More and more “smart” commercial buildings are being built these days. And, no, we don’t mean Ivy League smart. The term “smart building” instead refers to network-enabled building management systems that help automate building operations, with the goal of saving energy and $$.
A recent article in Forbes stated recently, “These technologies, once considered revolutionary, are steadily becoming the norm in today’s premier office buildings.” The site listed five specific examples of web-enabled smart building features that can make a big impact on an office environment:
- Optimized HVAC systems
- Managed electricity reductions
- Maximized building security
- Smart sensors for lighting
- Controlled appliances from remote locations
Optimized HVAC is listed first, as well it should be. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) has the most impact on building performance, comfort and energy efficiency. A recent case study in Facility Executive magazine on HVAC optimization described how to use advanced software to control factors such as “water flows, pump speeds and fan speeds while maintaining set temperatures.” In fact, for many buildings, manually heating and cooling individual offices can account for over one-third of a building’s entire water consumption.
In the example showcased, a 220,000-square-foot office building operating around the clock used 2,200 tons of cooling power. When it switched to a network-based HVAC system that automatically calculated the best ways to heat, cool and ventilate based on the time of day, the building saved 364,921 gallons of water per year.
Duct Leakage Can Impact Optimization
But beware… HVAC systems (smart or otherwise) are only as good as the ductwork supplying them. Leaky ductwork can thwart even the smartest, high-efficiency systems, and cause excessive energy waste. In fact one of the smartest universities around, Harvard, found this to be true when it installed a brand new 8,500 CFM air handling unit to supply heating and AC to its Girguis Lab, one of the most famed buildings on campus.
When the HVAC unit was brought online, its fan was operating at around 97% of capacity with little effect. It was determined that leaks in the ductwork were reducing static pressure to such a degree that air couldn’t reach its destinations. With ducts hidden under insulation and behind layers of pipes, fixing those leaks seemed an impossible task.
Fortunately, the mechanical contractors on the job had heard about Aeroseal duct sealing from the inside. Local Boston Aeroseal expert Aspen Air Duct Cleaning was called in and just a matter of days, the problem was fixed. Leakage was reduced from more than 5,800 CFM down to 429 CFM – a 98% reduction. The fan now operated at only 37% of capacity. The system was quieter, and university engineers were relieved. Now, that’s smart!
Click here to read the full Harvard case study:
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