Article - May 2000
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 Building Automation System
Manages Rapid Growth at
Allstate's Dallas Data Center

 "The BAS allows us to control, maintain, observe and react to any situations that might occur throughout any of our five buildings from one location, with remote access." 

Siemens Building Technologies, Inc.

Case Study

Kristin Pearson

Continuous updates to the BAS (building automation system) at Allstate's Southwest Data Center in Dallas, Texas, have proved to be a key to consistent uptime, sustained operational reliability and successful business growth. But equally important, the Center is now poised to accommodate its most important campus expansion plans in nine years.

Since it was built in 1991, the 28-acre, five building, multi-use office complex was designed to share the company's 24/7 data processing and support needs with two other centers in the United States. However, the Dallas facilities have since grown from 380,000 square feet and 1,000 employees to over 1/2 million square feet and 2,000 employees serving the needs of 15 states. According to Carl Bradford, facilities manager for the Southwest Data Center, this Center's responsibilities will soon grow even more through the consolidation of Allstate's three data centers into two.

contemporary "We will essentially be going from serving one third of the country to one half," says Bradford. "Fortunately, we have been on a continuous upgrade path with our BAS, which we've had in place as a foundation since day one. Siemens has been very proactive in helping us keep the system state-of-the-art so that we're able to obtain more operational data and track building performance more effectively."

The BAS, designed, installed and supported by Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., has grown in capabilities to continuously serve the complex's expanding HVAC and facility information management needs. The integration of critical building systems has also been a major need at the Center, as Bradford explains. "We have bundled Siemens' services together -- HVAC and thermal storage systems, fire alarm/life safety, security and lighting -- which have enabled us to progressively achieve the optimum efficiency and performance from critical building functions. Because Siemens has helped us keep current with new software and technology, we're in very good shape to accommodate the planned consolidation."

Bradford says the BAS has been updated with trending and alarm tools which further improve system reliability while increasing efficiency of engineers and facility management personnel. For example, displays for the chillers and the cooling towers provide continuous operating status along with historical data. In the event of an out-of-normal condition, alarms signal at the main control console and at the security desk. Engineers throughout the campus are contacted immediately. The BAS is also equipped with a fire system gateway for integration with the Center's automatic sprinkler system. Data stream maintenance software has also been added and integrated into the BAS.

"Because we are a computer center," notes Bradford, "we run 24/7. But our engineers can't sit at a console all the time. The advantage of this system is that security people can help monitor all of the critical, integrated system functions, while the engineers can access the BAS virtually anywhere on campus as needed."

The BAS has been updated to allow engineers to plug their laptop computers into any of the BAS field panels located strategically throughout the complex, which Bradford says has added significantly to the engineering department's overall effectiveness and productivity. "We have all the information we need at all times to address any 'hot and cold call' issues among the employees."

An equally critical need at the Center has been the effective integration of the Center's chiller plant with the thermal storage system. Here, four thermal storage units produce ice during off-peak hours (8:00 p.m. to noon), which is then used for cooling during peak hours (noon to 8:00 p.m.). "Keeping these two complex functions linked and operating continuously at peak efficiency," he adds, "is tricky business that requires special skills. Siemens technical personnel have applied their application expertise to give us the optimum balance of performance and energy cost."

Controlling and monitoring temperature and humidity levels within strict tolerances has equal importance. These measurements are critical to maintaining the environments for all of the computer rooms, as well as the Center's own 74,000-square-foot Output Processing Center which serves nearly half of the company's high-volume paper storage and printing needs nationwide.

To date, the Center has experienced no downtime due to temperature or humidity variations. Aiding in that track record has been a continuous supply of technical support services from Siemens that includes on-site BAS operational training for Allstate personnel, on-line diagnostic and troubleshooting with a four-hour response time, software updates and back-up protection. "A key benefit to us," says Bradford, "has been the attention of the Siemens technicians who continually help us find solutions to problems before they occur."

As Bradford sums up, "The BAS allows us to control, maintain, observe and react to any situations that might occur throughout any of our five buildings from one location, with remote access. We believe the Southwest Data Center is in excellent shape to handle not only the anticipated growth as a result of the upcoming consolidation, but continuing national business growth for the company as well. The bottom line is that Allstate is better equipped to serve the needs of its customers and agents."

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