Case study: Smart buildings

Two case studies highlight the aspect of smart buildings

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 21, 2022
Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Industry insights:

  • Smart building experts Julianne Laue, PE, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP, director of building performance, Mortenson, Minneapolis, and Sanjyot V. Bhusari, PE, CEM, LEED AP, Principal, Intelligent Buildings Practice Leader, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Gainesville, Florida, review smart building case studies. This transcript is from a May 2020 webcast and has been edited for clarity.

Julianne Laue: As an industry, we have lots of smart people and we have great products and great installers and great, amazing teams of experts. Our clients love the fact and love that there’s a choice, but that’s to them. That makes it easy, selecting the team to perform the work. But they need to see this return on investment to be able to manage risk, finance, legal, information technology and security. And that for them to get the project, to start is the hard part. For a lot of us, our expertise in designing these systems helps them even get these projects started and moving forward and having them be expandable and flexible for future use.

Now touching on sports and entertainment, the three main drivers that drive that return on investment for them is going to be the athlete experience and the athletic performance, even getting down to having data on players there’s a fan experience part in having data access for us to have data access. Ability to use our phones, way finding, ticketing, all of that stuff that makes that game day experience even better.

There’s the back of the house stuff that we don’t see as spectators, IPTV and building control, security lighting, knowing where all the elevators are and things that allow the building to more efficiency. In the sports world, it’s ultimately being more profitable, more secure and just a heck of a lot of more fun.

This case study on Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee provided an example of a smart building. Courtesy: Consulting-Specifying Engineer

The project I’m going to talk to you about it’s called Fiserv Forum. It’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it opened Aug. 26, 2018. It’s actually located in downtown Milwaukee, the home of the Milwaukee Bucks, which is an NBA basketball team. It is a beautiful building, in which one of the greatest statements I’ve heard more than once about talking about this building is they wanted it, the digital infrastructure to be able to compliment the physical structure, which I thought was just a great way to put it. It needs to be beautiful and smart. The intelligent infrastructure of this building supports building animation, security, lighting, fire protection, IT and heating, ventilation and air conditioning — and the systems all integrate it together, optimizes how the building functions and really does of an ultimate fan experience.

We hear a lot about this in sports, but fan experience is top of mind. Improving the building performance, reducing the energy consumption, reducing the environmental footprint and having the best home court advantage. Many are all of these items are here and happen when they have the greatest impact is going to be on game day. Another thing to note, especially for this client type is failure of anything’s on game day, don’t just get to be seen and experienced by a few people, there’s over 17,000 fans in the stadium on game day and so many others potentially watching at home. If there’s a failure in any of this, this actually has a big audience to actually see it and visualize it.

On game day, the technological innovations for security, video streaming, digital ticketing, sound, visual and innovations, anything displayed over the scoreboard and 850 different television screens is all key to make sure that all of that is working together. Further, in the game day, we have broadcast, cameras to video boards, to major networks, seamless content management and delivery. That all that digital signage and integrated IPTV integrated solution allows not just people to experience the game, but it allows advertising. It allows communications and events of an emergency, live streams, promoting special events. And that can go to all screens all at once. Fiserv Forum, it gives the operators the ability to customized color schemes, content, branding. And when it’s sent out to all of these 840 plus high def IPTVs, all of this extends the experience of the fans and creates, here’s your ROI, revenue generating opportunities for the stadium, as well as for event sponsors.

On the operations side of things, really pulling all of this information back together. This is all back of house. All this stuff is happening behind the scenes and whether it’s security tied with elevators or directions in the event of an emergency on that side of things, it has to do with thermal comfort and IQ and ventilation. Right now, we’re hearing lots of conversations around COVID and respirable particulates. And we can see these conversations changing and being able to have and take place between the changing operations and current capacities and abilities to do things. Having a smart building really allows facilities to dig into this data and optimize around it.

Some of the outcomes for Fiserv Forum, the current systems are savings about 20% a year in operational costs. It’s amazing. The building features’ internet speed of 20 gigs and the network is capable of handling 72 terabytes of data for real time content sharing during every game. And there’s 2,500 pieces of HVAC equipment, the operator needed for both attendee comfort and occupant comfort. Really going back to how this was able to hit and understand what the owners and the fans and the athletes we’re all looking for has been truly just a great success for this project.

Sanjyot V. Bhusari: We started designing for this smart building and then moved to a smart campus about 14 years back. Almost the kickoff meeting was the same or the next day from the birth of my first daughter. This project is very close to me. And the reason I picked this is because this project is a journey in smart building. As time has progressed, we have continued to use data to drive more operational decisions, design decisions. So continuously evolving as an example of what a smart campus can be.

We were designing a 500,000 square feet new cancer hospital that was going to add 30% more to this health care client’s campus. When the initial discussion started from a visioning point of view and the management goals were that you’re going to add this new building, but we just don’t have the budget to increase staff. From a facility management perspective, they wanted to solve this problem. I don’t know if it resonates with anybody, but they said we take lot of shortcuts to solve problems and in doing so create long term nightmares. We want to solve that problem holistically and sustainably in terms of long-term point of view. For health clients, patient comfort is always paramount and that’s the reason the building exists.

With those goals in mind, we put together smart building strategies that included integrating building and business systems. We studied standard operating procedures and automated work processes. We developed a robust data historian. This was way back before the current breed of fall detection diagnostic products were available. And we did all of that using standard IT, information technology-based database and reporting tools that were available to us at that time. We used a Construction Specifications Institute division 25 specification format to define the smart building platform. But for all the systems, for example, plumbing systems, HVAC systems, we used their respective divisions to add necessary requirements for open communication protocols that, Julianne, described earlier that all were specified in their respective specifications. So that a coordinated effort between equipment vendors and the master system’s integrator was feasible. One neat thing, at least from an engineering point of view, I think it is pretty neat, was this plug fest that we developed. BACnet as an organization used to run these plug fests, where they would invite different vendors to connectivity proof of concepts.

We used the same approach on this project to test connectivity on a tabletop before it was implemented in real time. As well as, the other key aspect of this was training and development of new facility management functions. We not only invested in technology from a smart buildings point of view, but we also invested in people that would leverage that investment in technology. By balancing both, we were able to achieve some very impressive outcomes, even if I say that myself. These are all quantified measurable outcomes that the client has documented for the past eight, 10 years that this building has been operating. And 90% reduction in alarms, 30% energy reductions, patient satisfaction scores are very high and a significant capital cost avoidance that was done through data driven design.

That is a journey of a smart campus, if you may. Let me discuss a more recent project, which was for a corporate client. This was a corporate real estate type building. And we were moving from a larger building to a smaller footprint, with the same number of people. And the drivers for smart buildings in this case were they wanted to use smart building technology to help them reduce their office space footprint. And it was all about their staff.

And since this was a critical operation, cybersecurity was also very, very critical in defining a smart building. Some of the strategies that we put into place for this client include occupancy analytics and it started from space use perspective, but in now’s COVID-19 situation, the client can use the same technology to look at it from a social distancing point of view and to find out areas where people cross quite often and to make data driven interior design changes is now possible through this strategy.

Indoor positioning and room booking, again, for that employee experience. And we have metrics in place to measure the impact that that will have on the client. We also have a separate internet of things network. The “digital network” is a better term. I think I’m going to use that from now on. The smart building’s platforms in this case was a cloud implementation software as a service, which was very interesting with what technology we can leverage. And this platform goes to the cloud as well as building app for that employee experience.

To summarize, smart building definition is absolute starting point and can help align client goals and problems and outcomes that they desire in determining the building block approach that we could take. One advantage of a building block approach is investing the amount of dollars that the client has in a strategic way. And platform selection can be done in the same strategic manner so that it leads to those outcomes that are critical for defining a smart building.