Joint IT-Facilities Effort Cuts Energy Expenses

By Rich Siedzik and Art Gloster Print this article Print

Saving money on power is good for the bottom line—and good for the planet.

According to various studies, buildings consume about 42 percent of all electricity worldwide—and up to 50 percent of that is wasted on inefficient processes. As organizations continue to look for new ways to reduce operating costs, limiting that consumption is becoming increasingly important. And, as more attention and resources are focused on achieving this goal, the roles of many organizations’ IT and facility management teams need to become more interconnected.

At Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., we began initiating this convergence when we upgraded our IT department’s data center to meet the increased technology demand created by our students and faculty. When we decided to install a new system in 2007, we had no idea that it would lead to a complete transformation in the way our entire university looked at, managed and implemented our energy policies.

Before the upgrade, our data center was running on a set of outdated servers that were not running as efficiently as we had designed them to do. We changed them out and installed an IBM Scalable Modular Data Center Solution, which enabled us to view the energy consumption of all the IT equipment and make more informed decisions about how to manage our assets.

The results were clear: We cut the number of physical servers almost in half, enabling our staff to turn nearly 50 percent of our floor space back into classrooms; we decreased our capital expenditures by 21 percent; and, perhaps most important, we reduced our operational expenses by 30 percent, primarily due to decreased energy consumption.

In fact, the savings we realized as a result of the smarter energy management initiative were so convincing that we decided to expand this technology to every building on our campus.

Collaboration Is Key

Working with new facilities on campus to implement asset management tools created a number of challenges. With the data center, we were working only with other members of the IT staff, but expanding to other buildings required us to integrate with other departments to get the job done.

That meant that we had to communicate effectively with other internal groups, such as the facilities management department, to explain—clearly and concisely—how the new system worked and how it should be implemented. It also meant that we had to really listen to the facilities management team as they told us their concerns about how the new system might affect building maintenance.

This was the most important undertaking of the whole project because the facilities management team is responsible for maintaining the integrity of each building and making sure that all systems are running properly.

Our IT staff’s software and analytics allowed us to get a better idea about where the problem areas were, but the facility staff was able to use our information and analytics to take actions that would make a real difference. Collaborating with them allowed both of our teams to produce better and more efficient results than either of us could have achieved alone.

Using smarter asset management, the facilities staff discovered that boilers were not always recalibrated properly after building construction. Left unchecked, the increased energy consumption would have significantly increased the university’s electric bill. However, with the new IBM analytics software, the staff was able to recalibrate each boiler to reduce consumption.

The facilities staff also used the information to reschedule nonessential tasks—such as using chillers to make ice for cooling—to off-peak hours when the organization is charged less per kilowatt used. We’re now able to clearly see where the high-consumption areas are. Also, when we change out equipment, we can see what it will cost, how much energy we can save and what the impact will be on our carbon emissions.

Moving forward, as asset management software continues to evolve, the roles of the IT and facilities management departments will become even more interconnected. Preparing for this converging role is the only way to succeed.

You can’t wait until cap-and-trade programs come into play to get ready. You have to get ready now and begin to understand what your carbon footprint is if you hope to reduce it.

Working with a technology partner that has experience across both facilities and IT helped us bridge this convergence. As a result, our IT organization was able to expand what we had done with our data center to help our facilities team save energy throughout our campus.

That strong partnership between our IT and facilities organizations has enabled us to be both innovative and cost-effective.

Rich Siedzik is director of Computer and Telecommunication Services, and Art Gloster is vice president of Information Systems at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

This article was originally published on 2011-06-14
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.