CMU set to save millions in energy costs annually

CFA-CMU_800

Power Source

By Daniel Moore

Carnegie Mellon University announced a plan today to shave energy costs by $2 million annually across more than three dozen buildings on its Oakland campus by improving efficiency with a cloud-based analytics system.

In a partnership with IBM Corp., the university hopes to more quickly identify and correct inefficiencies in its energy use. CMU expects to save about 10 percent annually on utility bills.

The plan involves testing IBM cloud software, called SoftLayer, that captures the millions of points of operational data sent daily by mechanical applications such as elevators, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and water, said Donald Coffelt, the school’s associate vice president and director of Facilities Management Services.

Modern buildings, which run on computer systems, traditionally send real-time performance updates to human operators.

“You can’t have human operators trying to understand what all that information means,” Mr. Coffelt said. “They’re making decisions based on a fairly finite understanding of what they’re seeing.”

Enter the New York-based technology and consulting firm’s SoftLayer technology, which collates and synthesizes the data points and searches for functional anomalies that would normally go unnoticed, such as a room in which both heating and cooling systems are running.

“The occupants aren’t going to call and complain because the room feels fine,” Mr. Coffelt said.

The software will be tested in heating and cooling systems in nine academic and administrative buildings, including the student union. Based on feedback expected in September, Mr. Coffelt said, the software pilot will be extended to lighting and other utilities.

The goal is to have at least 36 buildings’ data on the cloud in three years.

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