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Green Light to Green Investments: DES Panel at AIA Build Pittsburgh

How can you be assured of intended outcomes when embarking on green building investments?
May 10, 2022

How can you be assured of accuracy and intended outcomes when embarking on green building investments? That was the topic of a lively panel featuring Dagostino Electronic Services (DES) at AIA Build Pittsburgh’s annual continuing education conference.

As an Allied Member of AIA Pittsburgh, DES was invited to organize a panel focused on technology in building design. Trudy Van Kirk, architect-liaison of DES, reached out to Craig Stevenson, founder of AUROS Group, a building data management system, who in turn reached out to Donny Walker, partner at MEP firm Newcomb & Boyd, and to Stefani Danes, architect, and adjunct professor at CMU.

With a panel collective consisting of software development, building engineering, technology integration, and architecture theory, the ground was fertile for discussion.  

The presentation kicked off with an acknowledgement of the difficulty in transforming owner’s intentions into high-performing outcomes. Today’s architects face tight deadlines, increasing cost and complexity of operations, and limited resources. Oftentimes, the building that is physically constructed does not have the operational efficiencies and sustainable goals intended at the outset.

The key to high-performing buildings? Data! 

That was the theme running throughout the duration of the presentation. At the concept phase, the architect must gather an integrated team that includes a technology strategist. In turn, he or she must be guided by the OPR – the Owner’s Project Requirements – which is a set of documentation that forms the basis from which all design, construction, and operation decisions are made. Integral to the success of that OPR is the data strategy for the building systems – which, as the intersection between building and data science, is a methodology to both forecast and control building operations.

An example of this is a lighting system. At the concept phase, a data model can forecast energy consumption based on the type of lighting and expected daily usage. More importantly, though, by designing the lighting system with an underlying data system, then, once the building has been constructed, the building owners and operators can control the system and actualize the intended results. They can analyze the lighting’s daily usage, pinpoint where energy consumption differs with the forecast, and make targeted adjustments. 

During the discussion, Craig pointed out that while it may appear quite straightforward to spec a data layer, the crucial piece is to spec open-source systems. A networked elevator, for example, that includes analytics, will not contribute to a high-performing building if those analytics are not open-source. The power of data is when it can be freely integrated into customized and democratized platforms and reports.

Donny took time to explain Division 25 – Integrated Automation specifications which provide the standards and guidelines surrounding building automation with data communications. The planning and design of Division 25 systems, which include the data layer that connects to all other building systems, will affect a myriad of applications, including security, audiovisual, voice and Wi-Fi.

Trudy highlighted the benefits of an early and collaborative partnership between the architect and the technology solution provider. In many situations, the integrator can advise the architect on the practical constraints of a conceptual technology design. Additionally, through sharing the OPR with the integrator at the outset, together they can plan for a converged network that aggregates data from disparate building systems into an integrated dashboard.    

The presentation was dynamic with several live poll questions to the audience. Did you know that only 19% of architects include data management in their green designs?! And that technology consultants ranked fourth in a listing of green building champions, trailing behind the building owner and MEP? 

The live data illustrated the urgency of creating collaborative, integrated teams who share a similar data-driven approach to green investments. 

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