January 2010


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CABA Facilitates Intelligent Building Technologies in Government Buildings

  Rawlson O'Neil King

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


Canada can only benefit if its government leverages technology and talent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by deploying energy efficient technologies in its buildings.

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Commercial and residential buildings consume about one-third of the world's energy. In particular, buildings in Canada are responsible for 33 per cent of total energy use and for 35 per cent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. If current trends continue, by 2025, buildings worldwide will be the largest consumers of global energy, using as much power as the transportation and industrial sectors combined.

Recent studies have found that improving energy efficiency in buildings is the least costly way to reduce a large quantity of carbon emissions. By changing energy management practices and instituting technologies that enhance energy efficiency, building owners and managers can reduce energy consumption by up to 35 per cent.

Today, office buildings use about 16 per cent more energy per square foot than those built 25 years ago. The total amount of energy used by commercial buildings has risen significantly since the 1980s, reflecting growth in the total amount of office space available and a massive increase in energy consumption per square foot of space.

In an era of volatile energy prices and increasing concern over climate change, the need for the innovative application of technology has become acute. Energy costs represent about 30 per cent of an office building's total operating costs, providing enormous opportunity for building owners not only to reduce operating costs but also to make significant improvements in the overall environmental performance of their properties.

In order to achieve breakthrough improvements in energy efficiency, it is evident that a coordinated effort is required to retrofit buildings with smarter technologies. Intelligently designed buildings can save thousands and even millions of dollars in energy by delivering heating, cooling and lighting more efficiently.

For these reasons, the Ottawa-based Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is pleased to be working with Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) to implement a demonstration project that illustrates how energy efficiencies can be achieved by implementing new intelligent building technologies within government facilities. CABA is an international industry association, composed of about 350 corporate members, dedicated to the advancement of intelligent home and intelligent building technologies.

As the federal government's landlord, PWGSC spends an estimated annual budget of $68 million in energy costs related to the 350 Crown-owned buildings it manages. A significant priority for the government, through its Greening of Government and ecoEnergy initiatives, has been to identify methods to transform government-owned properties into technology-enabled government buildings.

Working with both PWGSC’s Information Technology Services Branch and Real Property Branch, CABA has engaged a number of its members, including Cisco Systems, GridPoint and Robinson Solutions to install and integrate cutting-edge building automation systems into several of its buildings within Canada's National Capital Region for test purposes.

In simple terms, a building automation system (BAS) is a programmed, computerized network of electronic devices that are employed for control and monitoring of systems. It primarily aims at optimizing the performance, start-up and maintenance of building systems and greatly reduces the interaction of mechanical subsystems in a building. BAS is primarily used to improve energy efficiency by monitoring the temperature inside and outside buildings and controlling boilers and coolers. Essentially, they aim at optimizing energy consumption by employing a control strategy that helps building operators reduce costs, while maintaining occupancy comfort.

An enhanced BAS can carry out the following functions: the optimization of start/stop of systems; the scheduling of maintenance; predictive fault detection; alarm generation and preventive actions minimizing damage in the case of emergency; and the constant monitoring of systems to detect abnormal operating conditions, in order to take corrective action and bring the system back to normalcy.

Building automation systems vary in capability and functionality, but typically consist of sensors, controllers, actuators and software. Depending on whether a "human-in-loop" factor is involved, decisions are taken manually or by utilizing embedded intelligence such as decision-making algorithms.

The ultimate goal behind the government's test BAS installations is to enable a computerized, intelligent network of IP-based electronic devices that will monitor and control the mechanical and lighting systems in specific buildings and their associated energy requirements. The installations have been deployed at two facilities in the National Capital Region. The installations will be the basis of documentation, which will be used to develop and evaluate strategies that the Government of Canada will eventually use to realize an estimated 10 to 20 percent annual savings in energy costs.

Intelligent building systems deployed through Government of Canada buildings will allow for constant monitoring of building systems in order to optimize energy use, while at the same time maintaining building climate within a specific range and providing lighting based on occupancy schedule. The systems will also allow for real-time, on-going monitoring of system performance and device failures and provide e-mail or text notification to building engineering staff. Additionally, intelligent building systems will provide a means and data for analysis of building performance through comparison of multiple buildings at various sites.

"We are extremely pleased to be contributing to this project," stated Ronald J. Zimmer, CABA President & CEO. "We believe the government's commitment to improve its building performance through intelligent building technologies will result in greater visibility and control over its resources, cost-savings and increased energy efficiency."

Recent research studies conducted by CABA show that the application of intelligent building technologies reduces operating costs, thereby enhancing a building's asset value. CABA defines an intelligent building as: "a structure that uses both technology and process to create a facility that is safe, healthy and comfortable and enables productivity and well-being for its occupants." An intelligent building provides timely, integrated system information for its owners so that they may make intelligent decisions regarding its operation and maintenance. An intelligent building has an implicit logic that effectively evolves with changing user requirements and technology, ensuring continued and improved intelligent operation, maintenance and optimization. It exhibits key attributes of environmental sustainability to benefit present and future generations.

CABA members and Government of Canada employees demonstrating building control and monitoring in real-time at GTEC 2009, Canada's Government Technology Event, in October.

As part of its mandate, CABA actively promotes intelligent building technologies which enhance visibility over a building's operational data. This can be facilitated by upgrading existing legacy systems and connecting them with building automation data and enterprise data from building systems for better control and building performance. A seamless integration is the ultimate aim of a smart building technology installation, which ultimately leads to transparency and visibility, and promotes the intelligent building concept.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Large scale building owners like PWGSC typically have one of every system and protocol layer available in the market. Using a hardware and software "bridge" that can move everything to an IP enterprise network allows PWGSC to integrate its various systems and protocols into one common platform. A common enterprise network helps facilitate building systems analytics, automated fault detection and diagnostics, automated demand response, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and renewable energy solutions implementation. Integrating intelligence is not only desirable, but is also becoming a mandatory requirement in order to obtain the best automation solutions with the simplest connections to real-time data, Web-based data and the corporate enterprise network.

Open system integration provides effective overall control of a large number of buildings with remote monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. Remote access to all building systems is one of the major advantages of an intelligent building system. Advances in networking technologies and the Internet have opened the door to a network-enabled world. With device networking technology and system integration, an intelligent building can be created, allowing control over almost every system from a remote location. It can allow for predictive fault detection, reporting, timely diagnosis and prognosis capabilities for all connected buildings anywhere in the country or even the world from a centralized location.

Cisco's Network Building Mediator is an open system integration bridge device that aggregates information from all of PWGSC’s building systems undergoing testing, including lighting, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and temperature sensors. Building engineers and facilities personnel can control systems in any building using a Web-based interface. The Cisco Network Building Mediator can automatically adjust building systems in response to the data its collects, for example, by reducing lighting or changing temperature settings. Cisco's device leverages GridPoint's multi-functional building control system and Robinson Solutions’ monitoring services to optimize energy consumption, equipment use and overall HVAC load.

"With the government looking to increase its office space by 4.1 million square feet in Canada's National Capital Region over the next five years, we are extremely pleased to have had an opportunity to demonstrate concrete and immediate actions which PWGSC can take to increase efficiency of its buildings," said Paul Hession, Director General of Real Property Technology Solutions in the Information Technology Service Branch at PWSGC.

David Arsenault, Business Development Manager at Robinson Solutions added: "Actionable data is key to reducing energy savings costs. Our joint demonstration illustrated to government the rich tapestry of information that can be collected from an IP-enabled system, and how that information can be effectively used to adjust controls for heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and lighting in order to save scarce resources, including time, energy and money."

Cisco Systems, GridPoint and Robinson Solutions demonstrated their joint PWGSC building management test solution in Ottawa at GTEC 2009, Canada's Government Technology Event in early October. This was followed by a major presentation at the 2009 Real Property Institute of Canada (RPIC) National Workshop in Gatineau, in late November, which included further demonstrations of real-time monitoring and control of test government facilities.

“Increasing metrics and opportunities for cost savings are the ultimate goal of this demonstration,” said Michael Oster, National Director, Public Sector Business Development at Cisco Systems. “We believe that as CABA members, working collaboratively, we have achieved this objective.”


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