July 2009

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Bright Green Buildings: Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings
Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings

Rawlson O'Neil King

 

Rawlson O'Neil King
Communications Director
Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA)

 

The Continental Automated Buildings Association has released of a comprehensive report on “bright” green buildings. “Bright” green buildings leverage intelligent technologies to support environmental sustainability while providing a significant return on investment (ROI).

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The report features several real-world examples that show how property companies around the world have employed advances in green building and networking technologies to increase profits, lower costs, and help the environment.

Frost and Sullivan authored the report with contributions from several industry leaders. According to Peter Templeton, Senior VP of Education & Research at the U.S. Green Building Council, the "report provides the entire building industry with a useful primer and discussion about the role and performance benefits of integrated control systems in green buildings. The conclusions of the study help advance progress toward achieving our vision of a sustainable built environment within a generation."

Below is an excerpt from the report. The entire report can be downloaded free-of-charge at
www.caba.org/brightgreen.

Developing a Business Case for Bright Green Buildings, Both New and Existing

In developing a financial justification for investments in intelligent and green technologies, and assessing the potential return on that investment, it is necessary to consider new construction and retrofit projects separately, because the requirements, and therefore the economic fundamentals of the two types of projects are very different.

New Construction

In a new construction scenario, the cost of creating a green and intelligent building is often not that different than the costs associated with creating a traditional building. Certain aspects associated with intelligent technology and applications, such as cabling, are actually less costly than traditional infrastructure – in the case of cabling, labor costs are often lower where intelligent designs are used. However, other technologies and equipment will require additional investment to integrate all of the components of the system. For example, integrating the access controls system with lighting and HVAC systems will cost more up-front than installing disparate systems alone. While every building project is different and final cost comparisons can only be made based on a building’s individual requirements, it should not be expected that a green and intelligent building will cost significantly more at the outset than a more technologically traditional version of the same building. In addition, as has been found in all of the case studies examined as part of this research, this initial investment in green and intelligent design and technology generally has a relatively short ROI period when compared to the anticipated usable life of a modern building.

Reliable Controls Existing Buildings

In a retrofit or existing building project, the up-front costs and the resulting ROI scenario are different than in new construction and, as a result, a different approach to financial justification must be taken. Retrofits are more frequently driven by the desire to reduce energy costs than anything else. These are often cases where the existing technology or system in a building can be upgraded easily and the payback period is expected to be short. In the United States, the Department of Energy conducted a study of energy-related systems (mostly HVAC) in commercial real estate. This study found that the payback period on re-commissioning those systems was approximately nine months. The largest challenge facing the industry in reducing energy and improving operations and maintenance practices is the simple fact that, in older buildings, facility managers have very little information on what is currently going on with their systems and, as a result, do not have a clear understanding of the improvements that can be made or the savings that can be generated as a result of induction of intelligent and green technologies. This information is typically gathered, for example in projects where a performance contracting vendor does a survey of conditions before any retrofit, to define the base line operating costs, and then project the savings potential for the project. Moreover, for both new and existing buildings, as demonstrated in the case studies assessed for this research, the implementation of intelligent technologies will have a lower lifetime cost than traditional technologies, because lifetime operating costs are significantly lower as a result of enhanced operational efficiencies and better control of operating systems. Intelligent features of a building, such as better monitoring and control of energy-intensive systems such as HVAC and lighting, can be measured for optimum performance and predictive maintenance needs, reducing both energy usage and operating expense. Additionally, reporting features assist in making decisions that make the building more efficient and more reliable.
 

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