HARC HQ: A Case Study on Technology and Energy Use



By Carlos Gamarra, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, HARC

Enabling Internet of Things (IOT)-based Operation Strategies at HARC Headquarters

The 2050 environmental goals set by different states and countries are counting on Net-Zero (NZ) buildings to become the official standard in energy use and consumption. The development of an internal energy audit in 2018 helped HARC reduce its energy consumption by 20% in 2019.

Those energy savings played a pivotal role in being certified as the first Net Zero office building in Texas (one out of the 55 in the US) in 2020. Once reached that goal, further optimization of the building operations requires additional data collection, more complex analysis techniques and control capabilities.

At HARC, our team of researchers envisions the building as a living lab and a case study to showcase how to increase energy conservation and decrease the environmental emissions related with commercial buildings.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to – in a most basic definition – the connection of daily usage devices to the Internet with the goal of collecting and analyzing data to learn about and ultimately optimize the way a building is used and operated.

The new IoT approach provided by this project will help consolidate new and existing data that will enable the deployment of artificial intelligence-based algorithms to further improve HARC’s building operations. This new approach will benefit from the data gathered by the Building Automation System (BAS) that HARC currently employs, while consolidating data both from new and existing meters and sensors, into a new database.

Some of the variables to be measured and tracked include real-time occupancy, indoor air quality, environmental emissions, and energy and water consumption. The validation of indirect monitoring strategies (i.e. real-time occupancy through power demand in plug loads or lighting) will avoid the installation of multiple sensors in separate spaces.

Project partners will help re-assess the current data collection strategies from the building’s BACnet network and the existing sensors, and devices. BACnet provides mechanisms for computerized building automation devices to share information about a facility’s operations such as heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning control (HVAC), lighting control, access control, and fire detection systems and their associated equipment.

The data collected will expedite the identification of AI-based operational strategies by the end of 2021 and allow its deployment during 2022. This project will also culminate in a case study to be used as a reference for other organizations to adopt this strategy for their building’s energy operations and management.

Support for these projects was provided by a grant from the Houston Endowment.

Houston Endowment is a private philanthropic institution that works across the community for the benefit of the people of greater Houston.

With assets of over $1.8 billion, the foundation provides approximately $70 million in funding each year in order to enhance civic assets, strengthen systems that support residents, promote post-secondary success, and build a stronger region. Established by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937, Houston Endowment has a rich legacy of addressing some of greater Houston’s most compelling needs. Today the foundation continues efforts to create a vibrant community where all have the opportunity to thrive.