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Facilities Management

Converge & Conquer

When IT and Facilities team up for 'intelligent' building management, efficiency, savings, and user benefits soar.

Converge & ConquerWhen Tony Ragucci, associate director of maintenance services, sat down with other Harvard University (MA) officials in 2002 to revamp the institution's Blackstone office complex, the group decided to make it a centerpiece of the university's energy conservation initiative. The facility, which comprises three buildings with 40,000 square feet of office space, houses the university's operations departments, including its facilities maintenance operations. Today, as a result of the initiative, ground-source heat pumps cool Blackstone, water from an adjacent steam plant provides heat to the edifices, and valence units cool and heat the spaces via convection. A demand-based ventilation system, an energy-efficient roof, occupancy and daylight sensors, plus a "green" elevator (60 percent more efficient than a conventional hydraulic elevator, thanks to a variable-frequency microprocessor) all have helped to reduce summer energy use to 42 percent below standard requirements. Because of this unique blend of energy-efficient devices and nascent IT technology, Blackstone has been awarded a Platinum rating, the highest energy efficiency rating possible, by the US Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

Since the completion of the Blackstone energy conservation project, and using their experiences with that effort to guide them, Ragucci and his team have been responsible for revamping the energy profiles of more than 300 other buildings across the campus.

US Campuses Get on Board

The fact of the matter is, state-of-theart, energy-efficient facilities are now emerging on campuses across the US, and for a variety of reasons: One practical consideration is that such buildings bring down energy costs, which are now soaring. Facing rising expenditures and a tightening of potential revenue, universities are looking for ways to reduce operating costs, and more efficient buildings offer them one way to meet that goal. Yet, helping to conserve natural resources and improve the environment also has become a common theme in academic circles. Consequently, some members of this community feel an obligation to lead the charge with novel energy initiatives. Computer technology has become less expensive and more powerful, so its inclusion in the facilities management of these buildings can be more easily cost-justified than in the past; what's more, its impact can be significant.

As a result, campus structures no longer need to be "dumb" compositions of brick and mortar. Just as burgeoning technological capabilities and lower techproduct pricing made it possible for academic institutions to offer services such as online learning, low-priced microprocessors and software advancements have enabled campus facilities departments to add intelligence to the management of their structures. Colleges and universities now are using networked intelligent controls to turn lights off and on, deliver electrical power to classrooms, control the flow of air in and out of buildings, provide heat and cooling to facilities, and monitor CO2 emissions throughout. What's more, schools now are able to collect historical data about their facilities' performance, and then make system adjustments accordingly to increase management efficiency and reduce costs. Not surprisingly, these new capabilities are blurring the lines between traditional facilities management functions and those of the IT department.

Recently, in fact, adding even more "smarts" to building management has become a priority for academic institutions. "Because universities have been operating for such a long time, many have buildings that have never had any type of intelligent monitoring system," notes Eric Miller, VP of software solutions for Itron, a provider of solid-state utility meters and data collection/ communication systems.

Energy usage will continue to rise on campuses, and not just because of heating, cooling, and lighting: IT department footprints are expanding, campus computing and tech devices are becoming more powerful, and wireless access points and controllers are energy hogs, too.

How 'Intelligent'?

While there has indeed been movement toward making campus edifices smarter, the term "intelligent building" remains imprecise. The term first applied to intelligent control of heating and air conditioning systems. Typically, conventional buildings house thermostats and timers that are limited in that they must be set to heat or cool, and offer no room for accommodation of factors such as weather or even the collective body heat generated by the individuals in a room. Intelligent buildings, however, contain sensors that not only automatically switch the system from heating to cooling, but also can heat and cool different parts of a building simultaneously.

To take advantage of such features, sensors need to be stationed throughout a structure, and in numerous locations. They then collect information about a building's climate and transmit it via a common network to a central console that determines what changes need to be made. To move information from place to place, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers developed the BACnet standard, a networking protocol designed specifically to meet the communication needs of building automation and control systems for applications such as heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning control; lighting; access control; and fire detection systems. The protocol enables automated equipment performing various monitoring functions to exchange information, regardless of the particular building service it is responsible for. As a result, the BACnet protocol may be used by head-end computers (machines designed to run facilities functions such as collecting room temperature information), direct digital general-purpose controllers, and application-specific or unitary controllers. BACnet has been endorsed by various standards organizations, including the American National Standards Institute and the International Organization for Standardization. In 2003, conformance tests for BACnet equipment were established; now different vendors' devices can operate from the same baseline.

Intelligent and Green

Converge & ConquerTODAY, FACILITIES MAINTENANCE AND CONTROL is moving beyond "intelligent," to "green," as campuses become concerned with tracking environmentally hazardous emissions, and finding renewable energy sources, too.

Watch your CO2. Higher education institutions are now paying more attention to their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which greatly contribute to the greenhouse effect, according to experts who believe the country has perhaps 40 years to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before facing catastrophic consequences. Currently, half of the electricity generated in the US comes from coal-fired power plants, which often spew out large amounts of carbon dioxide. And by 2030, analysts expect that the US coal-fired capacity could grow by as much as 120 GW, dramatically increasing the nation's CO2 emissions.

But the academy may just lead the charge to stanch the flow of those carbon dioxide emissions. "We are starting to see academic institutions install CO2 sensors so that they can monitor how much pollution their buildings are generating, and try to make adjustments," notes Davis Gandees, sales engineer for Johnson Controls.

Water, water, everywhere. Then there's the push to use renewable energy sources such as water-- now a bona fide movement on a number of campuses. Duke Raleigh Hospital, a member of the Duke University Health System (NC), consumes from 10,000 to 12,000 gallons of water each month. In 2004, the hospital, which has 186 beds and approximately 1,000 employees, was looking to more efficiently prepare its hot water (used for steam autoclave sterilization, cooking, dishwashing, and domestic hot water heat). The healthcare provider purchased a Miura LX-Series gas-fired 100BHP steam boiler, and has since seen improvements through the installation: The boiler is "intelligent," with an easy-to-operate interface, says Shannon Clifton, the hospital's engineering supervisor. What's more, she adds, it fits into smaller spaces than do traditional boilers.

Water also is becoming a popular source of energy for campuses. Harvard University (MA) included a chilled water plant in its Northwest Science Building, which occupies 210,000 square feet above ground and 260,000 subterranean square feet. The chillers are precision machines designed to remove heat from a liquid by means of a refrigerant. The resulting chilled water, distributed through pipes, is then used to cool and dehumidify air throughout the building. The new science structure, which was opened in January 2008, supports work areas for 320 individuals and also laboratory facilities for the neuroscience, bioengineering, astro- and particle physics, and biophysics departments. The chilled water plant now offers several advantages compared to alternatives: higher energy efficiency; increased reliability; space efficiency; improved noise control; and simplified maintenance. The new chillers operate so efficiently, say Harvard officials, the university will receive a rebate check of $250,000 from its energy provider NSTAR. Clearly, it pays for academic institutions to consider not just intelligent facilities control, but intelligently green measures, as well.

Real-Life Challenges and Solutions

Support for BACnet played an important role in the intelligent building sensor selection completed at Cornell University (NY). William (Lanny) Joyce heads up engineering, planning, and energy management at the university, where his staff oversees 140 buildings and 14 million square feet of real estate occupied by 20,000 students, 2,700 faculty members, and an 11,500-person staff. Notes Joyce: "One of our employees was a member of the BACnet committee, so we understood the potential benefits that it offered."

Web-based control. At the turn of the millennium, Cornell was looking for an intelligent building solution for its 150,000-square-foot nanoscience building, which has been open since 1986 and is utilized on a 24/7 basis. The university selected WebCTRL from Automated Logic for the project because its web-based interface simplifies the programming tasks required to capture different types of performance metrics such as temperature differences inside and outside a room. By customizing the system, the university was able to examine temperature fluctuations in its rooms and then set new thresholds to minimize the stress placed on its HVAC equipment. Then by storing that information in a database, the university was also able to track its annual energy usage in the building and found that the installation of the WebCTRL system resulted in an annual reduction of $350,000 in its energy costs. The gains were so great that Cornell expanded use of the Automated Logic solution to its science hall.

Harvard is using Siemens' web-based Apogee system to monitor the heat in its Blackstone complex. "We can set the temperature lower at night when the rooms are not occupied, and raise it when the students start to arrive," notes Ragucci. A kiosk in the foyer of each building lets everyone see how well the energy systems are performing; the kiosks also raise awareness about energy usage and the benefits of building environmentally friendly intelligent buildings.

Russell Boudreau, HVAC/utilities specialist at 2,100-student Mount Holyoke College (MA), understands how much smarter the management of buildings is becoming. He has been using various "smart" systems for more than three decades, and marvels at the recent technical advances in building control systems. Like many academic institutions, Mount Holyoke found itself with a variety of proprietary control systems that were incompatible, and so could not exchange information. In 2000, Mount Holyoke officials asked local consultants to help them identify a BACnet-compatible system. Working with regional reseller Yankee Technology, the college installed Automated Logic's WebCTRL system in four buildings on campus, including a renovated art building & museum. Because WebCTRL is a webbased product, Mount Holyoke facilities personnel are now able to monitor the four buildings from an internet browser, rather than use special-purpose software running on laptop computers.

"It wasn't that long ago that technicians worked with cryptic, specialized interfaces," Boudreau remarks. But times have certainly changed: Intelligent building controls are now the centerpiece of construction on Mount Holyoke's new uni- fied science complex, which will provide 116,000 square feet of space, including a new multistory 40,000-square-foot environmentally sound building.

Capping rising energy costs. When it comes to intelligent buildings, heating systems get a lot of attention. Trying to cap or cut electricity costs, especially, has become an area of interest for campus administrators. Davis Gandees, sales engineer for Johnson Controls, knows this only too well. "Recently, universities' energy costs encountered a 'perfect storm,'" he explains. "Energy usage has been rising, fossil fuel prices have been going up, in some cases as much as 30 percent, and state budget deficits have meant less funding for state educational institutions."

Energy usage will continue to rise, say the pundits. IT department footprints continue to expand, campus computing and tech devices become more powerful, and the push toward increased mobility means extending the reach of networks with devices such as wireless access points and controllers-- all energy hogs. That's why better management of electric power is a prime concern for Robert Bell, director of plant operations at Tallahassee Community College (FL). He oversees 85 staffers involved with maintenance, outsourcing, and environmental tasks at the college, which has about 13,000 students, 40 buildings, and 1.2 million square feet of space. Like other institutions, the college is constantly trying to reduce its energy consumption and for several years has been using Johnson Controls' Metasys building management system to meet that goal. The product features a web browser interface and support for standards such as XML, SOAP, SNMP, and DHCP, so it can easily be networked with other devices. Bell's team now can use the system even to monitor lights in classrooms. With the installation of more energy-efficient lighting, these measures have enabled the college to achieve energy reductions of close to 20 percent annually.

Safety issues. Higher ed institutions are pushing these types of efficiencies beyond traditional school buildings and into new areas, as well. Mount Holyoke, for one, is using Automated Logic's WebCTRL system to control the lighting in its parking lots-- and not just for energy reasons. "We want to make sure that such areas are well-lit so students can safely get to their cars at night," explains Boudreau.

In fact, many schools have been expanding and enhancing their physical security infrastructure to prevent (and, unfortunately, to be prepared to respond to) campus tragedies such as the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. Increasingly, video cameras as well as expanded illumination are being positioned in areas such as parking lots, campus entryways, recreation spots, and relaxation sites. Many times, these cameras are connected to the campus network and the images are collected in an institution's data center. More overlap of Facilities and IT is underway as colleges and universities seek to protect students as well as campus and personal property. Alarm and alert systems are in demand, as are technologies like biometrics, which can greatly improve building access control.

Converge & Conquer

INTELLIGENT BUILDING controls are the centerpiece of construction on Mount Holyoke's 116,000-square-foot unified science complex, reports Russell Boudreau, HVAC/utilities specialist.

Catching up to IT

While a great deal of progress has been made with intelligent building management products in the past few years, such products still lag behind IT systems in a number of areas. First, building automation protocols are not as open-- and therefore the products are not as easy to mix and match-- as, say, web-based products. Protocols such as BACnet do represent a significant improvement over traditional proprietary approaches for collecting building performance information, but they are not a panacea. Additionally, BACnet requires that technicians possess specialized skill sets in order to deploy compliant solutions, so finding individuals familiar with these protocols may be challenging.

Another area where IT has been ahead of intelligent buildings systems deployment is in support for wireless connections. While WiFi connections are commonly used to connect roaming students to their classwork on laptop or handheld devices (and the internet in general), intelligent building systems that support wireless connections are rare. Still, structures such as Harvard's Blackstone complex represent what universities can achieve right now. Though few academic buildings currently possess this level of intelligence, so much more is possible if Facilities and IT work together.

Building Smarts www.campustechnology. com/articles/48823. Where Green and IT Meet www. 40993.

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