How Communities Are Using Smart Building and Smart City Technology

Sue Marquette Poremba

According to Frost and Sullivan, eight elements make a city “smart”: smart buildings, smart energy, smart mobility, smart health care, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart governance and smart education, and smart citizens. Increasingly, city leaders are looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in technology to make their cities – and their citizens – work more efficiently and cost effectively. Smart building technology and sensor data analytics are being instituted in everything from lowering energy consumption to rethinking traffic flow to ordinary infrastructure maintenance.

Businesses, too, are adopting smart technology and sensor data analytics as a way to create better workspaces and improve employee productivity.

Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Smart City Technology

Because large, metropolitan cities like Dallas continue to grow in population, they are limited on how much their current infrastructure can expand. As a result, city leaders have to rethink, re-engineer and rework how cities are using their current infrastructures. This consideration led Dallas to create the Dallas Innovation Alliance, which will require a cooperative effort from the city's industrial, commercial and municipal leadership to build a pilot smart city project that will result in a case study for the future of smart city rollouts across the city and region.

This smart city project will focus several of the elements required for smart-city designation, including smart energy, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, smart technology and smart education. Although the project is still in its early stages and budget issues are being worked out, Trey Bowles, founder and CEO of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, said the goals are efficiencies, cost savings and revenue growth.

“Smart energy will help reduce costs by effective use of energy distribution,” Bowles said. “Smart infrastructure, such as sensors, small cells, and kiosks, can help by capturing data points, which can be analyzed and turned into new revenue opportunities or cost savings. For example, more effectively directing traffic will cut down on CO2 emissions, or smart parking solutions will let people more quickly reserve, find and park their vehicles.”

Smart Building: San Francisco Office of DPR Construction

When designing its new San Francisco office, DPR Construction wanted a building that was not only highly efficient and sustainable, but also took advantage of the latest smart building technologies. The ultimate goal was to create a work space that was a certified zero-net-energy building. To do this, according to Eric Lamb, executive VP with DPR Construction, DPR’s San Francisco office design incorporated efficient HVAC and electrical systems, and it took steps to offset energy consumption with the installation of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems on the roof.

“To help further optimize operations and building efficiency, DPR Construction also uses the Honeywell Command Wall, part of the Honeywell Command and Control Suite, to easily visualize building operations and boost performance,” said Lamb. “The Command Wall, a sci-fi-like operator interface built with the intuitive, consumer-friendly simplicity of tablets and smartphones, integrates with Honeywell EBI, and features map-based visualization and navigation, along with integrated workflows. Pulling data from EBI, it presents information in an easy-to understand way while providing context for more informed decision making. Users can access an enterprise-wide view and also easily zoom into specific areas to quickly understand and react to issues and opportunities as they arise — empowering DPR Construction to continuously optimize building strategies to drive toward its zero-net-energy goal.”

The overall project was completed in 2014 and met Net Zero Certification in December 2015. The ongoing goal is to meet this certification on a yearly basis.

“DPR Construction’s San Francisco office is the first commercial building in the city of San Francisco to be net-zero energy certified by the International Living Future Institute through its Living Building Challenge program,” said Lamb. “Thanks to its highly sustainable design and its use of the most innovative technologies to ensure optimal energy performance, DPR’s San Francisco office produced 17 percent more energy than it used in its first year of operation.”

City of Ottawa’s Smart City Technology Services

Community leaders in Canada’s capital city looked at what others major cities were doing to become smart cities. What they discovered was that most cities use a top-down digital approach: Digital initiatives and smart technology services begin by purchasing very expensive infrastructure, putting it into place, and then pushing out smaller, use case implementations downstream. Ottawa’s leaders wanted to take an opposite approach and employ a bottom-up approach. Working with the team at Flybits, the initial goal of the project was to utilize existing infrastructure to communicate relevant traveler information based on a motorist’s location and situation, in a safe, reliable and convenient fashion. The ultimate goal is to become a fully connected smart city.

The smart city project focuses on travel management and traffic with the goal of developing a crowd-sourced digital ecosystem that citizens and city entities such as retailers, museums, transportation hubs, and law enforcement, etc. could use to connect and share information. As part of its larger plan to build a connected city, Ottawa built a contextually aware mobile app with the Flybits context-as-a-service solution, called Ottawa Nav, and launched it in 2013. The app is a free commuting tool that delivers up-to-the-minute, customized road information to commuters for iOS and Android devices.

“The Ottawa Nav application maps the city into zones, associating contextual data with every location. As commuters move throughout the city, they receive useful and relevant information in real time based on their location, travel preferences, and other contextual inputs,” explained Hossein Rahnama, the founder of Flybits.

This smart city project, and the city’s bottom-up approach, was much more cost-effective because it did not require them to purchase expensive infrastructure, Rahnama added. “They were able to start small, test it, and then increase the use cases and investment once it proved its worth.”

So far the smart city project has been a success. There has been considerable adoption by citizens as well as by other city entities that have connected their services to the ecosystem, making the city more connected and smart. According to Rahnama, the technology is now being introduced to cities in Europe.

Smart Energy: The Presence Pro Energy Pilot Program for Oahu

Electricity is expensive in Hawaii. It costs two to three times more than on the U.S. mainland because the state imports oil and coal for 90 percent of its power generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. To help customers save money on electric bills while cutting down overall energy use, The Presence Pro Energy Pilot Program for Oahu was launched in 2014.

“The program was open to Oahu residents who owned a smartphone or tablet, had home Internet and had more than six months of energy history at the same residence,” says Gene Wang, CEO of People Power, the company that was awarded the contract to develop the program. “Program participants received two Monster 100MC Power Plugs and the Presence Pro Energy app—a $300 value—at no cost for the one-year energy conservation engagement program.”

A unique function built into the Presence app provides residents with electric usage information to promote energy conservation and efficiency efforts and help residents save money and energy on their electric bills. “The app provided participants with their historical energy data so they could see how their lifestyle changes were affecting their bill at the end of month, creating a gamification effect that motivated users to compete with themselves to save more money each month,” says Wang. “Throughout this engaging process, residents began to see the effects of their diminishing power use on their energy bills and became interested - even passionate - about managing their home energy for the first time.”

This Energy Efficiency Program was a $1 million 50/50 matching grant, so People Power received $500,000 while providing $500,000 in labor, hardware and other expenses. The project was completed in spring of 2015, and highly engaged participants are seeing energy savings of up to 10 percent, while high energy consuming homes saved even more.

Manhattan Beer Distributors’ Smart Building Technology

Manhattan Beer Distributors (formerly Phoenix Beverages) is one of New York’s largest beer distributors. But when it moved into an old Brooklyn warehouse, it was discovered that the existing electrical lines were inadequate for the level of power needed. The company decided that the necessary electrical upgrade should be a cost-effective solution that could provide the massive power requirements the company needed to keep individual storage rooms climate-controlled for optimal beverage temperature, a large forklift recharging station, and the ability to keep the building heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. Manhattan Beer Distributors turned to Tecogen and its InVerde (CHP) units, which achieve efficiency by recovering the waste heat from the natural-gas powered generator and repurposing it for the building’s heating and cooling needs – saving money for the customer while providing a complete smart building on-site energy solution.

Typically, Tecogen customers are not entirely grid-independent, according to Bob Panora, president and CEO, but this particular project gave Manhattan Beer Distributors independence from the local grid utility by using an on-site 600kW CHP plant featuring six Tecogen InVerde CHP modules.

“The six units operate via interconnected smart Microgrid, allowing for robust system redundancy,” explained Panora. “This Microgrid capability means the building has a consistent and reliable source of power and heating and cooling, ensuring building resilience. In addition, when compared with a more traditional energy solution, the incredible efficiency of the CHP units helps cut the building’s carbon footprint in half.”

The project, which was completed in 2010, is expected to save over a million dollars and reduce carbon emissions by more than 3,100 tons annually.

Next page: Smart Savings with Smart Technology

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