If we had had a building-management system (BMS) in my house when I was a teenager, my dad wouldn’t have yelled at me because I left the lights on or took long showers. Controls could have turned off the television and shut off the water. On the other hand, when he asked me on Saturday mornings what time I came home the night before, the BMS would have shown him that my “about 11:30” was actually 2 a.m. So, be careful what you wish for, right?
On Tuesday, Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) held an open house for customers, and I tagged along. I spent the morning with engineers in Milwaukee, soaking up the possibilities of integrating controls and uses of automation software by commercial building managers. It’s fascinating stuff.
The engineers (dressed in matching orange JCI polo shirts and khakis) demonstrated the power of integrating access, security, and HVAC systems in an office setting. They showed how a facilities manager can receive e-mail alerts about the status of boilers, and then log on remotely with an iPhone to adjust the equipment. JCI is also big on using diagnostic reports for pro-active maintenance, like replacing parts before they break.
In the afternoon, I toured the company’s recently renovated headquarters in Glendale, WI. JCI has the lofty goal of achieving Platinum LEED status from the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, for four buildings on its corporate campus.
Upon arriving at the 1966 vintage HQ, I thought I was on a James Bond movie set. One building seems to hover over a lake. (Remember the water palace in Udaipur, India, from Octopussy? No? I don’t blame you. Roger Moore played Bond in that one.)
The campus is a smorgasbord of green techniques and sustainability practices, including the use of renewable energy. A short list:
- Reclaimed and re-used materials from demolition.
- Solar roofing and a solar field. All electricity generated is consumed on campus.
- Geo-thermal heat pumps. There are 272 wells drilled 300 feet deep.
- Daylight harvesting. Natural light penetrates well into interior spaces.
- Heating and cooling systems tucked under a raised floor. This provides comfort from “toes to nose,” my guide told me. The alternative–running the plenums overhead and blowing heat downward–is inefficient because heat rises.
Other techniques include a green roof, LED lighting, sun shields, cisterns, rain gardens, permeable pavers in the parking lot, and locally sourced building materials, including low-flow plumbing fixtures from Kohler, WI, and limestone from Indiana.
Company employees are such strong evangelists for energy conservation that I felt guilty for not driving my hybrid to Milwaukee. On the other hand, when I got home, I immediately turned off my computer printer and monitor. Then I took a very short shower.—Jim Carper