Building Automation System Becomes Hub for Data-Driven Research at STEM School

The installation of a smart building automation system designed to rein in energy costs became an integral part of the curriculum at a private school on the East Coast. An easy-to-use dashboard provided students with access to thousands of data points and led them to explore new ways to improve sustainability on campus.


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Image credit: Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart

The Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart wanted to reduce its energy consumption. Built in 1963, the private, all-girls school in Princeton, New Jersey, was designed by Princeton University Professor Jean Labatut to blend into the natural landscape and to incorporate sustainability systems, some of which were the forerunners of today’s Green Building Council’s LEED certification programs. The Stuart school provides a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum to more than 450 girls in pre-K through 12th grades.

Nestled on 55 acres, the school grounds include wooded areas, streams, and gardens. The building features floor-to-ceiling windows and boulders inside to mimic the outdoor landscape. The existing windows, plus renovations and additions to the original building saddled the school with an internal temperature control problem. Darren Malone, director of facilities and sustainable planning at Stuart, sought to improve the operational performance of the campus.

Tempering Temps and Costs

Malone was familiar with the KMC Commander, an IoT-based building automation platform developed by KMC Controls, and thought it would be a good fit for Stuart. The KMC Commander uses a Dell Edge Gateway, based on Intel® Atom® and Intel® Core® processors, to connect legacy and new equipment to the internet. It discovers and tags nearly any device that operates over BACnet Ethernet, BACnet IP, BACnet MS/TP, SNMP, or Modbus TCP protocols. The data is sent to an AWS cloud, where a dashboard can be viewed and managed through any Internet-accessible device.

Stuart partnered with KMC Controls and Encon Mechanical, a system integrator based in Ocean, New Jersey, to update Stuart’s existing control system.  The team installed more than 140 devices, including the KMC Commander, plus KMC Conquest controllers, BAC-5051E routers, Veris power meters, and carbon dioxide meters. To meet some of the requirements of Stuart school, KMC worked with Intel to adjust the features of the KMC Commander. The resulting platform is an approved Intel® IoT Market Ready Solution.

From Control to Curriculum

From a building control perspective, the upgraded system was a huge success. KMC Commander enabled Stuart to reduce energy costs by 45 percent. But that wasn’t the only benefit. KMC Commander has expanded the student curriculum.

The KMC Commander pulls data from more than 1,500 sensors and devices, and all that data can be viewed on a customizable dashboard. The staff was able to integrate live data into classwork and develop real-world case studies with the school data. That piqued the students’ interest, so Stuart worked with Encon to open up dashboard access for the girls.

That became part of Labatut’s Learning Lab, which allows faculty and students to use facility information and data collected from around campus for group and individual projects. Students are encouraged to find ways to use the data captured by the KMC Commander to develop research projects. Students are now able to check the KMC Commander dashboard to monitor temperature, occupancy, air quality, stream-water data, and CO2 levels. They have requested that the platform track additional data, such as wind and solar energy, which Encon readily integrates into the system.

Although the KMC Commander was deployed to control energy costs, the impact has been wide-reaching across the student body. Not only are the students more comfortable in the school, they are able to use real-world data to research potential improvements to their school, an excellent benefit for a STEM school.

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