Control & Automation
Old textile mill in Montreal becomes energy efficiency showcase
By Louis-Nicolas Hamer
January 31, 2015 - The building at 7262 Rue Marconi in Montreal is a showcase for state-of-the-art building automation, and home to Schneider Electric’s R&D operations in Canada. The renovation was a project by Groupe Montoni, which aimed to convert the two-storey mill into a three-storey office building. The building automation project started in January 2014 and was completed in August 2014.
By Louis-Nicolas Hamer
Wireless technology was key
One of the keys to the project is the use of wireless technologies. The space consists of 30 zones, each with an SE8000 wireless room controller to allow users to manage HVAC settings. Equipped with occupancy sensors, these controllers ensure that temperatures are optimally maintained, activating to appropriate setpoints based on whether the zone is occupied. The SE8000 units communicate wirelessly via ZigBee to the Multi-purpose Manager (MPM-VA) controllers that control the variable air volume units for each zone.
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All the controllers are linked in a wireless, self-repairing mesh network using Schneider’s MPM gateways that, in turn, are integrated with Schneider’s Building Expert software to provide web-based monitoring and control of all energy-related activities and equipment across the third floor, spanning over 30 metres.
In addition, EnOcean energy harvesting wireless devices are used to control lighting, and are linked to the MPMs and user-defined schedules so that lighting is adjusted automatically.
But the wireless network only scratches the surface of the energy management technologies in use in this old, yet brand new, office facility. Some additional features include:
Instead of traditional neon panels, the offices feature LED light panels from Lucibel. Using 10x less energy than neon, the LED lights can be dimmed to varying degrees, and all lighting is controlled wirelessly through a single MPM unit.
The periphery of the building features large windows to maximize daylight, and the offices take advantage of this by employing EnOcean daylight harvesting sensors that read the level of sunlight and adjust the LED lights as needed.
ASHRAE standards require commercial buildings to provide adequate ventilation to ensure there is no unsafe build-up of CO2 in the air. Traditionally, this requirement has been met by providing a constant flow of air from the outside, but this wastes energy by running fans and air-conditioning continuously. The renovated office space in Montreal uses a more-efficient approach: Veris CO2 sensors were installed to monitor the CO2 levels in the offices and activate the appropriate ventilation systems only when needed.
Integrated power metering
Four Schneider Electric power meters measure all power loads in the office, including main power, HVAC and lighting. The meters are linked to the rest of the network via one of the MPM-UN units, so the power systems can be monitored in integrated fashion along with the other systems using the StruxureWare Building Expert application. By integrating power metering, there is a greater ability to understand the energy use, recognize problems earlier and to reduce maintenance costs.
Testing it here first
One of the important functions of the R&D team in Montreal is to test new product and software releases in a real-world building environment. So, before products are released to the general public, they are installed and tested at 7262 Rue Marconi. This helps the team find and fix potential software bugs before they go out to the customers.
The office space also includes two isolation chambers in the hardware lab for special testing. These chambers are thermally isolated from the rest of the office space, with their own HVAC controls and environmental systems, allowing researchers to test products under various temperature and humidity conditions.
Challenges of system design
One of the biggest challenges was to design a complete building automation system for controlling and monitoring HVAC, lighting and metering. By using wireless EnOcean and ZigBee technologies, the installers were able to control the entire space by minimizing wiring and installation time. Educating the installers on these new technologies was an execution challenge: in some cases, the work crews dispatched had never been exposed to LED lighting and wireless technology.
Solid ROI expected
While it’s too early to have specific data on energy use and savings, Schneider Electric is confident the renovation will pay dividends for a long time to come
“We’ve pushed the boundaries of energy control and management, and wireless technology. In many ways, our offices are better than new. The impact on our people has already been felt; the increase in productivity alone has already given us a solid ROI,” said Frederick Morency, vice-president, Small Building Systems, Schneider Electric.
Louis-Nicolas Hamer is director of Global Solutions for Schneider Electric.