Smart Buildings – More Than Just Energy Efficiency

The smartest people in the commercial real estate industry agree–if we really got energy efficiency in buildings right using smart building technologies, corporations could save so much money that there would be little need for solar panels or windmills. While most experts are still strong supporters of these alternative energy sources, they agree that extreme energy efficiency measures could have very dramatic positive results.

On the other hand, there are an increasing number of people who are growing disenchanted with the energy efficiency movement. It is not that they are against the idea, it just seems like it is an “all or nothing” proposition, and one of the major aspects of smart building technologies is the impact they can have on OPERATIONS and TENANT SAFETY/SATISFACTION as well as energy efficiency–which solar panels and windmills don’t offer.
In our world of buildings, a world that impacts us every time we enter an office, mall, school or sporting venue, and an environment that requires a great degree of operational support, why totally ignore the operational benefits, financial and human productivity possibilities, and tenant safety/satisfaction potential of intelligent, connected, high performance smart buildings?

This new generation of smart buildings, in which an IT infrastructure is laid on top of a building and every electro-mechanical device is IP enabled and connected with the ability to send data and be controlled, can provide energy savings and a WHOLE LOT MORE. The concept of centralized portfolio control with dramatically reengineered workflow, combined with advanced data analytics and visualization, could have an equal (if not greater) impact on the operational and tenant satisfaction bottom line of a building when comparing energy efficiency and savings.

Building owners care a lot about the costs of running a building. If these state of the art concepts and technologies can significantly reduce operating costs, why not exploit that fact? These details should be included in the overall strategy when cost-justifying the retrofitting of existing buildings. It makes sense to look at every aspect of these intelligent and smart buildings. Go through the front door with energy efficiency but, by no means stop there; operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction will round out the complete justification for making smart building investments.

One small, yet interesting example of this approach would be the management of fire extinguishers. Despite more technology in an iPhone than we had on the first space launch, we continue each month to walk every square foot of our buildings in search of a fire extinguisher with a small paper card attached and a hole to punch. With some pretty basic smart building technology, we can connect those fire extinguishers to a network and monitor them in real time, with almost no future financial investment. This also has a good sustainability aspect, as we are not using natural resources to transport humans in their search for cards to punch.

Another area relevant to smart building technology with a very fast payback is digital signage. Despite the fact that the hardware and technology costs have become very competitive, we continue to rely on analog solutions to communicate information in our lobbies. If you look at the cost and process, with multiple people and methods of getting a tenant’s name up on a lobby sign, it is a very inefficient way to communicate tenant information. In addition to a simple tenant directory, digital signage can also offer advertising (potential revenues), and fire life safety information in the event of an emergency.

Many different areas of a building’s operations would benefit greatly from automation: HVAC, lighting, security/access, energy, fire/life/safety, lifts, water management, landscaping/irrigation, audio visual, digital signage, parking, voice/data and more.

If we truly want to take our buildings to the next level of sophistication and take advantage of all available technologies, then start thinking of the three categories that make a smart building–energy efficiency and conservation, operational efficiency, tenant safety and satisfaction. If we include all of these categories in our financial justification models, it becomes a much easier decision to retrofit and move our buildings into the 21st century.

Energy-efficiency Electronics Hardware A bridge Fuel To The Future

Demand for energy continues to be a major topic around the world. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro power are increasingly being utilized to provide for that demand. Many States have even recently passed laws raising the minimum renewable usage cap that utility companies must implement into their overall supply. But … we still require escalating amounts of energy for agriculture, industry, and to heat our homes and offices. Emerging as a “bridge fuel” to clean energy and renewable resources, the power electronics industry is poised to span that gap with hardware solutions needed to build intelligent power systems.

The Obama administration plans to spend billions of dollars on power conservation and sustainable energy projects as part of a $787 billion stimulus package which is has focused on energy efficiency. Andrew Fanara, of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has famously said. “Energy efficiency is the bridge fuel we must build on and must invest in” he stresses “Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to act.”

In part, the administration’s strategy is to use improved energy efficiency as a method of buying time to invest in and explore emerging and clean energy options. With initiatives like the smart power grid gaining traction, the power electronics hardware that makes it all work and its new designs aimed at increasing energy efficiency will be at the core of the plan.

Already, there is huge demand for power efficiency by consumers found an industry survey. And, consumers are willingly paying a premium for electronic hardware that delivers energy efficiency. This trend anticipates a growing number of electronic hardware devices will be utilized, which lowers costs and drives improved energy efficiency. Measured in dollars per watt this high volume of hardware deployment forecasts the efficiency for power electronics may drop to as low as 12 cents per watt by 2013.

The focal point of “smart power” systems and a national smart energy grid has clearly been on the hardware side of the equation. To be successful, in the not to distant future, engineers will also make use of the intelligence provided by software so that the hardware components communicate most effectively to accomplish maximum reduction of power consumption. The know-how exists now for this integrated software, but it is still far from widespread.

Power Profiling is a valuable energy-efficiency tool that granularly identifies the power consumed specifically by HVAC, appliances, networks, lighting etc. and communicates this information to users. A user profile is developed by use of proprietary algorithms that calculate information regarding a structure’s overall usage, and several data points such as the time of day and its energy consumption history.

The purpose of power profiling is to enable users to know exactly what activities or systems are consuming the most power, including how much, and how that consumption is affected by actions they take. Most HVAC and appliances are not yet enabled so numerous hardware metering devices are used throughout the structure, at least an adequate number to demonstrate to the user what the largest power users are and how to limit consumption.

Home Area Networks (HAN) are increasingly communicating with utilities in addition to the traditional media centers and computers. Both utilities and consumer electronics companies are offering and assortment of hardware solutions with methods of pre-programming and remotely controlling home systems such as water usage, heating & cooling, and appliances. With the arrival of “smart” appliances and new wireless network protocols designed specifically for energy-efficiency, many of these hardware solutions communicate to users and utilities over one or more wireless systems.

ZWave for media and home automation

ZigBee chosen by utility companies because of it’s secure protocol, and

EnOcean a European self-powered energy harvesting technology that powers devices without the use of batteries.

Hardware using these wireless protocols can all be controlled from a single point building management system, or a homeowner’s computer. Even though these technologies are still on the leading edge, trends indicates they are very near to wide-scale adoption, enabling buildings to connect to smart grid applications that exponentially increase energy-efficiency.

Advances in alternative energy sources have provided greener ways of producing electricity and the burgeoning energy-efficiency industry is providing a plethora of energy saving hardware devices to help users re-tool . We can reduce energy consumption with these advances and make strides toward energy independence. Consider what T. Boone Pickens says “In additional to putting our security in the hands of potentially unfriendly and unstable foreign nations, we spent $475 billion on foreign oil in 2008 alone. That’s money taken out of our economy and sent to foreign nations, and it will continue to drain the life from our economy for as long as we fail to stop the bleeding.

Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion – it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”

“By investing in renewable energy and conservation, we can create millions of new jobs. Developing new alternative energies while utilizing natural gas for transportation and energy generation; securing our economy by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and keeping more money at home to pay for the whole thing.”

Moving forward with renewables is a must, but it is also a documented fact that this increased capacity will not be enough to meet upcoming demands and provide energy independence. The tremendous strides being made in energy efficiency technologies are to help stem the tide, bridging the gap.

Save On Your Hcav System

HVAC, the name Heat Ventilation Air conditioning represents the complete temperature of your house or building system. It needs to be designed well and installed in the right position so that it delivers you better results. It should be of a good quality so that it consumes less energy and provide sufficient indoor air quality while controlling the temperature.

Maintenance of furnace and air conditioning system is important!

Regular maintenance of furnace, heating device and air conditioning system is important so that it delivers better results. If it is maintained well then it proves better in terms of energy efficiency. If not cleaned on a regular basis, if there is leaky ac ducts which is ignored then your electric bills will be higher. Your air conditioning system may consume more power than usual.

Careful selection of the equipment is required so that heating, cooling and ventilation is provided properly. It ensures energy efficiency and provides cooling and heating needs. It also helps control humidity, air quality which includes both indoor and outdoor air quality. Choose the one which has a good SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). It offers higher efficiency if your AC system SEER is high. Similarly, it also proves its energy efficiency based on the SEER rating.

It makes possible lower cooling costs in order to better the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. You would have saved a great deal through out the year, the savings itself may total up to the price of the purchase of new unit. Dont you want to have a good system installed so that you can save a lot?

It is possible to see significant savings in cooling costs by upgrading to a more efficient air conditioner, For example, an upgrade from a rating of nine (older unit) to 13 (base seer rating now) could translate into almost a third less energy used per season. This can potentially result in hundreds of dollars of savings per year.

Although there are many different types of air handling units, for general IAQ implications in schools, air handling units can be divided into two groups: unit ventilators and individual heat pump units that serve a single room without ducts; and central air handling units that serve several rooms via duct work. Unit ventilators and heat pumps have the advantage of reduced floor space requirements, and they do not recirculate air between rooms. However, it is more difficult to assure proper maintenance of multiple units over time, and they present additional opportunities for moisture problems through the wall penetration and from drain pan and discharge problems. Central air handling units have a number of advantages as compared to unit ventilators and heat pumps serving individual rooms.

Gas Furnace Type and Functions

Gas Furnace Functions

The process performed by a regular conventional gas furnace is quite simple in theory. The gas furnace is located in a large box and in order to control the temperature in your home or office the furnace takes in cold air, cleans this cold air by running it through an air filter, heats up the cold air by the use of a gas burner and a steel heat exchanger, then distributes the warm air through the ductwork in your home or office by using a blower. So as you can see the theory behind the heating and cooling cycle performed by a gas furnace is quite simple.

Gas Furnace Process

Once the gas furnace has completed the heating process and the warm air is inside your home, the air will begin to go through a natural cooling process. This cooling process makes it necessary to remove the cool air from you home and replace it warm air. This continual air heating and cooling exchange is performed by using return ducts which suck the cool air back to the gas furnace through return air grills and ductwork so it can run through the heating process again. Located on the return air grills and ductwork there is a device called a humidifier. This helps to control the humidity of the air inside your home so that the heated air is not too dry. This is an important process as the air can become very dry as is continues to go through the heating and cooling process performed by the gas furnace.

Gas Furnace Main Types

A conventional gas furnace is defined as anywhere up to 89% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) whereas anything above 90% is defined as a high efficiency condensing furnace. These high efficiency condensing furnaces are a little more complex than a conventional furnace. It uses slightly different technology to perform the heating and cooling function. The main differences lie in the method used to extract heat from the combustion process and the method used to exhaust the combustion gases. To put it simply, there is not a greater overall efficiency difference in the combustion process in a high efficiency condensing furnace compared to a conventional gas furnace. The difference in efficiency lies in the heat extraction process after combustion has occurred. Both the conventional gas furnace and the high efficiency condensing furnace use gas burners with electronic ignition systems.

The gas furnace heating system can sound a little complicated at first but its actually quite a simple theory. The engineering and design of a HVAC heating system is much more complicated to understand and implement. However, if you put in the effort to understand how a gas furnace works then performing simple maintenance and troubleshooting can be done yourself without hiring the services of a HVAC contractor.

This article has outlined a simplified version of the heating process performed by a gas furnace, and also what happens to the air once the cooling process begins. There are a number of other articles and videos on this Vancouver heating and cooling HVAC website that may also help further your knowledge on other HVAC aspects in addition to the function and process performed by a gas furnace.

How To Lower Your Air Conditioning Costs

Whether you live in the deep south or the northeast, you probably have to blast your air conditioning system all summer long to keep cool in your indoor space. Having a properly running AC is essential to staying cool and comfortable throughout the hottest months of summertime. Even if you have a top of the line, brand new efficient system, you energy costs can still be high. However, there are several simple steps that you can take right now to lower the cost of cooling your house.

In order to keep your energy costs down, efficiency is a key component of the process. The more inefficient your HVAC system is, the more money you are going to spend on your monthly bills. One of best ways to maintain an efficient air conditioning system is to regularly replace the filters. Dirty filters will decrease the airflow necessary to cool your home, causing your system to be far less efficient than necessary. Filters are inexpensive, and they should be checked monthly and changed at least once every few months.

Replacing your thermostats with programmable options is a great way to cut down your energy costs while keeping your home perfectly comfortable. While manual thermostats allow you to control the exact temperature in your space, automatic ones give you total control over your system. You can save by programming the thermostat to turn off the air conditioning when you won’t be home, and you can set it to turn back on an hour before you arrive.

If you have the opportunity to get a new system installed, look into energy efficient air conditioning systems. There are a variety of models on the market systems that are designed to use much less energy than other options. If you are outfitting your home with a new system, or you already have an inefficient system installed in your home, consider using a window unit. If your system seems to cool some rooms efficiently while leaving other parts of your house stuffy and hot, a window air conditioning unit can help to cool single rooms at a time. This way, you can conserve energy by not needlessly cooling rooms you are not occupying.

Tips On Tenant Improvement Allowances

Tenant improvement allowances, funds provided by the landlord to improve office space, are becoming increasingly prevalent during landlord-tenant negotiations, and all companies should consider their role in creating an ideal office space. However, companies seeking to lease at least 5,000 square feet of Class A & B office space with a lease term of at least five years can exercise much greater leverage on the landlord and will typically find it easier to achieve many of the suggestions below. If in doubt, you should consult with a real estate broker to determine the feasibility of any specific item.

1. In todays economic environment, many landlords are providing and funding 100 percent of the building standard installations required by tenants.

2. Tenants should try to negotiate above-standard items, such as millwork, extra HVAC, large glass walls, plush carpeting or special lighting, to get them included in the tenant improvement allowance provided by the landlord.

3. When landlords refuse to fund all or a portion of above-standard items, tenants can try to amortize their cost into the rent over the term of the lease instead of paying out of pocket.

4. Funding above-standard work can also be achieved via negotiating tactics, for example, offering to decrease the quantity of free rent and increase the tenant improvement allowance instead.

5. We recommend tenants hire an architect to represent their interests and suggest a layout and design of the space to ensure tenant improvement allowances are put to the best possible use.

6. Tenants can avoid the need for a large tenant improvement allowance by touring many suites and finding one with a suitable existing configuration. However, we advise tenants to avoid compromising the amount of their tenant improvement allowance just to decrease the rental rate.

7. Landlords are providing generous tenant improvement allowances for new tenants, and tenants can use this as leverage even if they are only renewing, especially if they have occupied the space for the past five-to-ten years.

8. If landlords offer a specific dollar amount for a tenant improvement allowance, we advise tenants to negotiate an open-bid format, based on an expert review by their own architect, project manager or construction firm.

9. Many companies are using tenant improvement allowances to create more light in the workplace by adding glass in offices and conference rooms. From narrow, vertical side-windows to full walls of glass, natural light illuminates interior areas and provides sight-lines for workers to improve communications and productivity.

10. We always recommend tenants hire an architect to brainstorm about the best uses for tenant improvement allowances. Many companies are decreasing hard-walled offices in favor of flexible workstations and huddle rooms, small two-to-four person conference areas, to accommodate departments changing needs.

Saving Money With Energy Efficiency

A home should be an environment that is comfortable in both the hot, summer months and the frigid, cold temperatures of winter. However, heating and cooling your home so that it is comfortable during these extreme temperature periods can get to be quite expensive. If you aren’t careful, you can rack up a huge energy bill during the winter or summer months without even realizing it. Heating and cooling a home requires so much energy, so sometimes consumers can become devastated at the amount they pay at the end of the month.

However, there are ways to save money on heating and cooling your home. These ways often have a less harmful impact on the environment and a less harmful impact on your pocketbook. While these methods may require an initial investment to make them operational, the money you save over time in heating and cooling your home will be worth the initial investment.

Insulate Your Home

The first and easiest way to make heating and cooling your home more energy efficient is to ensure that air is not escaping from your home or seeping in from the outdoor environment. Poor insulation is often the number one culprit in homes that use energy inefficiently.

You can improve the insulation in your home by installing energy efficient windows that are double paned, or you can have the cracks and gaps sealed around the windows with insulating material. You can also add insulation to your attic and prevent warm air from seeping out through your roof. These small home improvement fixes can help you save a lot of money on your energy bill at the end of each month.

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Another great way to make your home more energy efficient is to install a geothermal heating and cooling system in your home. Geothermal systems rely on the heat that is generated from the ground in order to make your home more comfortable.

The earth is a wealth of energy, but many consumers don’t know how to tap into the energy that is right below their feet. A geothermal heating and cooling system taps into the heat sources and uses them to power an HVAC system. This type of system is expensive initially, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the course of a lifetime.

Solar Heating and Cooling

Solar power is another great way to save money on your energy bills each month. The energy from the sun is completely free and is abundant almost all year round. If you live in an area of the world that does not have a lot of rainfall, solar heating and cooling systems may be perfect for your area.

A solar heating and cooling system uses huge solar panels to absorb the energy from the sun and convert that energy into a usable energy that can help to power an HVAC system. With the energy from the sun powering the heating and cooling system in your home, you won’t have to shell out so much money each month to an energy company.

Dealing With Hot Spots In Your Home

When the weather heats up, hot spots in your home are a lot more noticeable. If youre one of the unlucky people trying to sleep in a room where your HVAC system has seemingly chosen to neglect, hot spots can go from uncomfortable to unbearable overnight. What most people dont realize is that this can be fixed either by you, the homeowner, or with a quick ac repair call to your local air conditioning company. You dont have to suffer through sleeping in sauna-like temperatures. There are things that both you and your air conditioning company can do to fix this.

How much are your windows contributing to the heat in your room? Old, inefficient windows let heat right in (or cold air right out). If your windows arent sealed properly or dressed with sun blocking curtains and blinds, youll notice a dramatic temperature difference between your room and rooms that are mindful of their windows.

Are your air ducts properly sized and sealed? Air ducts are responsible for transporting cool, conditioned air to each room in the house. If there is a major tear or leak in your air ducts, one or more rooms may lose their cold air to the attic. A few easy signs that you have an air duct leak are:

Inexplicably high energy bills

Dust on the tops and in the grooves of your doors

Hot (and cold) spots in your home

A cold attic in summer and hot attic in the winter

Little or no insulation around your air ducts

DIY air duct repairs are easily botched. For example, most people dont realize that, despite the name, you should never use duct tape to seal your air ducts. (Use a metal or mastic tape.) If you can easily access your attic, take a peak around. If there are noticeable tears or broken seals, you can try to patch them yourself or leave it to the pros. If youre tackling the project yourself, dont forget to insulate your air ducts well. Good insulation not only blocks thermal transfer, it can stop vapor transfer and even quiet the noise from vibrating ducts.

For a full air duct evaluation and professional repairs, call your local air conditioning company. The technicians there can ensure that your homes air ducts are sized, sealed and insulated correctly. Dont forget to check out the energy rebates offered to those who choose to repair, maintain and replace their inefficient air ducts! When your air ducts are performing properly, youll save money, energy and enjoy living more comfortably.