Southwest of Capitol Hill, and within an easy walk to the Jefferson Memorial, is a new seven-building, mixed-use urban center called Waterfront Station, located on 1100 and 1101 4th Street SW.

In an effort to improve tenant comfort, space-conditioning operations, and energy efficiency management of two eight-story office buildings in the complex — Waterfront East (340,000 sq ft) and Waterfront West (295,000 sq ft) — BuildingIQ was invited to join a collaborative process with the owners, USAA Real Estate company, Cushman & Wakefield property management, and the office tenant, the District of Columbia Government.

BuildingIQ aims to help building owners and operators lower energy use, increase building operations efficiency, and tenant comfort.

Given the building design, little improvement was expected in terms of energy savings through HVAC control by BuildingIQ, but it was felt that tenant comfort issues could be addressed more fully by employing BuildingIQ’s 5i Platform. Comfort remains the overriding factor in tenant satisfaction and retention.

The central challenge revolves around tenant comfort when heating and cooling conflict. Air cooled for one part of a floor, for example, can register as overly cool when it flows past thermostats in another part of the floor, initiating heating, and vice versa.

The current challenge, as explained by Estatio Gutierrez, Ph.D., optimization engineer for BuildingIQ, is that the VAV setpoints are fighting the setpoints at the AHU level. Comfort issues and complaints are being reported when the air is too warm, and energy leaks and complaints when the air is too cold and must be heated up. The recommended course of action is to transition to greater zone control.

BuildingIQ took control of the AHU system of Waterfront East and West in March 2016. According to the company, thus far, energy savings have been far greater than expected for such a new, high-performance building. The East building achieved roughly 8.9% per month energy savings over the first nine months, and the West building achieved roughly 4.2% per month.

Working with the facilities team at the Waterfront Municipal Center, BuildingIQ’s team is setting up a test run for greater zone control of a single floor in Waterfront West. The test floor will be divided into six zones, instead of two, and direct control will be done by synchronizing AHU setpoints and VAV setpoints.

The goal will be to evaluate not only energy savings but also tenant satisfaction. BuildingIQ, the owners, and the facilities team are working on a platform to educate the tenants and get them actively involved in the process.

Optimism about the project stems from the preparations now underway, and the fact that BuildingIQ’s 5i Platform is tailor-made for this kind of facilities control. The thought is that if this project goes smoothly from the tenants’ point of view as well as operational ease, it will be expanded to other floors in the West building, and from there, perhaps to the East building. Any energy savings achieved from direct control will be on top of those already achieved under the current configuration.