In today’s modern era, owners are starting to think about the impact their projects have on the environment today, tomorrow, and 50 years from now. In fact, many are willing to spend more money upfront on a product or technology if it will reduce the harm to ecosystems. What’s more is that using these products and being conscious of the environment does not lessen quality or performance. While sustainable solutions may not be as common as what is traditionally used, the overall concern for the Earth and climate change will continue to increase the popularity of systems that reduce pollution and emissions.
At Baird, Hampton & Brown, our electrical engineers have taken a known technology and applied it in a new way that could quite possibly become an industry trend in the near future, while also benefiting the environment. In engineering, there are oftentimes technologies and systems put into place that – while not recognized by the everyday user – are an integral part of a building’s infrastructure and its ability to operate correctly and efficiently. These technologies are constantly evolving to fit industry trends, sustainable design, and required codes and standards.
A backup power system is required by code in certain buildings, such as high-rises, to provide electricity to life safety systems should an equipment failure or natural disaster occur that results in the failure of the building’s normal power source. Diesel generators are typically used as the backup power source since they are a proven technology and have runtimes limited only by the amount of fuel storage available. While a diesel generator is the de facto industry standard backup power source, it also comes with toxic impact on the environment due to the products of combustion evidenced by the thick black exhaust smoke.
So, when the owner of The Sinclair, a historic office building turned into a Marriott Autograph Series hotel, wanted an environmentally friendly and maintainable energy backup system without the added pollution, BHB went to work. Our team of electrical engineers applied an Energy Storage System (ESS) in an innovative way so that it could be used instead of a diesel generator. In its simplest terms, an ESS is a backup system that stores energy over time and can be used when necessary, such as during a power outage. Essentially, the ESS eliminated the diesel generator and drastically reduced the amount of pollution emitted by the building. The Sinclair’s ESS uses lithium-ion batteries which provide many advantages over traditional lead acid batteries, including less floor space required and significantly longer battery life. While implementing an ESS in a high-rise had its challenges, such as providing a second power source to the fire pump, it also had its benefits.
In comparison to a diesel generator, advantages of an ESS include:
- Lower maintenance and fewer moving parts
- Takes up less space
- Environmentally friendly
“The reliability of battery systems is statistically higher than generators. A generator has a number of moving parts that require periodic maintenance and that can fail due to wear, whereas the ESS is a static device,” said Larry Jones, Associate and Senior Electrical Engineer at BHB. “There are other complexities that come with installing a generator inside a building, such as getting cooling air into the generator room, as well as getting hot air and exhaust out of the room. For an ESS, you don’t have to worry about those things.”
This type of use for an ESS is, to BHB’s knowledge, the first to be implemented in North America. However, the technology itself is not new. For several years, Energy Storage Systems have been used for peak shaving, meaning these types of batteries help level out peaks in electricity use and lower power consumption. BHB has taken the original use of an ESS and applied it to provide standby power to an entire high-rise building, if needed.
Under current code requirements, there are limitations for using an ESS in place of a generator. Every building is different, and some situations may be more applicable than others that would require discussion with the owner and an in-depth look at necessary codes and standards. While still considered a newer use of this technology, we foresee Energy Storage Systems to be an increasingly popular option as the general concern and awareness for sustainability and environmental consciousness continues to grow. This could possibly spur code changes in the future that may reduce the allowable level of pollutants that can be emitted into the environment.
“As more stringent environmental regulations are put in place, and as more owners choose to construct more environmentally friendly buildings, I think we will see an increasing desire for this technology,” stated Jones.
At BHB, we strive to always be forward thinking, while keeping our environment and the communities in which we live and work at the top of our mind. Our application of the ESS at The Sinclair in downtown Fort Worth combined these two initiatives and allowed us to take an existing technology and transform it into something that benefits the Earth, and that could be a popular system for building owners in the future.
For more information about the implementation of the Energy Storage System at The Sinclair or to see if an ESS could be applicable to your project, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.