The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has entered into a contract with IBM, the company announced Monday, May 21, to roll out smart building technology via a cloud platform for 50 federal government buildings that have been identified as high consumers of energy.

The effort that is expected to save $15 million annually in energy costs.

The GSA is responsible for overseeing the management and leasing of 9,600 federal buildings across the country, 1,500 of which are GSA-owned facilities — equal to 182 million square feet of space. An executive order from President Barack Obama has ordered a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption in government buildings by 2015.

So to meet that requirement, the GSA soon will select 50 of its highest-consuming energy buildings to be integrated into the smart technology system. The technology will integrate energy management systems to optimize efficiency, said Adam Elkington, a GSA spokesman.

“Within each of these systems, there are various building management systems — whether it’s HVAC, security systems, elevators, lighting — where you can control them centrally,” Elkington said. “But historically, these systems haven’t integrated together so that you can communicate on one system.”

Under the contract terms, IBM will create a software program integrating the different building management systems and then aggregate the data in a centralized location on a cloud platform, which the data will stream into in real time. The centralized data repository will help the GSA make adjustments to energy consumption within the individual buildings.

The GSA will make an upfront $8 million investment to carry out the one-year contract with IBM. Most of that funding will go to the costs pertaining to program development. If the contract is extended to include an additional 50 buildings, the GSA will only be responsible for paying an additional $3.5 million more, Elkington said. It has not been determined yet when the one-year contract will officially begin, but the goal is to integrate 50 buildings within a one-year time frame.

IBM and the GSA are still determining which 50 buildings will be selected. However, they plan to choose from a list that the U.S. Department of Energy compiled of nearly 200 federal government-owned facilities across the U.S. with the highest energy consumption. Based on that list, IBM and GSA will determine which buildings will be the lowest cost to retrofit, will have the highest impact and can be fastest to go online.

The “covered facilities,” as they are called in the report, are part of more than 500 building assets that were identified as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 legislation as “being the most energy intensive and responsible for 75 percent of total portfolio energy use.”

Once completed, the energy-use analytics will be more accessible than it has been in the past. According to IBM, through dashboards the tenants of the selected buildings will be able to view real-time metrics on energy savings and other efficiency recommendations.

“Using analytics, we can make better decisions about how to best visualize and optimize these systems,”   said IBM Vice President of Industry Solutions Dave Bartlett, in a statement. “The data exists — it’s a matter of understanding and responding to what the data is telling us, and that's what we're helping GSA to do.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.