West Coast utility provider occupies smart and efficient building

October 25, 2012

With electricity usage and energy efficient building technology a hot topic of conversation in the commercial real estate sector, it is perhaps unsurprising that the headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commision (SFPUC) can be found in a state-of-the-art office block.

According to a recent article in ComputerWorld, energy efficient buildings are not just a pretty face, they are smart as well. The 13-story office tower that houses the SFPUC was opened in June 2012 and is packed with the latest efficient building systems, including renewable energy sources that provide up to 7 percent of the power needs with the goal of the commission being "to save ratepayers money and to educate them about energy efficiency."

The building hums with technology, using it to manage the control systems that are an essential part of making the office work. It pulls information from a constantly evolving database of energy usage and applies analytical thinking to optimize the operations of the building and keep energy consumption to a minimum, with data showing that it uses 32 percent less energy than other commercial buildings with conventional design specifications.

To put it simply, this building is smart. It uses technology that may seem to be beyond the reach of older constructions but, according to industry analysts, this is not the case. The SFPUC building may be a 21st century construction, but aging commercial real estate can take advantage of the IT that it uses and proceed with energy efficient retrofits that can save up to 10 percent of electricity usage just by optimizing the existing systems.

"There's a huge opportunity for building owners to do the sorts of data mining that other industries have done for years," said Jim Sinopoli, managing principal at Smart Buildings LLC, a design, engineering and consulting firm. "Using analytics, you can predict when there's going to be a failure and when to do preventative maintenance."

The drive toward smart commercial real estate isn't limited to the West Coast. Construction firms across the country are taking more notice of the green materials at their disposal and developing real estate accordingly. Government-sponsored consortiums such as the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) are looking to transform commercial properties into power efficient systems and the work done by the building industry nationwide is likely to form part of an innovative retrofit model that can be applied throughout the U.S.