Bringing CIOs and Operations Together

Two departments working together for the first time tackle high energy costs.

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"It's not about the technology. The obstacles are social. There are two camps, each with the syndrome of ‘not invented here.' Folks have got to get away from that. We need to be open to adopting things that will work well." Rich Siedzik, director of Computer & Telecommunication Services at Bryant University, in Smithfield, R.I., discusses how information technology (IT) people and facilities operations people can cooperate to bring down the high cost of energy.

Global technology giant IBM, points out that worldwide, buildings consume 42 percent of all electricity, with up to half of that energy wasted. It says buildings are the number-one contributor of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and lose as much as half of the water that flows into them. Energy costs represent about 30 percent of the total operating costs of building operations.

Siedzik and Bryant University have teamed with IBM and Schneider Electric, the Paris, France-based global automation and electrical system supplier, to work on bringing down these costs. Even though sufficient technology exists, management and people problems can be the deciding factor for energy program success.

Discovering what the two camps have in common leads to discovering ways to work together. "We found we have a lot in common. Certainly not culture and behavior, but a lot in the fact that energy is essential for both of us," Siedzik says. "And our ROI (return on investment) is measured over the life of an asset. We both buy large assets, we both do benchmarking and analysis. Measuring and verification are things we both don't do well. We can buy the most efficient piece of equipment, but we lack going back to verify that it's operating efficiently."

He continues, "IT has sophisticated resources; so does facilities. Put the two together and that's where the story is. IT is trying to take a converged network with the building management system that is owned by facilities. From this, we are trying to transform information into insights. From the IT perspective, we have found a new outlook—manage for efficiency, not just reliability."

Bryant's journey started in 2007. The IT department built a new data center in collaboration with facilities. Awareness of energy consumption started there. "We were able to obtain a lot of visibility in the data center about where energy was consumed," says Siedzik. "Where we are today is an outgrowth of that. We had been successful at the data center, so why not try elsewhere. The data center accounts for 4 percent of the total energy usage of the campus, so if we can do the same reductions in other buildings that we saw there, we could achieve some significant savings."

The IT department took some tools it had developed for its own visibility and reporting on energy use and merged them with some reports from the facilities side to produce reports it could use for better management. IT personnel could start tracking so  could start reducing. Siedzik says they are also taking outdoor temperatures and feeding that information into tools so they can correlate heating/cooling expense to temperature. The next step is to pick two buildings on campus and go deeper. They are looking into how business intelligence can be applied to look at building operations and evaluate efficiency.

The program is going well enough that the university president has elevated the program from an IT/Facilities Departments goal to a Strategic Plan Objective of the University.

Gary Mintchell, gmintchell@automationworld.com, is Editor in Chief of Automation World.

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