Beyond the Build

Green Building

Building Automation for Energy Savings

In Texas, we are closing out a unique institutional project. This former skating rink has been made over to become an educational facility designed and built for LEED certification. Many progressive techniques and products were utilized in the construction.

Perhaps one of the more interesting is the Alerton Building Automation System, which controls and monitors the building’s energy use, both from the grid and the renewable wind and solar that has been installed. This system creates convenience and efficiency for the owner who can access the information from several states away. It also impacts students and visitors using an interactive display at the entrance.

Here’s how the Alerton system works:

  1. Through a system of private power and other utility submeters, the Alerton system collects data from solar panels, domestic water lines, gas lines and HVAC units.
  2.  The supply and demand of each component is measured.
  3. Data is collected, processed and graphed.
  4. Data is then sent to the operator of the building and the design engineer for analysis and control.
  5. The information is used to diagnose problems, optimize energy use and then adjust for comfort and safety.

There is no better way to limit the usage of resources than to understand the costs. Seeing the reduction of power bought from the grid by adjusting the temperature in less used parts of a building is an effective and motivating way to optimize energy use. Other advantages we are seeing include:

  • Scheduling the start-up of lighting and HVAC units by zone can lower the daily peak usage of power for a building.  This lowers the costs of power and also the capacity demand on power generation.
  • Measuring the consumption of water helps us identify leaks and waste more quickly.
  • Measuring the output of wind energy from solar and wind power let’s us know how effective “green” supplies are.

To us, the goal of realizing optimal energy performance many times is at the forefront of the sustainable building movement. Tremendous money and effort are being spent today on creating buildings that preserve our resources.  But without a system of measurement and verification, there is little or no real time accountability for those efforts.

The costs of these systems are not insignificant. This particular building has incorporated a substantial investment in  renewable energy and energy conservation efforts. Without a system to measure the success, how do you realize the full value?

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.