These Walls Can Talk

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San Jose software giant Adobe Systems Inc. has reduced electricity use by half, natural gas use by 30 percent, domestic water use by 79 percent and irrigation water use by 71 percent by constantly measuring the performance of its building systems. Using what it calls an “intelligence-building interface system,” Adobe and a consultant developed software that monitors real-time operations of its buildings.

[contextly_sidebar id=”0ef4b99c0e3947032800d5be663b693b”]The system tracks natural gas use, electricity use by floor, and temperature, comparing expected and past performance. It notifies building operating engineers when energy use varies from normally expected levels. The system doesn’t itself directly reduce energy, but is a tool to uncover inefficiency and waste, said George Denise, Adobe commercial property and facilities manager.

Higher education throughout California also is ripe for adoption of smart-building technology after years of reduced state funding for the 112 community colleges, the 23-campus California State University and 10-campus University of California systems, said Tom Armstrong, director of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District’s bond measure construction program: “Everyone is interested. We have 45 buildings at De Anza and 50 at Foothill. We are constantly looking at ways to reduce our operational costs. We must. Property managers for commercial buildings are doing the same thing.”

The 64,000-student district opened its first two structures with smart-building elements during the 2012-13 academic year. The $35 million, 67,000-square-foot Media and Learning Center at Cupertino’s De Anza College and 66,000-square-foot, $44 million Physical Sciences and Engineering Center at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills both sport computer-controlled building management systems.

The De Anza building alone is projected to save the district $67,000 a year in energy costs, Armstrong said. Among its automated features are photo sensors that dim or shut off artificial lighting during daylight hours, window shades that block out the hot sun on warm days, and a buoyancy-driven ventilation system that relies on the differences in the density of interior and exterior air arising from temperature variations instead of conventional forced-air heating and cooling.

“We have reduced staff time devoted to reviewing building operations and maintenance plans,” Armstrong said. “This is new to us, so there is a learning curve. We are conducting a study measuring the buildings’ performance that should be ready by year’s end.”

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