October 2006

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Where’s the DDC?
The answer for today’s small building

  Travis Short
Director of Technology
Lynxspring, Inc.

Coming from an Engineering and Building Automation background, I find it easy to annoy others with my observations as I enter any building. I comment on such things as ductwork and diffusers, electrical conduit runs, whether a site has backup generators, and my favorite of all, the thermostat. Over the past few years as the Building Automation industry has progressed, I’ve often walked into retail stores and restaurants and commented on all the above-mentioned items. But most notably, I stare in wonderment at the thermostat on the wall.

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At first glance, the thermostat on the wall implies that the Building Automation industry has neglected or forgotten about this building sector, but this is not the case. Those facilities that could benefit the most from what is offered by DDC controls cannot justify the up-front cost required to install such a system – until now.

The convergence of Building Automation and the Internet, the shrinking size of electronics, and the concept of protocol-agnostic solutions, now make the ability to provide Building Automation to this once-forgotten market sector viable. With the proper implementation of hardware and software, these once diverse and inaccessible buildings are finally able to benefit from the same technology that larger facilities have employed for several years. The reduction of energy afforded by the Small Building solution easily realizes the ROI (Return on Investment) for the owner.

To better explain the use of such a Small Building Solution, let’s examine its use in a standard restaurant. The Small Building Solution architecture is detailed below:

1. A web-enabled restaurant manager, providing the following:

a. A connection point between the restaurant and headquarters for information
sharing. For instance, headquarters can modify occupancy schedules globally
(in all restaurants), from one location.

b. A local interface for system monitoring and troubleshooting.

c. Management of standalone devices such as communicating smart thermostats
and lighting schemes.

d. Electrical usage monitoring via a communication port to a power monitoring device.

Reliable Controls 2. Communicating smart thermostats for control of Rooftop Units. These devices can easily replace existing thermostats, and will not only provide key operational data back to the web-enabled restaurant manager, but will also accept managed information such as occupancy commands and temperature set points.

3. Restaurant lighting control managed by the web-enabled restaurant manager can employ Daylight Harvesting techniques, and will ensure that proper lighting schemes are used. While the concept of lighting control seems straightforward, ensuring that the lights are off while the restaurant is unoccupied will save generous amounts of energy.

Another key aspect to the overall Small Building Solution is the use of a “Protocol-Agnostic” solution. Protocol-Agnostic solutions provide the ability to use, at the device level, any Building Automation protocol such as the ubiquitous “Open” protocols (i.e. BACnet or LON.) This innate ability to handle any given protocol drives the solution cost down since the end devices are not centered on any protocol or product.

Now, onto the final piece of the Small Building Solution puzzle; installation and startup. This is where the up-front costs of the traditional Building Automation are eliminated. This solution does not require a local Temperature Controls Contractor to install it. The configuration of the solution is accomplished automatically when the devices are powered up. The Small Building Solution manager, resident at each site, handles all of the end-device integration and configuration. Proprietary software is no longer required and is replaced by Internet Explorer and an Ethernet connection. The SBS manager dynamically creates user graphics and connects to the Headquarters, all without human intervention. This ease of installation and setup of the Small Building Solution makes the implementation in these smaller buildings a reality.

Solutions for restaurants, retail stores, and small office buildings were once impractical, but with the advent of new technology, the once impractical is not only viable, but important in the drive to conserve energy and maximize profits. The Small Building Solution is the answer to the question “Where’s the DDC”?


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