January 2011

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Total Facility Control
A Team Approach to Green Buildings
Ron Bernstein
Executive Director
LonMark International

Energy efficiency through intelligent control is a core element of any “Green Building”. We need smarter, more efficient ways of managing the energy consuming elements within a building. But what we think of as “the building” is only a small piece of the puzzle. We have to think broader in order to gain the greater energy savings and efficiencies that are possible. “Total Facility Control” is a concept that we need to embrace and consider when we design, commission, and retrofit our facilities.

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Very often a single building is part of a larger campus or collection of buildings under a common management domain. Be it a university, public school district, office complex, or multi-use tenant space, there are often multiple “buildings” plus the connectivity between buildings: walkway lighting, signage, parking structures, and even the irrigation systems. We don’t often think about the outdoor lighting, security, or irrigation as part of the building management plan, but it can be a significant contributing factor when looking at places to save on energy and improve operational efficiency.

Our buildings, facilities, campuses, and enterprises are in dire need of a make-over to reduce our energy dependence and reduce our carbon footprint. A variety of technologies and design principles are available to ensure we move in a positive direction. The old adage, “you can’t control what you can’t see” comes to mind. We must make our systems and processes more visible and, hence, more accessible.

At the core of this is the visibility and control of the systems within these environments.
A majority of the building control systems in operation today are extremely limited in their ability to achieve higher efficiencies because there is no intelligent control or communication system available; and the amount of cross system interoperability is even scarcer.

What does an interoperable system architecture look like? It’s one in which a wide variety of energy consuming, intelligent devices can share their information and be controlled by an energy management system. Sound complex? It’s not.

Newer technologies use open systems, open protocols, and higher levels of interoperability, all of which have been proven to cost effectively provide competitive solutions. Better energy efficiency and improved operational costs start with better visibility and control of the myriad of systems within a facility. They must communicate together in a way that enables greater functionality and lower costs.

Total Facility Control must be considered as we look at the entire building envelope as well as the rest of the facility systems. Included in the mix are HVAC, indoor lighting, security, access, sun shading, indoor air quality, sound masking/annunciation, elevators/escalators, appliances, power conditioning, irrigation, energy metering, outdoor/parking lot lighting, street lighting, co-generation stations, and much more.

Integration at the Building Level

Open systems enable facility operators to have a single seat visual and control interface to all of the systems and can make local and global control adjustments simply and effectively. The need and desire for the silo-based approach to building systems is expunged.

Without a holistic view into the operation, valuable efficiencies are lost. The technology exists today to retrofit existing facilities in a cost effective manor; however, further education is needed to pave the way for broader adoption. Saving energy is a key motivator, a simple 30% energy savings from such a system has been proven time and time again and a 50% saving is easily achievable with additional integration.

So how does one start the process? Start with a team approach rather than a silo approach. This concept works in sports, in effective corporate cultures, and any successful project. Create a team consisting of the various interested parties including:

•    Mechanical system manager
•    Electrical systems manager
•    IT systems manager
•    Operational staff manager
•    Engineering staff manager

Bring this team together and discuss where each individual team’s energy and efficiency needs are. Then work towards a common objective of improving the core infrastructure. Too often the resulting report shows the “if onlys”:

•    If only I could schedule the lights, the HVAC, and security access from a common interface
•    If only I could manage my alarms more efficiently
•    If only I could manage hot and cold calls from my cell phone’s web interface
•    If only I knew which part to have on the truck before I got to the site
•    If only I knew to replace the filters and service the motor before it actually failed
•    If only I could monitor the energy usage and develop some predictive usage patterns
•    If only I could have better visibility into all of the facility operations from one common interface so I could make smarter decisions

The list goes on and on. Once you have your hit list, how do you develop an action plan? Look for the common elements of YOUR list? Do you see anything that is an overlapping issue? The single most common element is the lack of ability to see, control, and monitor all elements of the system from a common interface, anywhere within the facility, and having access to all of the underlying elements of the various systems.

Which brings us back to the original premise: we need to start from the core infrastructure and build up. Put in place a plan to enhance the “smarts” of your system, and then build on top of that. Develop an architecture that uses good, open protocol communications systems that can share information in an open, peer-to-peer, interoperable manor and enforce that your vendors and integrators implement these solutions.

Total Facility Control

 The upshot of this is producing a master plan and a master specification that requires all systems to communicate openly using a common, defined infrastructure, where all “applications” that need access to the systems can interoperate on the same system at the same time, without any proprietary elements. All data should be available to any application (scheduling, energy sub-metering, load shedding, override control, etc). A combination of a solid control system with a good infrastructure can yield the best option. This requires by-in from your IT group and your facilities group. Get them involved early as you’ll find their input to be extremely valuable and necessary.

These are some pointers towards achieving greater efficiencies, not only for your systems, but also for your staff, for your contractors, and for the longevity of your facilities. LonMark International has helped many organizations develop a master plan, master specification, and an education plan to achieve these efficiencies. LonMark International is a non-profit standards development and trade association based in San Jose California with over 400 member companies worldwide.

For more information on how we can help and a variety of case studies, sample specifications, and free resources, see www.lonmark.org or contact us at info@lonmark.org.


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