I recently toured building management giant Schneider Electric’s new North American headquarters in Andover, Mass. The Boston One campus, as it is called, contains offices for the company’s buildings business and other divisions, in addition to 52 R&D labs.
It’s interesting to see how a company in buildings systems and energy management builds and maintains its own building. Boston One has a Discovery Center where digital displays show visitors the energy performance of the building in electric, gas and water systems in a variety of zones, the utility draw and much more.
I toured through some labs for IT infrastructure, network competency for industrial applications and Schneider’s own building management and StruxureWare systems for healthcare, seeing how automation can save energy for hospitals and other facilities.
But the most interesting thing about the 230,000-square-foot Boston One campus may be how these different functions come together in a way for more systemic and holistic building management.
With a technology architecture that has such openness and integration capabilities, Schneider can drive a really strong story for customers, says Kevin McCaughey, vice president of Marketing and Security. “We’re in a good position to see how everything comes together.”
It makes sense that there are labs in this building for IT, industry and buildings, as all can be interrelated.
Tying together various systems in a building, rather than having them stand alone, creates greater efficiencies. Rather than thinking of HVAC. lighting, ventilation as all separate systems, building owners and facility managers need to think of them as one big system working together.
One group Schneider focuses on is the healthcare industry. Hospitals are particularly energy sensitive, both in using vast amounts of energy, and they are susceptible to changes in energy costs. “We talk with hospital officials about this [holistic] approach, and how we can significantly reduce the time and cost to install these systems. They work just that much better together, and energy results are much more efficient,” McCaughey says. He adds that Schneider has an “architecture” of solutions for hospitals that can help achieve reductions in 30 percent spent on energy.
Building management systems still largely remain in silos. However, energy management systems that tie these systems together with powerful software, dashboards and predictive analytics can be powerful tools for facility managers of all types of buildings, from corporate offices to factories to hospitals and much more.
Buildings that are submetered to measure energy consumption in certain areas have a much better chance of controlling and distributing their energy costs.
Not only can the Boston One campus show that multiple systems can be integrated and monitored, wellness is integrated as well. Open areas with seating for quick meetings, coffee and tea near the windows make for a naturally well-lit space. According to Barry Coflan, senior VP of the Systems Line of Schneider Electric’s Business Buildings Business, the new building uses 30 percent less floor space than the previous building and houses more employees, and yet they feel like there is more room.
All of these elements can combine in buildings today to foster greater efficiencies and senses of well-being among workers and visitors. That is becoming just as important as integrating building systems.
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