September 2014

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Matt HendersonEMAIL INTERVIEWMatt Henderson and Ken Sinclair

Matt Henderson is the Director of Business Development for Facility Automation Solutions and a LEED Green Associate. He leverages technology and software products to enhance building efficiency for clients. He is a committed learner and is constantly striving to find better ways to reduce energy consumption. Connect with Matt on linkedin,

Facility Automation Solutions is a Jacksonville based controls company. They integrate, commission, and service the most advanced system control technologies available today. In addition, they are a software integrator and work daily to provide additional cloud-based solutions to serve their customers. For more information, please visit

Holes in Campus Technology that Waste Energy

Technology exists that makes this coordination happen automatically and in real time without all the stress.

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SinclairHow have advancements in technology changed the landscape of college campus operations?

Henderson:  The operation of college campuses has changed dramatically in recent years with the implementation of technology.   A good example of this change is seen in the systems used for student enrollment and class registration.  No longer are students required to stand in lines on “registration day” to sign up for the classes they need and then struggle to adjust them on the fly to fit an acceptable schedule.  Through network technology and central database applications, nearly all colleges and universities require students to select and register for their classes online.   The entire process is streamlined which reduces errors and student anguish.

From the administration side, these same applications offer advancements in efficiency by handling all aspects of student enrollment, faculty assignment, classroom scheduling and online publishing of course catalogs.

Another example of improvement through the application of technology is shown in the building automation systems used to control HVAC and lighting functions in campus buildings.  Manual control of individual buildings has given way to integrated, campus-wide systems to automatically coordinate the operation buildings and central energy plants to better maintain comfort and optimize energy savings.  In most cases, these systems are connected to the campus network as a convenient means of communications across all buildings.

But even with the advancements made in these example areas, there remain “holes” between them that present opportunities for additional improvements in productivity and reduction in energy waste.  There are still gains that can be realized.

SinclairCan you give an example of one of these “holes” that leads to wasted energy?

Henderson:  Let’s look at the two systems I just described:  the Student Registration System and the Building Automation System.

For example, a typical BAS schedule for a classroom building might call for operating the interior lights and HVAC systems from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday.  Energy is conserved during nights, weekends and holidays when the building is automatically set to an unoccupied mode by the BAS schedule.

For the same classroom building however, the Student Registration system knows the class schedule for each individual classroom within the building.  For each classroom it knows which class is scheduled, how many students are expected in attendance and, most importantly, the times during the day when no class is scheduled and the room will be unoccupied.

As sophisticated as both systems might be in this example, the lack of coordination between them leads to energy waste by operating HVAC and lighting in classrooms based solely on the BAS schedule for the building.  And because classroom schedules are adjusted quite often throughout the year to accommodate student enrollment, it would be a very tedious and time-consuming task to create and constantly adjust corresponding BAS schedules for each classroom on campus.

SinclairWhat savings could be gained if the hole was “filled”?

Henderson:  Results would vary for each campus, but we feel it is safe to say that the savings could be as high as 5 to 10% of the total campus energy cost.  One determining factor is in the design of the building’s HVAC systems.

Smaller schools typically have smaller classroom buildings and individual room HVAC units.  Here the percentage of energy savings will be toward the higher end of the range, largely because individual rooms could be operated independent of one another.

Larger schools may tend to have larger buildings with centralized HVAC systems that serve multiple classrooms or the entire building.  In these cases, operation of an individual classroom may be more dependent on the operation of the larger system.  The percentage of energy savings might be less, but due to size may actually equate greater total cost savings.

SinclairWhat, if any, new technology is required to fill the hole?

Henderson: For this example, there are solutions available today to fill the hole.  One such application is called ClassTime offered by Facility Automation Solutions, Inc.  It is software that forms a bridge between the two systems with the goal of reducing energy waste associated with vacant classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories.

It continuously accepts output from popular Student Registration Systems such as Banner by Ellucian and PeopleSoft by Oracle that identifies the schedule for each class:  it’s meeting times and classroom.  Then it relays that information to popular Building Automation Systems using the open BACnetR protocol to set the HVAC and lighting operation for each classroom accordingly.  When there are vacant times for any classroom throughout the day, the BAS is notified automatically and the room set to an unoccupied mode.

The start of each semester presents a busy time for academic administrators.   Based on student enrollment, they may have to make frequent adjustments to the classes offered as well as their times and places.  To have all of these changes manually entered into the BAS would be an enormous task requiring coordination between departments.  Fortunately, technology exists that makes this coordination happen automatically and in real time without all the stress.

More information on systems mentioned above can be found at:

ClassTime by Facility Automation Solutions:
Banner by Ellucian:
PeopleSoft by Oracle:

[an error occurred while processing this directive]SinclairWhat steps does a campus need to make to unlock the savings and reduce wasted energy?

Henderson:  There are some preliminary steps to take on any campus to identify the potential for energy savings in classrooms:

  1. Identify the systems that are already in place for student registration, classroom scheduling and building automation.  Is there potential for them to share information via network communications?  The Information Technology department may need to be involved for this step as well.
  2. Do a survey of classroom utilization during a typical week of classes.  This could be a formal survey, or even something as simple as walking the hallways during the day to see what systems may be operating in unused classrooms.  Laboratories, Lecture Halls and Auditoriums are particularly good candidates for energy savings during unused hours.articularly good candidates for energy savings during unused hours.
  3. If potential savings are identified, call together the parties involved: Administration, Facility Management and Information Technologies.  Many institutions already have “task forces” in place to implement energy savings and/or environmental responsibility.  These groups could be involved from the start to help set priorities and make resources available.
  4. Set out a plan among all the parties involved to implement the improvements.  An important part of the plan should be to compare building energy consumption (either measured or calculated) both before and after implementation as a way to document the cost savings and estimate return on investment for the project.


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