Building Controls and Greener Facilities

June 5, 2006
Building automation systems and controls play a significant role in sustainability

Few would disagree that greener facilities are smarter facilities. With construction costs nearing parity with conventional techniques, and life-cycle costs well under those of conventional construction, green buildings represent a smart choice. Improved energy savings, occupant productivity, occupant retention, and other rewards sweeten the pot. One need not wander far in greener pastures before realizing the significant role played by controls and building automation systems.

A green facility need not necessarily be certified as such. Nevertheless, the systems that exist for designating the sustainability of buildings can serve as useful gauges for all building owners who wish to reap the rewards of going green. The LEED Green Building Rating System®, developed by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), specifies five areas of emphasis. Two of these areas are heavily influenced by controls, and these two sections also hold more potential for LEED credits than the other sections.

Energy and Atmosphere
The fundamental purpose here is to ensure efficient energy usage. Prerequisites include fundamental commissioning and minimal performance based on ASHRAE Standard 90.1. Controls professionals are well-suited to both tasks.

Third-party controls vendors, who are also qualified commissioning agents, are in the best position to evaluate the design, installation, and function of systems responsible for the majority of energy usage. While fundamental commissioning is required, further commissioning garners another valuable LEED credit.

Your controls professional can also assist in the superseding of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. The extent to which the standard is exceeded determines the number of LEED credits awarded (up to 10).

Measurement and verification also enable a controls-related credit in this section. Specific end-use monitoring leading to performance verification is an often-used option for achieving this credit. More than just monitoring, the verification requires adherence to the Intl. Performance and Measurement Verification Protocol. Specific end-use monitoring will examine the controls and operation of several standard lighting and HVAC systems. Once more, control products and those who install and service them are critical to achieving this credit.

Indoor Environmental Quality
Another ASHRAE standard (62) is used as a prerequisite here. Additional credits are possible for CO2 monitoring, ventilation effectiveness, thermal comfort, and controllability of systems. Controls manufacturers have the products and the representatives to ensure these credits are achieved.

With regard to the controllability of systems, lighting, temperature, and ventilation controls become paramount. These controls for green buildings reflect an evolution that is interesting to note. In the ancient days of commercial and institutional facilities, the building envelope, as a whole, drove decisions regarding lighting, temperature, and ventilation. In more modern times, “zoning” became a key word - grouping areas of like use for efficiency’s sake.

Green buildings take these comfort factors to the next level, demanding more personal control of systems. Thus, individuals may have access to underfloor-air-distribution mechanisms, for example. Such measures not only lead to greater comfort and more productivity, they also tend to use energy more efficiently and create an improved indoor air quality.

Therefore, in matters related to indoor environmental quality, as well as energy usage overall, controls professionals have the products, know the standards, and possess the skills to help you go green.

Ben H. Dorsey III is vice president of communications at New Paris, IN-based KMC Controls Inc. (

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