Tag Archives: smart building

Growth Expected For Smart Building Measures

Despite the gains facility executives have seen from implementing smart building measures, less than half say that their organizations have developed an overall smart building strategy. (See Figure 5.) By comparison, most organizations have overall strategies in place for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Figure 5. Does your organization have an overall: R=826

Smart building strategy (R=878): 45%
Energy efficiency strategy (R=858): 74%
Sustainability strategy (R=845): 61%

Among organizations that do have energy efficiency or sustainability strategies, a majority of respondents say they rank smart building strategies as top priorities for those strategies. (See Figures 6 and 7.)

Figure 6. How important is a smart building strategy to your current energy efficiency strategy? R=631

A top priority: 52%
Not a top priority: 41%
Not implementing smart building measures: 7%

Figure 7. How important is a smart building strategy to your current sustainability strategy? R=511

A top priority: 57%
Not a top priority: 38%
Not implementing smart building measures: 5%

Although a majority of respondents say smart building strategies are top priorities, the percentages are far smaller than the number that say smart building strategies have helped improve performance in energy and sustainability. This discrepancy suggests that many facility executives may be failing to integrate smart building planning, on a strategic level, with energy efficiency and sustainability planning.

But the survey suggests the next few years could see a significant upswing in the implementation of smart building measures. While the percentages of those who expect to take the two most common measures, lighting upgrades or recycling, decline compared to what was done the past three years (lighting upgrades down from 83 percent to 62 percent; recycling down from 70 percent to 39 percent), many smart building measures show an increase. (See Figure 8.)

Figure 8. Which of the following steps do you anticipate your organization taking in the next three years? R=775

Expect To Take Measures

Controls upgrades: 47%
Integration of building systems: 41%
Automated monitoring and reporting: 40%
Automated optimization: 23%
Continuous commissioning: 22%
Automated fault detection & diagnostics: 21%
Dashboards: 19%
Increase compared to implementation in past three years
No change
+5 percent
+8 percent
+53 percent
+120 percent
+50 percent
+58 percent

The increase for “integration of building systems” is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. One is because it comes after three years of integration improvements in many facilities. The other is because integration is vital as the underpinning of a smart building strategy.

“Systems integration is central to a smart building strategy,” Zimmer points out. “By integrating individual systems and buildings into a common user interface, operational activities in the various subsystems can be monitored to detect inefficient operating conditions, allowing corrective action in order to achieve high levels of systems optimization.”

Moores believes all building systems should be accessible through the building management system and well interfaced for Internet access. Facility executives and others “should have access to pertinent information via dashboards,” says Moores.

Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, believes systems integration has to make smart building strategies “as simplified as possible.”

That’s not to say that systems integration guarantees a smart building. “Systems integration is an important element but will not in and of itself create value,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. “There are many high-tech, integrated systems that are set on override or that don’t use interoperability.”

“Smart building strategies need to be easy enough for everyone to understand,” says Moores.

It’s essential to have a strategy for systems integration, rather than simply integrating systems for the sake of integration. “A systems integrator may come in and offer an overlaying control system that will monitor every system and subsystem in the building through one interface,” says Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting engineering firm. Reilman doesn’t believe that is an appropriate strategy for every building. “The question is, why are you doing it?” Gigabytes of data that no one uses or knows how to extrapolate are useless. “The facility executive needs an easy way to extract and collate data to verify energy model results.”

Analytics is emerging as an important area of smart building technology. The survey showed that about one in five respondents are now using analytics to improve energy efficiency while another one in three are considering that option. (See Figure 9.)

Figure 9. Are you currently using or considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency in your buildings? R=797

Using analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Considering analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Neither using nor considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency:


Role of the BAS in Smart Buildings

Basic control over building functions is essential to smart building strategies. Building automation is generally the cornerstone because its aim is to optimize energy performance while enhancing occupant comfort. Employing sensors, controllers, actuators, and software, a building automation system (BAS) may serve many functions, including:

  • Optimizing start/stop functions on various building systems and subsystems.
  • Scheduling maintenance.
  • Employing predictive fault detection.
  • Detecting abnormal operating conditions.
  • Alarming and preventive actions to minimize damage in case of emergency.

Depending on the BAS chosen and the preferences of the organization, decisions can be made manually by building operators, or facility staff can use embedded intelligence algorithms to automate actions.

The range of capabilities of a BAS makes it well-suited to be the basis of a smart building. And the survey shows that most facility executives do identify the BAS as the foundation of smart building strategies. (See chart below.) The University of Southern California (USC) has a smart building strategy that allows facilities management to see what’s happening in every campus building, according to Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group.

Which do you think should be the foundation for smart building strategies? R=795

Building automation system: 55%
Software analytics: 11%
Not sure: 31%
Other: 3%

“They know what’s going on in operations and maintenance across building systems, down to the filters and their product numbers,” Reilman notes. USC’s building management system has a facilities management system layer that allows sophisticated control strategies. “But you could also treat a 50-story high-rise building as a ‘campus,'” says Reilman, to accomplish similar smart options.

Almost by definition, many BAS functions make a building smarter. For example, Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, believes the advantage of a building automation system is “less human error. The BAS lets you create setpoints and parameters for temperature in a specific space, for instance, so that is not left to someone’s memory. It also does monitoring functions so that we don’t have unhappy surgeons in the operating room. Of course, the BAS is only as good as the people operating the system.”

Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, believes another excellent use for BAS in smart building strategies is “trending data, particularly watching how and when temperatures rise and fall. This is invaluable information to use for planning energy use.”

In addition to controlling, monitoring, and trending strategies, a BAS can serve another valuable smart building function, says Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “The BAS can show others what we are doing to save energy and encourage sustainability. When people can see the benefits, they are more willing to spend money on improvements.”

Experience Shows Value Of Smart Building Measures, But Obstacles Remain

Facility executives say that money often is the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies. Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, stresses this includes not just first cost, but also return on investment (ROI). “We prefer ROIs in two to three years,” Walsh explains. He also looks for energy improvements that will increase the value of the building.

The survey results bear out the extent to which a lack of financial resources can be an obstacle to smart building strategies. While only 3 percent of respondents say smart building technology is not available today, 69 percent say they don’t have a budget for smart building strategies. What’s more, having staff resources — another budget issue — is an obstacle for roughly half of respondents. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2. What are the obstacles to development and implementation of smart building strategies in your organization? R=469

We don’t have a budget for smart building strategies: 69%
We don’t have time/staff to implement smart building strategies: 49%
Smart building strategies cost too much: 24%
I’m not familiar with smart building strategies: 19%
Top management does not support the use of smart building strategies: 18%
Information about smart building technology is not readily available: 8%
Smart building technology is not available today: 3%
Other: 7%

Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, also believes another obstacle is education and training. “How much quality training is available from the company that sold you that system?” Smyth asks. “Sometimes the training is free. Sometimes training is so expensive you cannot afford it.” On the topic of training, Smyth also believes refresher courses are valuable both for existing facilities staff and for new hires.

Kristina Moores, an associate at Arup, an engineering and design firm, thinks the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies is not all building systems are tied into the building management system, followed closely by the lack of user education. “There are many vendors selling smart equipment and programs, but the new software may not allow for coordinated systems and points reporting from existing building systems,” Moores points out.

Experience With Smart Building Systems

Although funding has posed a hurdle to wider implementation of smart building measures, the survey shows that those measures have paid off with gains in energy efficiency and sustainability. Among facility executives who have implemented smart building strategies, a large majority has found that those measures aid efforts to boost energy efficiency and sustainability. (See Figures 3 and 4.)

Figure 3. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved energy efficiency outcomes? R=826

Yes: 82%
No: 4%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 14%


Figure 4. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved sustainability outcomes? R=830

Yes: 69%
No: 11%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 20%

It’s worth noting that fairly significant numbers of facility executives say their organizations haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter. When those organizations are factored out, the vote for the value of smart building measures is even stronger. Looking strictly at respondents who have taken smart building measures, 96 percent say those steps improved energy efficiency, and 86 percent say they improved sustainability.

These results are in line with the experiences of those who are familiar with smart building strategies. Facility executives and independent experts alike have seen that smart building strategies can improve building performance, increasing overall energy efficiency and assisting in sustainability efforts. In addition, the savings in energy costs can improve the bottom line.

According to CABA statistics, advanced smart building strategies can reduce energy use as much as 50 percent compared to unimproved buildings, “with the most efficient buildings performing up to 70 percent better than conventional properties,” says Zimmer.

With smart building strategies, energy efficiency isn’t achieved at the expense of occupant comfort. “If you put the effort and brainpower into your BAS, you can get what you are looking for in controlling the comfort level and also keeping a handle on the energy side of things,” says Smyth.

Provided senior management buys into the smart building strategy, implementation and execution are thought out, and accountability exists, “smart building strategies can significantly lower operational costs through optimizing building functionality across different systems such as lighting, HVAC, security, elevators, etc.,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. Murchison also points to the importance of retrocommissioning and continuously commissioning the building, as well as monitoring and measuring progress.

Key strategies that enable energy efficiency and sustainability ideally use BAS and building energy management systems from building inception, suggests Zimmer. On-going commissioning also is critical. “Through the use of these technologies and techniques, building owners and managers can realize many financial benefits, including lower energy costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower repair and replacement costs,” he explains.

It’s important for facility executives to present a complete picture of the economic value of smart building measures when seeking funding. “Building managers can use life-cycle costs analysis to calculate the cost of a building system over its entire life span,” notes Zimmer. The life cycle process analyzes the long-term impact of construction and infrastructure costs on forecasted operational costs throughout the expected life of the property.

Importance of People in Smart Building Strategies

Experts agree that people play a crucial role in smart building strategies. For Shircliff, the three pillars of a smart building strategy are buildings, people, and technology. “The buildings must be enabled and the people, including process, aligned to best leverage newer technologies and basic information technology (IT),” he says.

Smyth believes a program that focuses on educating employees and hospital staff is essential. Communicating what smart building strategies are being implemented can be accomplished by an email that explains the precise situation, according to Smyth. “Let’s say we want to turn off all computers when they are not in use,” says Smyth. “So we show how many kilowatts per hour can be saved and how that adds up as we get more cooperation. Then we may show what that savings can represent. For instance, we may be able to add another piece of equipment for our patients.”

Walsh also believes keeping building occupants informed helps in energy conservation and sustainability efforts. He uses a newsletter to tell building occupants how much paper is being diverted from landfills, the advantages of using automated faucets, and even the benefits of variable frequency drives.

Like Smyth, Walsh has found informing building occupants encourages them “to pitch in with everyone else. We also get more feedback and that is a good thing.”

Zimmer sees a smart building strategy as combining IT, equipment, and the efforts of highly skilled people.

“The universe of technology solutions that create an intelligent building has evolved considerably over the last decade,” says Zimmer. “Innovations in energy-saving solutions, smart sensing, remote monitoring, automated diagnostics, as well as a myriad of Internet-based solutions have made their way into the domain of intelligent building solutions. The solutions allow buildings to become more responsive to the needs of occupants. The solutions, however, do require oversight by professionals with a high level of expertise.”

Medical Center Uses BAS for Smart Energy, Sustainability Strategies

Located in central Texas, Dell Children’s Medical Center is part of the Seton Family of Hospitals. The 503,000-square-foot medical center has achieved LEED Platinum certification for new construction.

Acting as the heart of this accomplishment is a building automation system (BAS) that efficiently integrates numerous facility systems and devices. From a single workstation, technicians can monitor and control indoor air quality, HVAC operation, and utility distribution. An energy management system also integrates the fire alarm system and provides air handling system control.

Alan Bell, Seton’s director of design and construction, reports that “with our building system we’ve been able to achieve about 17 percent better efficiency than ASHRAE standards, which was the target for our LEED rating.”

The medical center’s BAS supports complex smart building strategies for energy conservation and sustainability. For example, integration with variable frequency drives in combination with underfloor systems drives energy costs down. In addition, chilled water consumption is monitored, kilowatt-hour use is calculated, and run time on all pumps is managed by the BAS.

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U.S. Green Building Council sponsors ‘Battle of the Buildings’ in West Michigan


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan is sponsoring its first “Battle of the Buildings,” a competition aimed at reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings.

The year-long contest will track energy use and encourage energy-efficient practices across the region in a spirit of friendly competition, according to its sponsors. More than 1 million square feet of building space has already been entered.

On March 31, 2014, building registration will close and categories will be determined
based on type and number of building entries, according to a news release announcing the contest.

A workshop to introduce contestants to Portfolio Manager, the Environmental Protection Agency’s online energy tracking tool, will be held Friday, Jan. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hurst Mechanical, 5800 Safety Drive, Belmont.

Registration for this workshop is free to participants, $10 for USGBC West Michigan Chapter members, and $20 for all others. Registration can be found online atwww.usgbcwm.org/education

Throughout the competition, participants will cut energy waste through energy-saving activities such as making improvements to the building, optimizing operations and
maintenance, and engaging occupants to save.

The buildings that demonstrate the greatest reduction in EUI (energy use intensity) during the competition will be recognized as a winner at a 2015 energy summit. This summit will consist of a panel discussion of participants, vendor booths, and an awards banquet.

For information on how to enter, building registration, or to become a Battle partner,
visit www.usgbcwm.org.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him atjharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.