken, says Isherwood. And this has meant that "throughout the 1980s and 1990s, we've procured every different manufacturer of building management systems you can imagine. Every one has a different protocol." So Isherwood is developing a common building management system standard to tie together the hugely disparate systems all over the city — an enormous undertaking. "We can't just rip things out and put new things in," he says. "My goal is standardizing building management system protocols to be common across all city departments."

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  posted on 2/4/2015   Article Use Policy

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