The Possibilities of Smart Buildings
What makes smart buildings smart? Join Structure Tone New York Project Manager and Mechanical Specialist, Doug Kruser, as he discusses the vast possibilities of smart building systems with two partners he worked with when building and implementing the award-winning smart building technology in WarnerMedia’s 1.2Msf Hudson Yards headquarters: Michael Krall, Executive Director of Smart Buildings at JPMorgan Chase, and John Hester, Owner & Chief Consultant at Hester Consulting, LLC.
Doug KruserProject Manager, Critical Systems, Structure Tone New York
Michael KrallExecutive Director of Intelligent Buildings, JPMorgan Chase
John HesterOwner & Chief Consultant, Hester Consulting, LLC
Welcome to Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group. On today’s episode Structure Tone New York Project Manager and critical systems expert, Doug Kruser, discusses the vast possibilities of smart building systems with two partners he worked with when building and implementing the award-winning smart building technology in WarnerMedia’s 1.2 million square foot headquarters, located in Hudson Yards. We began exploring smart buildings as a topic right before the pandemic, so today, you’ll hear Doug moderate two separate interviews back-to-back—the first and more recent, featuring Michael Krall, who was on the intelligent buildings consulting team during the WarnerMedia project and is currently the Executive Director of Smart Buildings at JP Morgan Chase. The second part of this episode was recorded in 2019 and dives deeper into WarnerMedia’s approach to the project with John Hester, who was Executive Director of Global Building Engineering Services for WarnerMedia’s Global Real Estate team at the time. Here’s Doug’s interview with Michael Krall.
Hello, my name is Doug Kruser from Structure Tone and we’re here today as part of a smart building podcast. I’m here with Mike Krall, who I’ve worked with the last several years on the WarnerMedia project. Mike?
Yeah. Great to be here. Thanks for having me Doug. Yeah, Mike Krall, I’ve been in the smart building industry for about 13 years. I started with Schneider Electric actually as initially just a controls programmer, but I’ve gotten to really expand my work in the smart building field, including working on that WarnerMedia project, where it really kind of came together in a fully, at-scale smart building in New York City.
So Mike, today we’re just going to have a general conversation. I have some questions that we’ll talk about from our experience at WarnerMedia and our experiences since that project, we both been on to other projects and I’ve learned a lot about these types of systems. So why don’t you start off by telling us what you feel is a smart building and when did the smart building systems really start gaining momentum in the industry?
You know, smart buildings can be a lot of different things. I think that’s one of the challenges of the industry, but really the key to what makes a smart building smart is breaking down the silos that the systems use to operate in. Your building system used to be very purpose-built. So your BMS only controlled your HVAC, your lighting control only controlled the lights in the space. And what really made smart building smart was the realization that when you can put the data from those systems onto that same ecosystem, when you can use that common backbone, that network and share that data, you really have multipurposes right. The data that is generated by one of those systems, doesn’t serve a single purpose. It can create all sorts of insights and trigger all sorts of sequences within your building. Like I said, that really was, that was enabled by the idea of really two things, the common network. So stop having your individual system integrators or your individual trades build their own network and have a common network where these things are actually able to communicate with each other. And then really the push for open protocols to get away from the proprietary approach that system manufacturers OEMs had of having a lockdown of their data to use something like BACnet or Modbus, where it’s open, it’s available, and you can really leverage it outside of that single purpose.
I think our experience at WarnerMedia, one of the things that we started with was basically, you know, it’s like the field of dreams. If it can be networked, then network it. It didn’t matter what it was. We just wanted to get the data. And then down the road, Mike and his side of the team would figure out what to do with the data. Our first mission as a contractor was to get the cables and get it onto the network. And then we could establish future packages, future applications to use that data. And that is like a never-ending process.
The key is if you, if you build that ecosystem the right way, if you build that infrastructure so all of that data is available, you’re not going out and buying a single software or a single solution, a smart building isn’t something that you can just pick off the shelf. It’s how you build all these systems, but then your field of dreams, if you build it, they will come. Once you have that data, you may not know what you want to do with it today, but if you start looking at it and collecting it and you bring other intelligence in, and this is a market that’s exploding with things like fault detection and machine learning and AI, where you can start to really comb that data. You may be able to find insights that you never would have thought of today, but if you only are programming and developing your systems for what you know today, then you’re cutting yourself off of a lot of opportunity in the future.
So over the last four or five years in doing these in several projects, Mike and I talked and we feel there’s like four stages to a smart building system. You don’t just wake up one day and say, oh, let’s do a smart building system. It’s a lot of planning. A lot of teamwork goes into that. So why don’t you tell us about some of the major stages or steps that you need to take to get this thing off the ground?
Absolutely. I mean, and to your point, the sooner you can start the better, it really starts at that initial development. You need to have somebody who’s going to, who’s going to be a champion for this. You need somebody who is going to understand that we’re going to push our trades. We’re going to push our engineers, that we’re going to push all of the integrators to act a little differently, and we’re going to push our IT to act differently, right? They’re going to have to accept these things. And that development of really, what is the concept of the smart building and really getting the buy-in from all the stakeholders to say, this is why we are doing these things is really that first step. From that development, then you can start actually doing the design. And now the design is actually it’s piggybacking on the way things always have been, you still need your BMS, right?
You still need lighting control, but you need to involve the IT group. You need to involve the network. You need to involve an integrator who understands what the one plus one equals three of this data solution is so that they can make sure that you’re not going back to your old ways with your BMS. You’re not just exposing the minimum points, but you’re making sure that you’re getting all of the available data and supplementing it with other sensors and equipment that you can have. And then once you have that design and you’ve really understood, design is not just, you know, the drawings, but it’s who owns the drawings. If I have a common network, what drawing is that patch on the wall go to who owns the cable from that to the switch or from that to the patch panel.
There’s a whole coordination effort that happens in that initial design. And then it leads to the whole construction side, which, you know as well as anybody, the challenges from the construction side of coordination, making sure that you have all of those trades and you have all of the timing planned so that you can connect to the network so that you don’t have your guy sitting at the chiller waiting to plug in. Cause he needs to communicate to his BMS and being told we’re six months away from having a clean room for our network. So you just don’t have anything. There’s a whole coordination on that construction side of how you stage all of these technologies to get online. And then that really leads into that operation, which is now you’ve got it, who’s going to own it.
Right. Some of the success we had at WarnerMedia is, we had a champion, we had the senior executive vice president of global real estate, Steve Lefkowitz as our champion. And he impressed upon his team and all of the members of the WarnerMedia team, whether it be an IT engineer, whether it be the director of operations or the director of engineering, he put the mission statement out. He said, we’re going to have the smartest building in the country or the world. And we’re all going to work together to figure this out. And he pushed that message or that mission down to the engineers to the design team and to us on the contracting side. So that was what I feel is one of the most important things to start with. And then moving down into the design phase is creating a list.
We had this multiple, multiple page list of all of the equipment, every single device that had to get wired. And that leads into the building part, the details of where does this wire go to? How does it get patched? How’s does the port get configured. There is a multitude of details that go into getting it prepared for construction. And then again, like Mike said, who’s going to run the wire. Who’s going to run the conduit for the wire to go through. If it’s in a space where the wire could get damaged or, you know, God forbid somebody unplug it. So there’s a lot of details that go into that. And we had that support right off the bat at WarnerMedia. Mike, what type of concerns will you address during the design stage that maybe I didn’t mention, or you’ve dealt a lot with the facilities management team on the operation side that you could talk about?
Yeah, I mean, you have to understand what is the purpose who’s going to operate the system? What are their drivers as you design and plan for the initial implementation? Are they going to be walking around, looking at this on iPads? Is there going to be a main operation center, how do we need to design the systems? Are they going to be more text-based in terms of their graphics? Are they going to want to act on analytics or are they more traditional, right? Do they want the floor plan? Do they want to be able to navigate more traditional floor plate green is good, red is bad type of equipment information. That really depends on who’s going to be operating and who the facility management team is going to be. The other challenge, right. Is understanding the operations from a network side, right? So that trickles all the way into, if I have a communication issue. Right now in a non-smart, in a dumb building if you will, when I can’t reach my air handler, I call whoever it is, I’ve installed that air handler, right?
Cause they own the whole soup to nuts. In the smart building, now you have to change how you approach that, right? Because the issue might not be the air handler. It might be the switch, right? It might be a port configuration, or it might be cybersecurity that’s shut something down. So you need to make sure that you have a full understanding on their side as well, of what they are taking on. You know, it’s a operational shift that’s critical to really make sure it’s clear at the beginning, because that will influence how you design these systems. The last thing you want to do is have your BMS integrator or even your intelligent building integrator, if you have a, you know, a full master system integration suite, turn over a network and have your network team say, this doesn’t match how we operate. We don’t support this equipment, or we don’t support this network structure where we can’t maintain this. You want to do it in a way that both sides kind of meet in the middle to understand they have to coordinate with each other.
It’s funny, you mentioned that because on my current project, we engaged the IT department up front. But since it was a facilities network we were building, they didn’t want anything to do with it. Now a year and a half into the project, when we’re almost done, the folks were now told that it is their network and they are now instituting new standards, which is conflicting with the design, the construction, and oh, by the way, we’re almost done. So now we’re trying to evaluate what their standards are. And the facilities team is now working with them to try and come up with a compromise on how we installed everything. One big thing that we did learn at Warner Media is since the core and shell and some of the infrastructure was done by a different contractor, they didn’t have a network.
So they were operating chillers, generators, cooling towers all individually. We took that lesson to my current project. We installed the temporary fiber network so that when we did the generator plant the chiller plant, their cooling towers and all the critical computer room units, we had that temporary network in. So right from day one, the engineers could operate the chillers. They operate the generators. They knew what was going on in their TERs and their main MDF rooms. So that was a huge lesson learned from that project. And it worked out very well in my current project.
Yeah but even with the temporary network, because I think that kind of becomes an inevitability, right? Because IT doesn’t want to turn on equipment in a room that isn’t painted yet. But in order for you to paint that room, you need to condition the space in order for the condition of the space, you need a BMS that’s connected. You’re stuck in a catch 22 there, but even though it may be temporary equipment having the design and the policy and the way that it’s configured match the temporary to the permanent can save a lot of heartache. You know, you don’t want to build it in a, anything goes wild west network and then say, great, we shook out all the bugs. We’re ready to go. And then put it on a completely different network where now you don’t know, right? The policies may be different. The routing tables might be different. Everything could be different when you make that switch, you want to mimic it as much as possible so that you can have an easy transition.
Yeah on this current project, the infrastructure team built out the main TER rooms. When we built the temporary network, we actually put in all the permanent switches. So we had all the air conditioning built where the rooms are completely a hundred percent done, the core switch, the DMZ, the service servers, all the firewalls, all that equipment was installed so that when the plant came online, everything was ready to go. We actually went and installed a permanent wall-mounted “IDF in a box” we called it, so all the access switches and all the porting, all the cables for the infrastructure was run to that. And then those were connected via a temporary network. And now we’re in the process of switching it over to a permanent fiber network and conduit. Moving on to our conversation – the stakeholders. Who are they and how do smart building systems add value?
Yeah, no. I mean, when we talk about the development and kind of creating the champion, one of the keys is for the champion to understand their organization and bring the right stakeholders to the table. You know, there’s obvious stakeholders. When you talk about the facility manager, the building engineers, the people who are operating this equipment day in, day out, right. They know this stuff, you know, as well as anybody, but because of this additional data, because of this, you know, really making it smart, widens that stakeholder audience. And so you have to do a little bit of showing them what the value to them could be, but they should also be at the table to help say, well, let’s see how we can expand on that or how we can actually change how we operate. So you think about, you know, facility management.
I want to know what the condition of the space is. I want to know when the lights are on in the space, but that information might be valuable to somebody who does space planning as well to know how often are my conference rooms being used, right? Or if you have enough granular detail, if you plan for the granular detail to say, I don’t want to just know, is there somebody in this room? I don’t know how many people are in this room. Now that could be valuable information to say, I built a conference room on this floor with the capacity for 12, and it’s always used for two or three. And it’s always booked, well, maybe you should have two conference rooms on that same footprint that are built for six, you know, that may be something that could be helpful for you the next time you do a restack or a new build, you know, who else could use that information?
You could use that to say, I want to drive my cleaning schedules better, or I want to change how I operate my janitorial or my amenity services, right? So I want to, every time a certain amount of people come into a space, I want to trigger an action to say, we probably need to clean, or we probably need to restock, or we probably need to do something else. You know, who else could value that data is really going to be dependent on how you operate your organization. But if you bring them to the table and say, what if I told you, I could give you this information? How would you want to present it? And what other things could you do with it? And then by the way, could we automate some of that stuff? Could we trigger some of those things? So it’s not just you getting a count of saying how many people went into the restroom on the third floor, but it’s actually triggering something in your work order management system to say, Hey, you’ve reached the threshold.
Now you should go and restock that paper towels in this space. I think that you want to bring the integrators and you want to talk about some of the data that’s available and you want to bring somebody to the table. Who’s going to, who has some experience doing that integration because there’s a lot of these use cases, there’s a lot of these concepts that are constantly being developed. And sometimes it’s almost a no new cost. It’s just showing some of the people that that data is available and taking it out of what was that facility management realm and saying, Hey, I’m just going to give you a little bit of look into this information, and now you can operate more efficiently and you can, you can change how you do your job
At WarnerMedia, they were always looking for new ways to expand and talking to Steve Lefkowitz, one of the funny things he told me was he was looking into automating mousetraps. May sound pretty funny, but in a 1.2 million square foot space, he was estimating about 800 mousetraps throughout 27 floors. And he said, normally I would have a full-time person walking around, checking every mousetrap on a continuous basis. But if we automated that and it could send an alarm that the trap tripped to our smart building system, then I would only have to send that person out to that one specific area. Instead of wandering around a building.
Yeah, you think about other things that they’re just like a lot of in the building that right now, you manually monitor, I’ve talked with people who’ve talked about fire extinguishers. Can we just put something on fire extinguishers? Somebody’s job is to go around and check them, check the pressure, check that they’re there. Make sure nobody’s moved them to prop open the door. What if you just got an alert every time someone had one of those moved. Now you don’t have to have somebody dedicated to doing that.
Yeah, in recent events with COVID-19, at my current project we’re now venturing off into pandemic and purification modes, putting UV lights and air handlers. So again, that’s another thing that since you’re controlling the units, you’re adding another application to what you’re already controlling. So it just adds basically unlimited ideas and things that you could do with this system. Once you get it installed.
Well, you’re basically extending stakeholder to anybody in the building too. If you really are, and it depends on the culture of the organization and the technology forward approach to this, but really that data could be extended all the way down to you, right? If you wanted and your, your building system allowed it, you might be able to see, I know exactly what the air quality in my space is. I know what the lighting is. I know what the temperature is. I know where in the building, it’s maybe more comfortable for me. As people move to open addressing, to be able to say, look, the south side of the building is always getting a little bit warmer than I’m comfortable with, but there’s a desk that’s open and it’s on the north side and it’s over here. And look, it’s actually two degrees cooler there. I’m going to book there for the afternoon, because that’s more comfortable. That stakeholder is now everybody.
So, Mike, I know we’ve talked a lot about WarnerMedia. I just want to mention that WarnerMedia’s project was selected out of over 200 global entries as the winning entry to the Coronet Global Innovators Award, which is held at MIT up in Boston. And maybe you can talk a little about what you feel might set that project apart from some of the other smart building systems that you’ve done in the past.
You know, I think that one of the biggest key reasons why that project got all the attention and it did is because it was at scale. You know, we’ve mentioned Steve and a lot of credit to Steve and to John Hester and everybody who worked on the project, you know, we committed to doing it. And we went all the way. I think there’s a lot of talk and smart buildings about pilots, proof of concepts, doing things to a certain degree, but this was a full top to bottom from the beginning of the project intended to be a connected integrated system all the way to the point that, you know, the building engineers sit in front of an operation center, sit in front of screens that they only have to go to one program and only have to go to one application and they can control everything that they need to in this space. You can change the temperature, they can change the lights, they can monitor all of the electricity and the equipment that’s in all of their gear for their broadcast studios. They can trigger sequences, they can set things back. They have great control over their power demand to be able to load shed. You know, as we have hot summer days in New York City and ConEd incentivizes lowering your energy bill, they can do that with a click of a button. And that’s because all of these things were built in and core to the beginning of the project.
One thing I found interesting with this team was they were always looking for new ideas. It wasn’t that, hey, this is the design and we’re going to finish it and build it and walk away. Throughout the course of the project, if they found an application – they found a product that would help, that one product we put in for the water management system was a year into the project. And, and we figured out how to build it and we installed it. Maybe you can talk about that?
Aquanomics, yeah. The reason that they were able to do that and the success that we had there was again, building that foundation, right? The foundation of the network, that foundation of the systems to communicate, the Aquanomics was actually driven out of Local Law 77. So, response of needing to track how the water treatment and your cooling towers is being managed for Legionella. And a company out of North Carolina came up with a way of automating and tuning this, which was typically done right off of a coupon strip at the bottom of your water treatment. And they said, we can automate this. We can capture this data live, and we can actually bring this data in and compare it against energy use and compare it against how efficient our cooling towers are. And we can further optimize what used to be just a, you know, for safety’s sake, we’re going to over-treat the water or we’re going to under, you know, under use some of the power that we would otherwise for safety’s sake, they’re just, you know, blanket just wash it as much as, uh, chemicals as you need.
They said, no, we can refine this and we can show this is not just better for the environment, but it’s better for your equipment, right? It actually improves the lifespan of your equipment by reducing scale and improving the energy efficiency of all of the equipment or all of the mechanical pieces in the space. So again, it’s just like it’s having that ecosystem, having that foundation of the networked data so that it wasn’t a restructure. It wasn’t a, oh, we have to go back to automated logic who was the BMS in the site and say, Hey, we need to restructure how are you doing this. Or we need you to create some sort of bespoke integration and expose these points over this wire, right? It all was there. It was just one more module plugged into the ecosystem that created that result for them.
Right. So we talked a lot about what we’ve done. So where do you think we’re heading with this type of system?
Yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s exciting stuff. I think that the market is really aware of the opportunities. Um, you know, you talk about how many things are connected to the network. I think that that’s going to just continue, right? We keep seeing IP pushed to the edge, IP VVS and IP all the way down to sensors in the ceiling, right? What is commonly just referred to as the internet of things is kind of everything, right? There’s, you know, you can get a refrigerator that’s connected, and your TV is connected, who knows what will be connected in the future. But if you think about all of those things as creating data, that’s valuable to somebody in this space to somebody in the building. I think that that’s part of the fun that is smart buildings, is that there’s when you think of what a smart building is, kind of everything’s in the building.
So the boundaries are kind of endless. But it’s all about figuring out what is the use case and what is the next thing that can happen with that. And the other thing that I think, you know, as we talk about IOT, and we talk about all the data that’s generated from these systems, machine learning and AI and the benefit of cloud computing, where you can start to what used to be, somebody who had to watch or choose a trend to say, Hmm, this doesn’t seem like it’s right. Let’s see if I can figure out what was wrong with this data and trying to find the needle in the haystack. Now you have machine learning algorithms that are constantly looking for ways to optimize, constantly looking for ways of identifying something that you maybe wouldn’t notice.
That’s the first indication of a maintenance issue or some other pattern that you would never find that you would never be able to trace that back. But that information, because there’s so much computing power behind it, I think it’s going to really change. And then I think that the machine learning and the technology is going to, it’s going to shift the mentality of how we operate these things. And there’s going to be technology first. I mean, I think that we’re never going to get away from the need of knowing how mechanical equipment works, right? If you’re still going to need somebody who knows how to turn a wrench to fix your air handler or to replace a belt on a fan. But you’re going to need technologists because these things are going to be technology more than they were yesterday. And it’s just going to continue that way.
Just from the one year from the WarnerMedia project to my current project, some of the changes that were instituted for the current project design was that we have what we call a building operating system, which is a cloud-based system, which is just full of different applications. And you mentioned a fault detection, diagnostics. That’s one of them, conference from scheduling, a host of energy management, chill of flow demand, there’s so many different applications that once you get the data, once you get the hardware installed, then it’s just a matter of getting the software applications. The company that is doing the applications for us at my current project is actually located in Denver. And they’re taking everything over the internet and all our applications operate in the cloud. And you don’t, you don’t have to have a company local here in New York to do the applications that you’re considering. And there’s plenty of companies out there and then everybody’s innovating and everybody’s coming up with new ways to operate buildings. It’s a very interesting and dynamic time.
Yeah. I mean, 13 years ago, I was literally doing the drag and drop of icons to build graphic interfaces and taking programming code and copying it out of one controller and pacing it to the other. And, and that was a full-time job and that’s not the way it is anymore. And that’s great as far as I’m concerned, nobody should have to do that anymore.
40 years ago, I was doing pneumatic systems at the start because I was a control engineer starting off. And BMS was like the new thing in 1983 or 82 when I started and everything was automated and it was just so exciting. And the technology kept progressing. And as the years went on, pneumatics kind of fell by the wayside and everything was automated. And now, I’m talking to network engineers and discussing how the networks can operate and discussing how VLANs are going to operate between themselves. And it’s this whole new language of acronyms for networking that, you’re right. It’s not just going to be having a facilities manager, you’re going to have to have that guy and the network guy, because to troubleshoot some problems, it could be any one of a dozen different issues. So it is very exciting to see the things progressed so, so quickly. And so dynamically.
Yeah. I liken it to cars. It used to be that with a wrench and a little bit of time, you could fix your car, right? But nobody’s doing that to a Tesla.
But you’re, you’re getting a lot of efficiencies. You’re getting a lot more options in terms of how these things work and you need to shift your mentality of how you treat the equipment, how you treat the job. I think we’re poised for a lot more opportunity. Like I said, I think that the industry, the market has a ton of new players in it. There’s a ton of use cases that we’re going to say, this is table stakes, I think in a couple of years, right. You know, even the idea of having digital lighting control wasn’t table-stakes before, but because of the technology matures so fast, it pays for itself. I think that we’re going to see more and more projects. You know, WarnerMedia project was great. It’s set the bar, but people are going to keep clearing that bar because the technology is going to keep coming. Which is awesome, which is really exciting.
I’d like to say special thanks to Mike for coming in. We started this program in 2019 and Mike’s been waiting for a year and a half to get on board with this session. And we’re happy he could make it in today. And it was a huge help. And I think this is a wonderful conversation that we had today.
Thanks for having me.
If you’d like to hear more about WarnerMedia’s ambitious goals for their smart building system, and their approach to reaching them, keep listening. Here’s Doug’s conversation with the former Executive Director of Global Building Engineering Services for WarnerMedia’s Global Real Estate team, recorded in December of 2019.
Hello, today, we’re going to be speaking about smart building systems. My name is Doug Kruser with Structure Tone. I’m here with John Hester from WarnerMedia. We spent the last two years designing and building a smart building system at the new facility that WarnerMedia has at 30 Hudson yards. John, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into this type of business?
Sure Doug, thanks for having me. I’ve been in actually, I’ve been in the building engineering facilities business for 40 years. Believe it or not. I can’t believe it even, and I’ve been with WarnerMedia for 26 years doing, you know, project management, engineering, project management and facilities work for supporting most of the Turner Broadcasting brands of CNN and the entertainment networks of TNT and TBS. So that’s basically my background for the past 26 years, and then smart building,
we kind of started to get into that as technologies improved. We like to be on the leading edge of technology. So that’s one of the reasons why we’re here.
Can you give us a little background on how you came up with the idea of going with a smart building system compared to a traditional type of building automation system?
Our upper management, when we decided to do the Hudson Yards project directed us, essentially to make sure that we didn’t move into a building that was obsolete by the time we moved in. With the design and construction lead time being several years, we didn’t want, by the time we moved in to have a building that already needed a new technology. So we engaged with smart building experts to help us plan the smart building system so that we would meet that goal.
So can you tell us some of the steps you took over the last four to five years on how we got from the conception to where we are today?
Well, the smart building consultant that we hired was very good about taking us through those steps. One of the first things of course we needed to do was do the business cases. Not only did we want to open up with a building that was technologically advanced, but also we wanted to be able to show that there was a good business case for doing that. So that was the first step. We analyzed the operational savings, both from manpower, from energy and also the construction savings by doing an integrated multi-platform system that would be cheaper to install because of the integration, via IP type connection. Then the next thing they took us through was analyzing what kind of programs, what they call business cases that we wanted to accomplish in the smart building system.
Yeah. I remember we had many workshops, a few of them where you kind of work through different applications and trying to improve employee comfort, but also save money on the energy side, right.
And ways to integrate programming wise, the different platforms that we’re going to be connected to the smart building system, things that you couldn’t do in the past when you didn’t have that kind of integration.
Had you integrated any other smart buildings in your other properties
Yes, in Atlanta we’ve actually done some multi-platform integration with the common unit user interface. We did that about, gosh, I guess it was 10 years ago. With success. It wasn’t nearly as large and sophisticated as this system, but it allowed the users to have one workstation to talk to more than one control platform like the BMS, lighting, and a couple of other things.
Can you go into a little bit more detail as far as what is the smart building system here and explain what was the traditional system compared it to what we ended up with the equipment being right on the network and all the different types of systems that went into what we’re calling the master systems integration system or the MSI system?
Sure. So, you know, traditionally buildings would have BMS that would control more or less their HVAC system, and then they’d have a lighting control system. And then they have maybe a power monitoring system. And all of those three systems would each have their own workstation and their own graphics package. And so on.
They’re all proprietary network.
Yeah, correct and their own proprietary network. And they would be connected on a point to point cabling basis from their data gathering sensors to the front end. Smart building system puts that all on its head. What we do is take those, those multiple systems, BMS lighting, power monitoring.
We’ve also integrated the generator control system. We’ve integrated independently, the UPS systems and the crack unit control systems metering. All of those are now connected via IP, via internet to a common front end that talks to all of those systems, shares the data with those systems as necessary to accomplish these business cases we discussed earlier, and it uses a single front end, a single graphic system so that the person doesn’t have to switch workstations, doesn’t have to switch programs. They’re able to seamlessly talk to these different systems and they can integrate the data from these systems on a single stream. So you can, if necessary, you can look at the lighting and power monitoring data on the same screen as though it’s one platform.
Now, how did the integration of these different technologies affect the design and construction?
In a lot of ways. The network design and IP access was critical to making the control platforms available for integration. So we had to have really early and close communication with the, uh, the technology providers, cyber security was far more important than I realized at the beginning. Our IT team was very concerned, rightfully so, with protecting the security of our network, because all these systems were now talking to each other and they all represented potential entry points for someone that might want to hack into the system.
So in older systems, we never had to worry about that because everybody had their own network, proprietary. You couldn’t change it. Now we’re riding on the WarnerMedia backbone and their fiber. So it opens up a whole different caveat of concerns and risks, making sure that people can’t access your systems, shut down your building. So there was a lot of meetings and testing to the cyber security to make sure every piece of equipment, every system didn’t have the ability to be hacked in, or be able to allow people access where they shouldn’t, uh, shouldn’t be able to touch.
That’s right, and another thing that was different is that the designers and installers had to think of internet communications, not running cable from platform or data panel to data panel. It was all make sure there’s an IP drop there and the system would communicate via the network. And that took some doing at the beginning, especially in the shell and core part of the project, because the shell and core engineer didn’t recognize what we were trying to do. And we had to kind of make them understand that mindset.
I know your IT folks were critical to getting this done. I’m sure that at the beginning of the concept of this design, that they didn’t realize the amount of involvement they were required, but they seemed to be quite involved over the last two years and really were a big help in getting everything to work. There were firewalls that had to be reprogrammed and access granted to all these different systems and equipment.
That’s correct. Yes.
Uh, before we got started, what were some of your major concerns?
Well, this is something new so getting the designers and contractors to understand our goal and to recognize what we were trying to do, what was a challenge early. And then as we went through the design, you know, the programming, uh, making sure that the systems could talk to each other as we envisioned many of the systems had never tried to talk to each other before everybody seems to have their network protocols and some proprietary that make it, you know, translator, or as a friend of mine calls it a secret decoding ring to make sure they can talk to each other. So, that was definitely a concern in the early stages.
After two years of learning what to build, how to build it and finally getting to program it, WarnerMedia was awarded the Cornet Global Innovators Award through, I believe it’s through MIT. Tell us a little about that award.
Well, that was a real honor and they interviewed all the potential winners, at MIT. We had to do a presentation and we didn’t know who the winner was until the day they announced it. Again, it was a real honor and it was a long process and I’m really pleased that we won.
And it was based upon the type of platform and how we went about integrating everything. I think it was 15, 15 total.
I think it was over 15. I think what helped us win. It was just the size and comprehensiveness of the other integration, which I think makes this system stand out. You know, like you said, over 15 disparate systems that share data across a common front end, um, is just, hasn’t been done to the, to the scale that we did it in this project.
Yeah. It was a real, a large team effort and not only the designers, the engineers, our contractors and all the folks at WarnerMedia, but the facilities team was critical in helping develop the end use and how it was going to look and how it was going to work. And what do you think they feel about the system at this point now that it’s pretty much complete?
Well, you know, ultimately the system is for them. So we had to make sure we were designing this and installing what would help them do their job better. We’ve gotten the feedback that they are happy with it. They had a lot of input on it. I think it’s going to evolve somewhat as we are in the building for a period of time, they’ll probably learn more ways to improve upon it and make it work better for them but the feedback has been very, very positive at this point.
Getting back to the technology, where do you think this technology sets it apart from older traditional systems that are still being installed in the city
Well, it integrates more different control systems. And even more importantly, it handles more data simultaneously and still provides for a well-designed user interface, a common interface that doesn’t force people to switch from one platform or one computer or one program to another because of how fast it can process data. And the fact that we’re talking to different systems. It can more quickly identify alert and dispatch personnel to address any anomalies that, that the system of detects
Not only does it alert you, but there’s also a fault detection diagnostic tool that’s a preventative or predictive type of software tool that will study and monitor how each piece of equipment reacts and over time it will tell you, oh, by the way, your AC unit is drawing more amperage than it has over the last five years. You’d better go check it out. Or a pump may have a bad bearing. It’s trying to be more predictive so that it alerts the maintenance facilities, people to take care of it or check it out before it breaks.
Right. It’s great at analyzing trends. Something that that systems in the past couldn’t do.
Was this system do you feel more expensive than the traditional systems that are being installed?
It looked like it at first, when you just look at the hardware, but then when you add in the fact that you’re saving a lot of cabling costs and a lot of programming costs, especially for graphics, it ends up not being more expensive because you’re not having to buy multiple graphics packages.
You’re not having to run a cable to the different platforms. It doesn’t cost as much or maybe cost the same. It’s very comparable construction pricing.
Now that the building is fully occupied and all the different divisions of WarnerMedia are here, how is the perception from the employee standpoint, do you see any increased comfort and increased productivity? What’s the next step? What does this system hold for the future?
Well, we are getting positive feedback and we do notice increased comfort, and we’re actually working to add even more platforms to the system. We’re testing now, an app that will allow people to themselves pick their own temperature that they liked and request, you know, a warmer or colder space. So they don’t have to make the phone call to the facilities. We are, um, we’re finalizing the programming for the automatic dispatch using our work or ticketing system.
And they’re also examining systems that would help the janitorial, you know, alert the janitors when you’re out of paper towels or after, you know, how many times that breastfeeding was being used. So they know when to clean it, rather than just cleaning it on a schedule. And we’re looking at the WELL building system to analyze more comprehensively the quality of the air. So, so there’s a lot of opportunities to improve, or I shouldn’t say improve, but to add to what we have already.
Yeah. I think this type of platform allows you to, really sky’s limit on any new application that comes out in the future. It’s easy to integrate it in, and since the data is all on the network, and everything is back net IP based, the data is just a matter of determining what you need to make the new application work. So I think you’re set up for success, for many years to come. So at the end of the day, is WarnerMedia happy with the system?
Oh yeah. I think we are. I mean, obviously winning the award kind of validates what we’ve done from a technology standpoint, we’re really, really pleased what we’ve accomplished.
All right, John, we’d like to thank you. It’s been a great two years working with you on this project, I wish you well on your up-and-coming retirement, the smart building system trend that you’ve set here in New York, all future projects will be compared to because you guys set the bar for what smart buildings should be and is in New York City and probably across the country, because this is probably one of the largest facilities of its kind being a million and a half square feet in one building. And it was a pleasure again, to work with you and your team.
Thank you, Doug. Well, it was a pleasure working with Structure Tone. You guys did a great job. It’s great to even go out on a project like this. So thanks again.
For those of you that are listening to our podcast today or in the future, any interest in learning more about smart building systems, please call the Structure Tone office in New York and I’d be most happy to talk to you and give you some advice on some steps you need to take. That’s all we have for today, I appreciate you listening and goodluck in your smart building systems.
Thanks for listening to Building Conversations for more episodes like this, you can find our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or the Structure Tone website.