The Earth Rangers Centre is a testament to our commitment to the environment. Known for innovative technologies that target energy and water efficiency, the ERC is a building with many moving parts, sensors and sub-systems that need to be maintained and repaired.
In a previous post, we discussed how our preventative maintenance and asset management program aims to prevent these issues. Still, Murphy’s law applies, and inevitably something unexpected will happen and the facility team will scramble to repair a system.
Where the Earth Rangers Centre differs from many buildings is in how the building is set up to allow our team to deal with many issues remotely. Recently, our Facility Manager was on vacation, and he managed to time his week-long break with the start of heating season. He diligently started the ground-source heat pump system, checked that heat was being delivered throughout the building and then jumped on his flight for a well-deserved break.
Fast forward to early the next week, and two spaces were notably above temperature, with another well below. The automation system sent an email warning through our energy management information system and the internal alarm – tenants and staff – confirmed that something was not right.
The investigation and troubleshooting of this problem illustrate the innovative nature of the building. Our facility manager was basking on a beach when his phone rang. Thankfully, he picked up! He was able to securely connect to the Schneider Electric Continuum Building Automation System through his phone, review the problem with his team over Skype and troubleshoot the problem in less than an hour, from thousands of kilometers away, without ever leaving his beach chair or incurring expensive long-distance fees.
In this case, the problem turned out to be a minor programming change made while testing a new ‘shoulder season’ mode to heat and cool the building throughout autumn as efficiently as possible. Glitches happen when you are trying to be innovative!
Without a doubt, operators and facility staff need to be on site to maintain a building. But, being able to securely access many of the systems for the building remotely means that specialists, contractors and consultants can provide support from almost anywhere, saving both time and money. A connected building offers many opportunities for dealing with issues as they happen, rather than waiting for help to arrive. Buildings consume 41% of all the energy we consume, so being connected is a smart way to help reduce increased energy use when things are not running smoothly.
Green Building Facts, United States Green Building Council, July 2012 available at http://www.usgbc.org/articles/green-building-facts