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Shift Gears to Increase Building Performance and Tenant Satisfaction
Author: Mike DeNamur - United Technologies Building & Industrial Systems

In Today's World, Change is the Only Constant
Our world is changing. And perhaps nowhere is this change more evident or accelerated than in the commercial building industry. For building owners and managers, these changes translate into an increasingly complex set of challenges. Here are some of the factors facing building operations and management today:
  • Regulatory and Compliance – Nine major U.S. cities have enacted policies requiring commercial buildings as small as 10,000 square feet to submit energy use benchmarking data(1). Poor performance is a strike against a building's marketability, and does not go unnoticed among tenants for whom energy, operating costs and sustainability are important.

  • Environmental – Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 650 widespread electricity outages were attributed to weather-related events. The effect of lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, and other costs is estimated from $18 billion to $33 billion annually(2). Limiting the impact of unexpected disruptions and quickly deploying case-specific response measures is a critical part of contingency planning.

  • Economic – Energy costs account for a significant portion of operating costs for many businesses. In addition to general increases in the cost of energy(3), the volatility of spot energy prices makes budgeting for energy costs – or managing to a fixed energy budget – increasingly difficult. The extended and extreme cold weather experienced during the winter of 2013-14 stressed generating resources and caused spot energy prices to spike to multiples of typical pricing(4),(5). While long-term supply contracts isolate much of the financial impact, there is still risk to be mitigated.

  • Safety and Security – Incidents of workplace violence are all too prevalent(6). Whether they are the result of isolated incidents or large-scale events, these threats highlight the increased complexity of providing safe environments and well-defined emergency notification and evacuation strategies.

  • Sustainability – More companies have adopted initiatives with specific goals for renewable energy generation and reductions in energy and/or greenhouse gas emissions. A full 61 percent of Fortune 100 companies have commitments for near-term (2015) results and 30 percent have identified goals for 2020(7). Achieving these goals will require new strategies.

  • Building owners and managers must address these and many more external influences to satisfy the needs of tenants and business stakeholders. How a building owner or manager responds to the challenges and opportunities created by these factors will determine whether they improve or detract from bottom line profitability – but there's no doubt that they will have an impact. The question is, can businesses proactively leverage the changing tide to ensure the impact is positive?
Raise the Bar
The established design, construction and operations best practices of yesterday are no longer sufficient to meet the multi-dimensional challenges of today and the future. While today's buildings manage the demands of changing weather and occupancy, they are generally not capable of optimizing in real-time for other variables that impact operating costs and tenant experience.

The vast majority of our existing building stock – and many buildings being designed and built today – resemble a single speed bike; they do a few things well, but their performance is optimized around a small set of operating conditions. On level ground, the bike performs well, but when the terrain turns uphill we're faced with systems that are not well-suited to the task.

Attempts to incorporate smart building strategies are often value-engineered out of projects that prioritize first-cost savings over lifecycle cost benefits. The result is a built environment that has been "good enough" but that will increasingly show its limitations when asked to address the challenges presented by many new external influences.

The number of variables impacting building operations is growing quickly. Our challenge is to apply today's technology and understanding to create a range of building operating modes that optimize performance in a variety of conditions and scenarios. Doing so will enable building operators to "shift gears" to better match operating strategies with current conditions.

Use Intelligent Systems to Shift Gears, Adapt and Innovate
Integrated system solutions and intelligent building operating practices enable building managers to shift gears and better respond to a range of dynamic operating conditions. A critical element of this strategy is to leverage the capabilities of multiple building systems working together to achieve results not possible before.

Implementing this strategy means addressing five initiatives:
  • Upgrade – Even the most innovative building management strategies will be undermined by inefficient components. Ensuring that key building infrastructure components (chillers, boilers, lighting, elevators and escalators) are efficient should be a top priority. Since these core components have long useful lifetimes, equipment installed 20 years ago may lack technology found in current offerings, and well worth the investment in replacement or upgrade.

    When updating infrastructure, consider how to add flexibility to operations. Before replacing a single, large-tonnage chiller, consider whether a combination of two differently-sized units will better support the load profile. Similarly, look for opportunities to incorporate alternate ways to meet key performance metrics. For example, adding a gas-fired chiller in an otherwise electric chiller central plant offers some protection from energy price spikes and outages.

  • Integrate – Technology has made it practical to link various building systems for the purpose of enterprise-wide building management. Furthermore, the challenges and opportunities facing commercial buildings today and in the future demand an enterprise-wide approach.

    Use data communications and networking standards such as BACnet®, LonWorks®, MODBUS®, SNMP and TCP/IP to share operating data between elevators, HVAC, building management, lighting, life safety, security system and information technology / networks.

    A comprehensive approach to integrating building operating data provides the information necessary to make informed operating decisions.

  • Optimize – The systems and management strategies deployed when a building was first commissioned may no longer be state of the art. Chillers and boilers have traditionally been over-sized and operated conservatively. A fresh look at how best to deploy these assets – and with the benefit of information from other integrated building systems – can lead to significant improvements in performance and operating costs.

    Systems previously operated independently but now connected via enterprise integration suddenly offer opportunities for enhanced performance. Analytics from digital video systems can be used to sense the movement of large crowds – for example at the conclusion of a conference, large meeting or public event – and proactively dispatch elevator cars to reduce wait times.

  • Adapt – An intelligent building employing integrated systems and including core equipment designed to provide flexibility can be easily adapted to maximize performance and limit negative impacts. The building will voluntarily shed electrical load during periods of high prices or constrained capacity. Advanced building management strategies will limit the impact to occupants through pre-cooling, proactively controlling active window shading, engaging on-site generation and/or engaging thermal storage.

    Similarly, the building will capture revenue by nominating unused demand capacity into the spot energy market – a strategy only possible when the building management staff has great visibility to building operating data and the ability to quickly and easily shift gears to an alternate operating mode.

  • Communicate – Applying technology to commercial buildings will enable their interaction with occupants and external systems. Smart displays located in common areas that advise occupants of building energy and sustainability strategies engage tenants and improve communications – helping to make energy savings everyone’s business.

    Building owners and managers will also benefit from more real-time communication with utilities, weather forecasting services and emergency response personnel. In particular, understanding a building’s load profile and ability to shed load in real-time can greatly assist utilities and grid operators in matching generation with demand, and in mitigating the impact of extreme weather events or the partial loss of utility grid resources.
Capture Results Today and Create a Platform for the Future
The intelligent and integrated buildings that capitalize on change will not appear on their own. The path of least resistance is still skewed toward buildings that are designed, constructed and operated much as they have been for the past 50 years. But for visionary owners and developers who see the opportunity and are not willing to settle for “good enough,” the technology is available to achieve more.

The time is right to reimagine how we design and build buildings – applying available technology with the perspective of whole-building performance to create an intelligent and integrated building system infrastructure that optimizes building performance now and into the future.

Mike DeNamur leads sales and marketing for AdvanTE³C Americas, a part of UTC Building & Industrial Systems. AdvanTE³C’s team of Experts in Efficiency and the Environment (E3) leverage the strength and expertise of United Technologies’ industry-leading brands and a legacy of innovation to develop integrated system solutions that support high performance building and strategic business goals. A collaborative process connecting product and technology experts creates high-performing, intelligent building solutions that deliver improved occupant experience, reduced environmental impact, and more attractive life-cycle operating costs.

UTC Building & Industrial Systems is the world’s largest provider of building technologies. Its elevator, escalator, fire-safety, security, building automation, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems and services promote integrated, high-performance buildings that are safer, smarter and sustainable. The depth and breadth of United Technologies building solutions experience and capabilities uniquely positions AdvanTE³C to define solutions that address goals for energy and operating cost savings as well as the protection of people and property.

For more information, see http://www.bis.utc.com

1 – Alison Liaboe. Regulatory Reporting on Energy and Water in 2014: Everything You Need to Know. May 14, 2014. www.ecova.com.
2 – President’s Council of Economic Advisors; U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability; White House Office of Science and Technology. Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages. Aug, 2013.
3 – Table 1.2 Summary Statistics for the United States, 2002 – 2012. US Energy Information Agency. Website. http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_01_02.html.
4 – Peter Kelly-Detwiler. Cold Weather and Price Volatility in Northeastern Power Markets: Generators Seek Relief. Jan 24, 2014. www.Forbes.com.
5 – Ian Bowman. The Big Chill: Cold Weather & Higher Prices Making Energy Expenses Spike. Jan 30, 2014. www.ecova.com.
6 – Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services). Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention. 2005. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osch0033.pdf
7 - Linda Hardesty. Business Benefits Drive Companies’ Shift to Clean Energy. Dec, 10, 2012. www.energymanagertoday.

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About Our Sponsor: UTC Building & Industrial Systems is the world's largest provider of building technologies. Its elevator, escalator, fire-safety, security, building automation, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems and services promote integrated, high-performance buildings that are safer, smarter and sustainable. The depth and breadth of United Technologies building solutions experience and capabilities uniquely positions AdvanTE³C to define solutions that address goals for energy and operating cost savings as well as the protection of people and property.

For more information, see http://www.bis.utc.com

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