Smart Buildings

Big Data Helps GSA Improve Energy Efficiency in Federal Buildings

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is essentially the federal government’s landlord, with 360 million square feet of buildings under management, and an appropriately staggering energy bill. That’s made it the key federal organisation for building energy efficiency technology across the nation. GSA is implementing a smart building strategy and working aggressively to modernise existing buildings and establish new standards for design and construction in order to achieve department and administration goals of energy efficiency and sustainability while still providing superior workplaces for federal customer agencies at good economies to the American taxpayer. A newly established GSA department ‘Green Proving Ground’ leverages GSA’s vast real-estate portfolio to transparently evaluate emerging green technologies such as energy management, lighting and on-site energy generation. The proving ground examines technologies in partnership with national laboratories and makes recommendations on whether to “broadly deploy, target deploy or not to deploy,” across government, according to GSA Chief Greening Officer Eleni Reed. […]

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The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is essentially the federal government’s landlord, with 360 million square feet of buildings under management, and an appropriately staggering energy bill. That’s made it the key federal organisation for building energy efficiency technology across the nation.

GSA is implementing a smart building strategy and working aggressively to modernise existing buildings and establish new standards for design and construction in order to achieve department and administration goals of energy efficiency and sustainability while still providing superior workplaces for federal customer agencies at good economies to the American taxpayer.

Big Data 1

A newly established GSA department ‘Green Proving Ground’ leverages GSA’s vast real-estate portfolio to transparently evaluate emerging green technologies such as energy management, lighting and on-site energy generation. The proving ground examines technologies in partnership with national laboratories and makes recommendations on whether to “broadly deploy, target deploy or not to deploy,” across government, according to GSA Chief Greening Officer Eleni Reed.

Reed said Big Data and Analytics are beginning to play a role in the government’s sustainability efforts, too. GSA’s “Smart Metering” initiative, highlights how applied analytics can be run on large data sets showing power consumption, for example, to improve efficiencies.

Buildings (both commercial and residential) are the largest single consumer of energy in the US, and up to 50% of that is pure waste, meaning approximately $200 billion a year is wasted unnecessarily, while also adding significantly to climate change. Adding big data analytics to smart buildings, as explored in a recent Memoori Report, can uncover huge energy waste and saving opportunities.

Prompted by potential savings as well as government mandates and programs, enterprises are using advanced technologies to diagnose and fix costly inefficiencies within their buildings. The GSA, turned to Massachusetts-based analytic software company FirstFuel to assess its buildings.

FirstFuel’s process is driven by big data, and thanks to a proprietary algorithm developed and monitored in it’s Massachusetts headquarters, it has found a way to save $13 million a year in energy costs across 180 buildings. Combining weather data, Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, and metering data, FirstFuel creates a profile of the building without ever stepping foot or putting any devices on site. Among the most common energy wasting problems discovered were malfunctioning exhaust fans.

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In May 2012, IBM was awarded the GSA fulfilment contract and partnered with operational technology experts Environmental Systems Inc. (ESI). The scope of the first phase of the project was to bring 55 GSA buildings around the country under better control through data analytics. IBM and ESI have proved the case for their Big Data approach to building energy efficiency, finding and correcting typical energy and money wasters like stuck dampers on air handlers and cases of simultaneous heating and cooling.

Much of the energy waste in buildings stems from operational inefficiencies, like turning off lights and adjusting the AC. Many building problems are easy fixes, says FirstFuel’s CEO Shah. “Nobody's advocating that we should live in the dark. We're all are advocating that there's absolutely no reason to be comfortable and still be wasting that much”.

Amplifying the potential for inefficiency is the complexity of modern buildings. The number and sophistication of systems is growing rapidly and will only accelerate, as will the amount of data from those devices. Keeping up with all the information is not feasible or possible by previous methods of monitoring and analysis.

It is necessary to change the 'work' of maintaining optimum performance and efficiency from rejuvenation projects and scheduled maintenance, to big data systems in near real time. The 'Building Internet of Things', as discussed in a recent Memoori Report, demands Big Data integration, advanced analytics, and business process change be included to optimize maintenance, operations and management practices to sustain optimum facility performance.

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