Will intelligent buildings light the way to the future?

Oct. 6, 2014
Standard-creation groups, market analysts, and the U.S. government are closely watching the technological advances to automate facilities.

From the October, 2014 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

Standard-creation groups, market analysts, and the U.S. government are closely watching the technological advances to automate facilities.

For a little more than two years, the Telecommunications Industry Association's (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) TR-42.1 Subcommittee on Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling has been working to revise the standard that covers automated or intelligent buildings. The current version of the standard, ANSI/TIA-862-A, is titled Building Automation Systems Cabling, but the next revision, to be published as 862-B, likely will have a title that include some form of the phrase "intelligent building."

As of press time, TR-42.1's most recent meeting took place in June. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in early October. As of the June meeting, the document is in the committee-balloting stage of development. An agreement was made at that meeting to refrain from publishing TIA-862-B until after the publication of two other standards-TIA-568.0-D and TIA-569-D. The 862-B standard will contain references to those standards-both of which also are currently under revision-so the ultimate 862-B standard remains some distance (in time) away from final publication.

Researching the market

Nonetheless, the technological and market drivers that make an intelligent-building standard relevant and appropriate, continue to charge forward. And according to at least one association, a glimpse into exactly what that market looks like will be coming soon. In May the Continental Automated Building Association (CABA; www.caba.org) announced it had begun to update its 2010 report titled "Intelligent and Integrated Buildings Technologies: Market Sizing in North America." According to CABA, the research project will be conducted by BSRIA (www.bsria.co.uk), whose market-intelligence service has studied the enterprise cabling and data center markets for a number of years.

With an ambition to complete the study by October, CABA's president and chief executive officer Ronald J. Zimmer commented, "CABA is pleased to announced that through a new research-project update, the organization will continue its strong tradition of conducting market research in the intelligent and integrated building technology space. The resultant market forecasting derived from CABA's updated report will allow more of our membership to undertake informed strategic planning as they launch new products and services."

The 2010 study provided analysis of the North American market for converged intelligent building control systems, examining environmental control technologies, fire detection, security, lighting systems and IT convergence. CABA said its update will include a market review of the threats to the building automation and control system (BACS) business. The organization said the update study also will "be designed to assist industry stakeholders focus on a large range of concerns involved in the design, manufacture and installation of intelligent building controls. The study will assess market sizes by product at the first point of distribution, products at engineered and commissioned prices, and determine the total value added, factoring in hardware price erosion, throughout the entire supply chain."

BSRIA's senior manager for energy and smart technologies, Jeremy Towler, said, "We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to undertake this research on behalf of CABA. It is our intention to examine how technologies and business approaches are rapidly evolving, along with the changing patterns that are creating new business models and value chain networks."


In addition to a standard-development organization (TIA), industry association (CABA), and market-research firm (BSRIA), another notable entity looking closely at intelligent-building technologies is the United States federal government. In particular, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) administers what it calls the Green Proving Ground (GPG) program. The administration describes GPG as a program that "leverages GSA's real estate portfolio to evaluate innovative sustainable building technologies. The program aims to drive innovation in environmental performance in federal buildings and help lead market transformation through deployment of new technologies."

The concepts of a sustainable building and an intelligent building are intertwined in that the automation/intelligence technologies deployed in a building consistently serve to maximize the efficiency of the building's energy use.

The GSA recently issued a request-for-information for its 2015 GPG program. When making the request public, the GSA said, "The RFI invites technology manufacturers and industry stakeholders to submit information on promising technologies, which will be used in the selection process for technologies to test as part of GPG's 2015 program. Selected technologies will be matched with federally owned buildings to pilot measurement and verification by objective third-party evaluators. Results from these evaluations will inform public- and private-sector decision makers, and will help accelerate commercialization and adoption within GSA, other federal agencies, and the real estate industry." The GSA is accepting submissions until November 7.

It has been administering the GPG for years; the program was implemented in response to Executive Order 13514, which was signed by President Obama in October 2009. The GSA's administration of GPG includes the evaluation of technologies such as those it is seeking now. In 2012 the GSA published its findings concerning the use of wireless sensor networks to help decrease energy consumption in data centers. Those findings included "significant cost savings" and a "substantial reduction in cooling load and carbon dioxide emissions," according to the document, which is publicly available.

The GSA's evaluation of wireless sensors came after its GPG 2011 assessment of the technology "suggested that providing real-time, floor-to-ceiling information on humidity, air pressure and temperature conditions could enable data center operators to improve the energy efficiency of even well-managed data centers significantly," it said. "To evaluate the real-world effectiveness of this technology, the GPG program worked with the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), industry recognized experts in state-of-the-art data center analytics. LBNL selected the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Information Technology Center facility in St. Louis, MO as a demonstration project because its baseline conditions were representative of a well-designed, well-managed data center operated by an engaged facility staff. Sensors utilizing a wireless mesh network and data center management software to capture and graphically display real-time conditions for energy optimization were then installed."

Based on the information provided by the wireless sensor system, administrators at the USDA data center facility implemented no-cost changes as appropriate and tracked the energy-savings benefits derived from them. The GSA's findings document notes, "Efficiency measures … reduced the demonstration facility's cooling load by 48 percent, reducing total data center power usage by 17 percent. This represented an annual savings of 657 megawatt-hours, and an improvement in the data center's Power Usage Effectiveness from 1.83 to 1.51." The energy-cost savings were calculated to be $30,000 annually-in what the GSA points out is a low-utility-rate area.

Networked lighting evaluation

More recently, the GSA has issued preliminary technology assessments on a number of lighting-related systems: networked lighting, LED lighting with integrated controls, LED retrofit luminaire, and two wireless lighting-control systems. The networked-lighting assessment may be of particular interest to professionals in the structured cabling industry. Generally, twisted-pair copper cabling is the infrastructure that carries power to the lights and supports the lighting network's communications and control functions.

In its preliminary assessment, the GSA explains that networked lighting "capitalizes on the digital nature of LED lighting to connect lights and associated sensors to one another and to a building's IT network. The result is a rich array of location-specific data on room occupancy, daylight, temperature, humidity and other variables. Using this data, the technology mediates environmental, user, and building information in order to achieve both energy savings and user satisfaction. This technology adapts two proven IT network protocols: Zigbee Wireless and Power over Ethernet-the former is beneficial for retrofits, the latter offers data and electrical power in a single wire for cost savings in new construction."

The GSA said it was interested in assessing networked lighting systems because LED lighting "has proven to significantly reduce energy consumption while increasing occupant visual comfort, and is rapidly becoming the dominant commercial lighting technology. Networked lighting promises to extend the benefits of LED beyond lighting by creating an information pathway that provides extensive capability for improved management of multiple aspects of the office environment, including lighting, temperature, air quality, occupancy and work processes."

In much the same way the GSA deployed a wireless sensor network in a USDA data center, the administration said it has commissioned LBNL "to perform real-world measurement and verification of networked lighting in a pilot installation in a federally owned building. Findings from the evaluation are anticipated to be available in 2016."

But efficiency-seeking user organizations are not waiting until then to deploy networked lighting systems. Likewise, the GSA put forth its initial assessment of the technology in the areas of energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, operations and maintenance, and deployment potential.

The following text is taken from the GSA's preliminary technology assessment of networked lighting, covering those four characteristics.

Energy efficiency-On the basis of LED usage alone, networked lighting can provide 41 percent energy savings over lighting systems that use a typical recessed three-lamp T8 fixture. The technology promises to further reduce energy consumption by 35 percent with occupancy and daylight sensors. Beyond LED energy savings, networked lighting can facilitate management and efficiency of other building systems, such as HVAC.

Cost-effectiveness-Because this is a late stage precommercial technology, mature market prices are not yet available. Based on current deployments and early estimates, however, the manufacturer claims payback of eight years for a system installed in a building of one million square feet. Costs are projected to decline as LED products gain market share and installers become more familiar with networked lighting systems, further reducing payback.

Operations and maintenance-System commissioning and controls management are accomplished with remote access. Monitoring and maintenance times should be reduced through embedded luminaire-based diagnostics and the increased operational lifespan of LED lamps. The system may offer additional maintenance cost reductions as building management systems are integrated.

Deployment potential-Because of the flexibility in installation requirements gained by various power and control wiring systems, this technology has broad deployment potential.

The GSA's other preliminary assessments consider technologies according to those same four characteristics. The agency explains, "By devoting research to technologies in the pre- or early-commercial stages of development, GPG facilitates and accelerates the transition between bench-scale technology and commercial viability. In the product development cycle for new technologies, one of the biggest hurdles involves moving from an early working model to a proven commercial product; few building owners are willing to risk being the test case for an unproven new product, and first users frequently face higher costs than those who wait and adopt a proven technology later on. GPG seeks to absorb some of this risk by using its building portfolio as a test bed for new technologies in order to recommend deployment strategies towards achieving ambitious energy-saving goals."

In the case of networked lighting, several commercial-client case studies have been publicized, each one an example of potential efficiencies being realized. It may be a technology that, literally and figuratively, lights the way to broader-scale intelligent building deployments.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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