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Smart buildings get smarter

Robert L. Mitchell | Oct. 23, 2012
Behind the glittering, sculpted glass skin of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's new 13-story headquarters beats the heart of one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in the world.

By the Numbers

The SFPUC's Green Headquarters

Square footage: 277,500

Height: 13 stories

Construction cost per square foot: $257

Annual energy use: 2.8 million kwh

Renewable energy sources: Solar panels, wind turbines

Maximum energy produced by renewable sources: 227,000 kwh per year

Percent of total energy consumption supplied by renewable power: 7%

Projected overall energy savings versus conventional building: 32%

Expected life of building: 100 years

Projected energy savings over the building's lifetime: $3.7 billion ($500 million in 2012 dollars)

ROI: 26 years

"When it came to pulling all of that data into one platform to streamline management of the building, that wasn't available," Vafaei says. So the commission developed an integrated building management system (IBMS), a custom-built SQL Server database that pulls data from every monitoring and control system, including those that regulate heating and lighting, elevators, generators, solar arrays, the internal window blinds and external shutters that adjust natural lighting, and the roof-mounted weather station. "The IBMS provides a management layer on top of the traditional controls," Vafaei says. The system also aggregates data and provides information dashboards that give an end-to-end view of all systems to building managers, executives, employees and even the public, by way of a 40-foot-wide media wall in the main lobby.

Smart Buildings' Sinopoli worked on the IBMS. "We're at the point now where you can integrate these building systems. An IT infrastructure has really penetrated all building systems," he says. And once the data has been integrated, all of those systems can be functionally connected so that an event in one can trigger a response in another.

At the SFPUC building, for example, the IBMS applies real-time analytics to data from the shade, lighting, HVAC, weather station and room occupancy sensors to determine how shade positioning will affect both cooling and lighting system loads. The shade position is then adjusted automatically.

Not Just for New Construction

Existing buildings can also benefit from an IBMS, says Darrell Smith, operational supervisor at Microsoft's Real Estate and Facilities organization. The company's Energy Smart Buildings project, now under way in the 118 buildings that make up its Redmond, Wash., campus, uses an IBMS and analytics tools to optimize operational and energy efficiency across seven building management systems. The IBMS pulls data from those systems, which track HVAC, lighting, power monitoring meters, generators, power distribution units and circuit monitors. Because of the complexity, says Smith, partnering with IT was critical. "They looked at the protocols with us and how we were going to get the data out of these systems," he says.

Microsoft's campus has 2 million mechanical and electrical data points (the SFPUC building has 13,500) that generate 500 million data transactions, or data point updates, per day. "The business was doing nothing with that data," Smith says. Replacing those building systems, from power metering to lighting and HVAC, would have increased efficiency at a cost of $50 million to $60 million. Instead, the facilities group decided to extract the data from its existing systems and transfer it into a common SQL Server database, where the data could be analyzed and each building's operational performance could be assessed using key performance indicators, such as power demand per person and average demand per square foot, as well as a building performance indicator rating for each type of building (a lab or an office, for example). Microsoft generated operational dashboards for facilities staff, and it will soon offer plug-level usage data for its Sustainability Champion program, which will let employees see how their individual energy conservation efforts pay off.

 

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