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Back in October Microsoft released a new whitepaper about Energy-Smart Buildings which detailed our findings from a pilot program on our campus in Redmond, WA, where we used technology to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings. It has been a few months since our initial report, so we wanted to update you on our progress. To do so, we sat down with Darrell Smith, our Sr. Operations and Energy Manager, to find out how things have changed now that the pilot is over and what our plans are for the future. You can see a short video with Darrell here.
What became very clear when talking to Darrell is that integrating powerful analytics into our existing building infrastructure has dramatically changed and improved the way we do things at Microsoft. For example, prior to the program kicking off, the standard process was for the RE&F (Real Estate and Facilities) Operations Team to commission or “tune” approximately 800 assets a year. This was done by setting up trend logs in control systems and conducting on-site building inspections to find areas for energy savings. The Smart Building solution has now provided us with the ability to leverage the continuous data flow coupled with fault detection algorithms to commission 30,000 assets in a single year – an improvement of over 3,000%. We are now able to do this because the aggregated data from the disparate systems is pulled onto a common platform at which point the algorithms turn this information into actionable data. Having the ability to now use this data across our real estate portfolio has proved extremely beneficial.
In addition there will be a significant change in how maintenance will be performed in the future. As with a majority of industry, the Microsoft RE&F maintenance program is schedule based, meaning most preventative maintenance activities occur on a set schedule. For example, air conditioning filters may be scheduled to be replaced quarterly regardless of the condition. The Energy-Smart Buildings solution will provide the ability to move to a “condition-based” maintenance program, to perform the correct maintenance at the right time. The result will optimize labor, reduce costs and save energy.
The solution has also improved our ability to reduce business risk by using automation. Equipment alarms often overwhelm Building Engineers and there is a lack of visibility into the potential risk of that alarm. For example, a piece of equipment supporting a critical area of a building may be distressed and when the equipment sends an alarm notification, this alarm may be lost in the hundreds of alarms that are received each day and potentially causing occupant disturbance, displacement, or an expensive repair Building Engineers have historically required legacy knowledge of the building systems to weed through the alarms and identify potential risks. This “human factor” could miss an early indication that a much larger issue is forming. Having the ability to automate the process and replace the “human factor” with clear and concise automated actions that prioritizes alarms based on potential business impact, significantly reduces business risk.
The pilot program and whitepaper have also received a lot of positive feedback. For example, CoreNet Global’s magazine “The Leader”, which is the world’s leading association for corporate real estate (CRE) and workplace professionals, service providers and economic developers, lead with this story on the cover of their January/February issue. The article details Microsoft’s energy-smart buildings project and effectively positions Microsoft’s RE&F group as innovative building management practitioners.
The plans for the future are clear, for the Redmond Campus we are finalizing deployment planning and will be integrating the majority of the 118 buildings into the solution this calendar year. We are also looking at a broader deployment across our global portfolio.
There is growing importance in using technology to better manage energy consumption and waste, buildings alone represent 40% of the world’s carbon emission. Within our 15 million square foot living lab, Real Estate and Facilities was able to demonstrate that for a fraction of the cost of an extensive retrofit, there is the ability to use IT to optimize building assets and reduce energy use. This is just one area where IT can make a huge impact on the environment. With the power of the cloud being able to gather and organized massive amounts of data quickly, allowing people to make more informed decisions real-time, endless new scenarios are possible.
We look forward to updating you on our progress and learnings along the way.