The Smartest Building in the USA

By Gordon Feller

Gordon Feller is the Co-Founder of Meeting of the Minds, a global thought leadership network and knowledge-sharing platform focused on the future of sustainable cities, innovation and technology.

Oct 25, 2012 | Urban Sustainability | 0 comments

With the completion of the Duke Energy Center (DEC) in Charlotte (North Carolina, USA), the path has been laid for smart buildings to become the new standard in commercial real estate.

What exactly does it take to be the smartest building in America?

When they decided to undertake a smart building project, Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties faced several challenges. First, the building contracts were signed and finalized, so the budget and timeframe were set. Second, building in long-term cost-efficiency and flexibility was a priority. After all, that is why the building was going to be smart. The last challenge, and likely the most difficult, was to reduce risks from building technology changes with its current infrastructure.

Overall, it is important that buildings continue or start to include all controlling systems into a converged network.
Within traditional commercial buildings there are multiple overlapping infrastructures, including cables, networks, servers and more. Even more typically, we see that the IT infrastructure components within the same building vary in design, security level and quality. The need for improvement in these disparate systems greatly outpaced the capabilities of traditional design teams. The transition from a traditional controls system to a single backbone system concerned many because of the potential risks, including increases in expenses, more system downtime and the inability for seamless systems integration.

Taking into account these challenges and potential risks, Wells Fargo moved forward, allowing contractors to remain focused on tasks such as HVAC, lighting, elevator, metering, security, etc., while allowing IT networking experts focus on the networking systems.

The Cisco team was tasked with designing and installing a building-grade backbone network as part as their “Smart + Connected” real estate solution. Together, we agreed that a neutral, secure backbone was the most reliable, cost-efficient solution. Better than any other approach that was possible, it would ensure that neither the features of the buildings nor the project budget would be compromised. The Cisco network approach leverages various types of cables and optic lines for equipment and terminations, and this neutral, single backbone approach accommodates countless systems regardless of type.

[map width=”300″ height=”300″ zoom=”15″ type=”HYBRID”]
[marker address=”550 S. Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202″]Duke Energy Center, Charlotte, NC[/marker]
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Though the main role of manufacturers and contractors didn’t change, with a slight adjustment they were able to plug into the IT-enabled components and infrastructure within the building. This adaptation benefits their present and future operations because it’s expanding their competency to include network integration.

Operationally, the impact is immediate and ongoing. Leveraging IT staff to ensure proper design, installation and management greatly improves building reliability and service issue resolution. Because each system is now linked through the network, it allows for easy adaptability and updates. The financial impact during construction was minimal, but the new building design allows for continually reduced energy and operational costs. Perhaps the most important to a number of parties, the environmental sustainability, has been outstanding; in fact, the results have contributed to its LEED Platinum status.

Overall, it is important that buildings continue or start to include all controlling systems into a converged network. Converging disparate systems into one network, tied together through a range of solutions which allow engineers, constructors, real estate developers and property managers to drive down operational costs. Smart buildings are no longer something we hope to see in the future; they are a reality in today’s world, we are seeing smart buildings become the norm in those cities which are striving to become smarter, better connected, and more sustainable.

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