Case study: Integrating an intelligent campus

A flexible and adaptable solution enabled future expansion for this campus

By Benjamin Weerts, PE, and Rachel Kennedy, EIT, WSP USA, Boulder, Colorado July 23, 2019

WSP USA has followed these best practices — goal-setting and metrics development, design of foundational infrastructure to support integrated building systems and system selection based on the aforementioned criteria — to enable an intelligent campus with connected building systems across the combination of commercial, industrial and transportation buildings. 

A large client wanted a tool to manage operations for building management systems and campus-level utilities. The owner’s desire was to understand, manage and improve energy consumption data to meet sustainability targets, including net zero energy. Across its campus of 90-plus existing buildings, 35 disparate building management systems existed, as did 1,500 meters that monitored gas, water, thermal and electrical consumption. Many were legacy, outdated systems that could not share data in their current state and were connected to various, unmanaged and disconnected networks.  

The two biggest challenges for this client were: 

  • The associated high cost to upgrade the entire campus to meet sustainability and performance goals while maintaining 24/7 operations.  
  • The selection of new systems and/or devices to improve energy performance, occupant experience, operational efficiency and equipment performance.  

WSP USA led visioning sessions to understand and define stakeholder expectations and establish workflow organization. These sessions brought together stakeholder groups that usually worked in silos  such as facility managers, sustainability organizations and information technology  to improve the overall operations of the campus and identify a common vision.  

In smart building projects like this one, IT stakeholders had a crucial role as more existing and new systems were connected to fewer common networks. WSP USA also advised the owner on best practices in implementing a smart building by using Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and U.S. Department of Energy research initatives such as the Better Buildings Initiative. 

A detailed site assessment was necessary to evaluate the existing systems and infrastructure across the campus. Campus facility managers were involved in site walks to capture the institutional knowledge of how systems operate. A range of subject matter experts and thought leaders in the areas of technology, sustainability, building utility (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, acoustics) and financial advisory services were included as part of the team to understand the variety of systems across the campus. The team of consultants advised the stakeholders on the roadmap for upgrading and integrating systems as well as developing future-ready standards for continued operations into the foreseeable future. Phasing of the upgrades was crucial due to the continuous operations and necessary infrastructure improvements. 

WSP USA developed a flexible and adaptable solution to enable future expansion for this intelligent campus. All meters and systems were integrated to a converged network to improve IT operational efficiencies and management. Additionally, all existing systems were upgraded to share data using common communication protocols and follow a similar metadata tagging model. Data from every system was stored in a central data repository serving as the “source of truth” and is maintained by IT for availability to different users.  

While there was a current market desire for all data to be visible from one central point or system considered a single pane of glass, the solution included multiple applications to meet stakeholder operational, visualization and reporting needs. This enabled the bestinclass applications to be selected for each of the operational requirements or identified goals rather than compromising features for a single application. This design required the outlined foundational infrastructure to support the modular approach and the ability to modify and/or add features or additional applications in the future.  

The applications had to be user-intuitive and convenient to ensure long-term use by the stakeholders. In many cases, the applications streamlined the stakeholders’ current work processes and reduced the manual labor necessary to produce monthly reports. In addition, one application provided a single user-interface for control, giving convenient access to many systems across the campus and significantly improving the stakeholders’ ability to complete daily tasks.  

Based on the identified sustainability goals and operational efficiency metrics, dashboards and reports were built to compare the real-time performance of each building in meeting these goals. Lowperforming buildings were highlighted to easily help stakeholders focus on the worst performers in improving campus performance. The dashboards then provided insights into what actions stakeholders could take to diagnose and correct current problems or information needed to support equipment replacements or future capital projects.  

As the campus continues to expand and upgrade, it will need the ability to adapt its tools to meet evolving sustainability goals and improve upon learned performance. Interoperability and flexibility among systems will continue to be important throughout these upgrades.  

Author Bio: Benjamin Weerts is a senior engineer for WSP USA’s ThinkBOLDR Innovation Center, where he focuses on design of complex mechanical and control systems as well as building management system integration in smart building projects. Rachel Kennedy is a smart building specialist in WSP USA’s ThinkBOLDR Innovation Center, where she specializes in complex integrations of traditionally siloed building systems as a value-add for clients.