Benefits of Adding Intelligence (Technology) to Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings

Technological advances have created the most amazing applications in the construction industry. The idea that a building can be classified Zero Net Energy, where the energy amount that is produced is the amount used within that same year, has become a reality for several groundbreaking projects in the US.

Adding intelligence and technology to a building’s design and structure is achieving sustainable and eco-friendly structures in the 21st century. The Bullitt Center in Seattle is a prime example of this advanced use of technology in new construction.

The building has a central “brain” – a Building Management System or BMS – which controls the heating and cooling systems, lighting, and metabolic systems. It also has a state of the art waste management system, using foam instead of water, and it is the tallest building to implement a composting system.

A constructed wetland in the middle of the building processes waste water, and is modeled on what occurs in nature. Layers of porous soils and plants allow the waste water to trickle through, filtering it, and eventually it evaporates out. Rainwater is collected and channeled into a large cistern, going through several layers of filtering to be reused once again. Up to 500 gallons can be cleaned in one day.

The heating and cooling system was developed from geothermal wells 400 feet underground, utilizing the geothermal heat of the planet itself. A ‘hydronic system’ uses water and glycol, creating ‘liquid-heat’ that is much more efficient than a traditional electric-run system. A prominent and inviting staircase discourages the use of the elevator, therefore saving energy.

The elevator is also a state of the art machine. It converts the elevator’s movement into electricity that can be used in another part of the building.

Solar panels are spread across the top of the building to take advantage of the summer sun. Specially made windows and shading help to keep the building a comfortable temperature year-round. Blinds and ventilators are automatically controlled by the BMS to provide maximum energy-saving benefits.

The incredible building features of the Bullitt Center demonstrate that Net Zero Energy buildings are now a possible and viable design for a sustainable construction industry. With technological innovation, imagination, and drawing ideas (and energy) from nature, the hope is that many more buildings will soon contain energy-efficient and eco-friendly characteristics to lessen the carbon footprint across the globe.

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