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October 15, 2015

New center has 800 tools to make your building more energy efficient

  • Smart Buildings Center will be a place to learn how to save on utility costs when it opens later this month.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    DJC file photo [enlarge]
    Smart Buildings Center is in Pacific Tower.

    Wonder where that unwanted cold air is getting into your building, if occupants are leaving on lights unnecessarily or if water is being wasted? The Smart Buildings Center has tools that can tell you.

    Owners and other industry professionals may borrow those tools and others for free from the center, which will also have classrooms and conference space for promoting energy efficiency in buildings.

    A grand opening will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 27 on the first floor of the Pacific Tower in Seattle.

    The 5,000-square-foot center at 1200 12th Ave. S. is a project of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, a 20-year-old trade association for companies that provide building energy efficiency products and services in the Northwest. Among its members are McKinstry, Trane and MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions. Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects designed the center, Mortenson was the general contractor, and McKinstry provided mechanical engineering and building systems consulting and installation.

    The project was funded by $1.2 million from the state Department of Commerce. The council will pay for its day-to-day operation, with help from sponsors, said Stan Price, the council’s executive director.

    Photo from Smart Buildings Center [enlarge]
    Space was created for industry training, events and lectures.

    He said the center will encourage collaboration and new ideas from energy efficiency businesses and organizations, focusing on technologies that offer cost savings in the operation of institutional and commercial buildings, including mixed-use and multifamily.

    “Clearly there’s a lot of opportunity within those large multifamily projects as well (as other buildings),” Price said.

    The center will be a resource for utilities, energy services providers, property owners, investors, product vendors, developers, educators, innovators and policymakers. Classrooms will be used for industry training, events, lectures, energy efficiency exhibits and presentations. Conference rooms will be wired for distance learning or off-site participation.

    Price said some buildings don’t have sensors and other equipment to record energy and water use. The tools at the center will help those owners develop efficiency strategies, he said. v Available to be borrowed will be 800 building diagnostic tools, including devices that record building performance data, meters that measure a number of electrical functions and devices that discern how much air or water is flowing in a duct or pipe. Training in their use will be offered.

    For instance, there’s tools that log when lights are on or off or when or where in a building HVAC systems are running. There also are infrared cameras that display the surface temperature of what is being pointed at to pinpoint where cold air is getting into a building or heat is escaping.

    Price said promoting energy efficiency in Northwest buildings has been around since Seattle City Light began offering energy rebates to customers almost four decades ago.

    Photo from Fluke Corp. [enlarge]
    An infrared camera can be checked out from the tool library. The device can detect excessive heat, indicating possible equipment failure.

    Smart Buildings Center’s programs will include demonstrations of software applications that analyze data about the efficiency of building systems, put that information in visual forms (such as graphs) and offer ways to save energy and water.

    “That’s the cutting edge,” Price said. “That’s where things are beginning to happen in the industry. We have been doing this work for a long time, and like all industries the know-how and technology is constantly improving.”

    There are lots of opportunities to improve energy-using equipment in buildings, Price said, from LED lighting, which has become less costly and better in recent years, to more efficient heating, air-conditioning and systems that control that equipment.

    Owners are using technology to save money and energy, he said. For instance, Sheraton Seattle Hotel uses building systems performance data to predict which equipment is likely to fail and is therefore in need of fixing, he said.

    The council is at 605 First Ave. in Seattle. It did not have room for the center and the state is providing an attractive long-term lease rate for the Pacific Tower space, Price said.

    Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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