Big Data Making a Big Difference to Sustainability
Businesses are doing more and more to make their work environment as healthy, productive and sustainable as possible. Yet meeting an increasingly higher bar can be a challenge, especially for organizations with expansive buildings and campuses. One company in New Jersey is helping to show how combinations of sustainable approaches and modern data management technologies can make a big difference.
Power company NRG is using its new Princeton headquarters to showcase and test how integrated power systems, comprised of the traditional and alternative forms of energy that it recommends to its own customers, can work to create a more efficient office environment. Through a master control system, the building syncs power supplied from traditional utility power with power generated onsite by the rooftop and parking solar arrays, the combined heat and power unit, battery storage and traditional fuel and gas turbine generators, activating each depending on the conditions of the day.
“It’s all tied to the weather forecast,” says Structure Tone account executive Michael Farrell. “The control system has the ability to analyze the weather and pull from whichever power system will be most efficient and cost effective during peak hours.”
While comprised of standard technologies available today, a power system and microgrid like NRG’s isn’t very common in the workplace, making it a unique project for the team. “The microgrid’s control system is cutting-edge technology that continued to develop during the project,” says Farrell. “We worked very closely with NRG’s engineers, HLW, AMA and others to finalize the microgrid’s control infrastructure while maintaining the schedule. It was a big team effort.”
The project also had to contend with construction happening concurrently in many areas, in many different phases. The building itself is new, so coordination between the base building contractor and the Structure Tone team was critical—particularly with the diverse power systems. “Managing site logistics was tricky at times,” says Farrell. “While they were installing the solar array on the parking lot, for example, we had to find other places for our materials and crews. There was lots of coordination.”
NRG’s new building—recently certified at the LEED Platinum level—was completed last year. So far, the new building is proving to be the productive, efficient showcase space the company was hoping for. “NRG’s lobby has a huge display system of real-time data indicating how much power the building is using and where it comes from. It’s both educational and fascinating,” says Farrell.
Client: Boston Properties/NRG
Architect: HLW International
Engineer: AMA Consulting Engineers
Owner’s Rep: Cushman & Wakefield
STO Services: Construction Management
Photography by Jeffrey Totaro.