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A Test Bed for Smart Buildings

MIT Technology Review magazine outlines the efforts of Schneider Electric, a company that makes software and hardware for energy-efficient buildings, to test its own products in the new headquarters campus near La Défense, the Parisian business district.

Known as “Le Hive,” the collection of interconnected buildings is a test bed for advanced sensor, measurement, analysis, and control technologies that promise to reduce the electricity bill for Schneider while proving to potential customers how powerful the technologies are.

Le Hive opened at the end of 2008, and it now holds more than 1,700 employees. There are no special energy-efficiency tricks embedded in the design of the building’”it is typical of most new construction in Europe. The company wanted to use building systems to reduce energy consumption and not depend on expensive construction techniques that most building owners couldn’t afford.

The Schneider system, dubbed EcoStruxure, started by collecting and analyzing data on the building’s energy consumption patterns. Then a series of software and hardware components were installed, all of which can be controlled from a single interface such as a laptop or smart phone. In other words, the heating system, the air-conditioning system, the lighting management system, the security system, the fire control system, the surveillance system, the IT system, and the ventilation system (all of which used to be discrete systems with separate controls and dedicated technicians and managers) are all integrated into a single comprehensive building management system with a single point of control.

Next, RFID cards were distributed to every employee. Each card alerts a sensor system to where the employee is and adjusts the lighting and HVAC systems accordingly. A worker leaves his office for lunch, for instance, and the lights and air-conditioner in that office turn off immediately. He returns and the comfort settings he has requested kick right in. Other sensors turn the artificial lighting up or down in accordance with the available sunlight. Similarly, an automated window shading system adjusts itself in calibration with the cooling, heating, and lighting needs. If the blinds are open and sunlight is streaming in, then the lighting system dims by just the right amount to maintain a consistent environment.

More info

A Test Bed for Smart Buildings – Technology Review