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AV/IT Expertise: Sustainable Technology Environments Program

Jun 11, 2012 3:40 PM, By Patrick Barron

A closer look at the role the programmer plays in the industry’s new green AV initiative.


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The term “green AV” describes the effort the professional audio/video industry is taking to implement energy efficient and environmentally friendly measures in all aspects of the industry. The consumer efforts on this subject are generally better known and the Energy Star rating is commonplace on consumer equipment. The more recent UL Environment effort is becoming accepted. The construction industry has used the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system that was developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Because there has not been a standard specifically developed for the professional AV industry, the industry has had to adopt these consumer and construction industry standards if professional AV systems were going to be environmentally friendly.

Recently, the AV industry has taken steps to put AV back in the forefront of the efforts to be environmentally responsible. InfoComm created a sustainability taskforce comprised of leaders in every aspect of the industry—manufacturers, installers, staging, integrators, and programmers. The mission of the task force was to create a body of knowledge and associated best practices. The group struggled with being able to define what a green AV system was and how to measure it against a non-green AV system. Based on the group’s findings, InfoComm realized that LEED was inadequate because it focused almost entirely on site and construction issues and not enough with operation. The taskforce tried to get the USGBC to recognize the impact of electronic system in its guidelines, but the organization refused to listen. The group then asked USGBC to consider the impact of videoconferencing in reducing travel and hydrocarbon emissions associated with travel, but again refused. Instead, this new taskforce moved in the direction of creating a new AV sustainability rating system. The new system is called Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP), and it seeks to complement LEED, which is primarily focused on building systems, by adding a new rating system for the audio/video portion of systems. A press release from InfoComm describes STEP as follows: “The STEP rating system will be a tool for owners and technology providers to plan for and implement sustainable practices in their technology projects.”

The STEP system recognizes the contribution from all aspects of the AV industry and in particular the contribution of control systems to achieve a STEP rating. The STEP rating system can be found in its entirety on the STEP foundation website at www.thestepfoundation.org/rating.asp. There are several key members, called the Core Technology Team, who are required to implement the full STEP rating. The programming is such an important part of this process that the software programmer is identified as one of the six Core Team members. There are many tasks that are specifically allocated to the systems programmer when creating a system that is trying to be green and achieve a STEP rating. The programmer should be familiar with the STEP rating system and the aspects of the document that are associated with programming. The requirements of a green system in compliance with the STEP rating system that pertain to programming are as follows:

1) Provide five-year energy use/cost projections with program report and identify strategies to minimize ongoing energy consumption.

2) Identify opportunities for Integrated Building Technology and Energy Management.

3) Discern the project capability requirements to include the integration of a scheduling system with the other building technology.

4) Program system to intelligently manage power states to reduce overall energy consumption.

5) Implement the scheduling system to interface with other building technology.

6) Program and implement the remote management of the system.

7) Operate systems to reduce energy use by 50% versus a non-managed system per the InfoComm ANSI Energy Management Standard.

8) Remote troubleshooting and preventative maintenance.

According to the STEP website, STEP joins other green building rating systems and codes but specifically addresses the approach to the sustainable planning, design, integration, and operation of low-voltage building and communication technologies; others do not. The new STEP system categories include: Program Phase, Architectural and Infrastructure Design, System Design, Systems Integration, and Operations. The role of the control system programmer can be seen across all phases of the STEP system. In the design phase, the programmer is asked to contribute to the energy projections, and a key aspect of projections is the ability to measure current energy usage. Cost savings can only be realized by comparing current costs with projected costs. There are many products available from control system manufacturers, such as AMX’s NXA-PDU power distribution unit, and from companies that provide power distribution, such as APC’s Rack PDU 2G, which allows power metering and monitoring. The control system and the control system programmer are crucial in being able to measure, record, and log the power usage with various power monitoring devices. By knowing the current power usage, projections can be made about cost savings realized in a new design.

The control system programmer is also asked in the design phase to identify opportunities for integrated building technology and energy management and to determine the capabilities of integrating with other building technology. Crestron’s Integrated Building Technology (IBT) platform unifies all energy consuming system including HVAC, lighting, shades, AV, sprinklers, and more. The Crestron IBT allows the programmer to write software that connects every room and every building and intuitively manage, monitor, and schedule every environmental and audio/video system from any touchscreen, web browser, or mobile device for peak performance and optimal energy savings. AMX’s partnership with FieldServer Technologies and DENT Instruments offers an integrated building management control system for building automation, AV devices, and indoor environmental quality from a single interface. The list of initiatives and programs by the control system manufacturers that support green AV would take much more than a single article to list, but the control system programmer is required in each case to implement these initiatives.

Managing the energy state of equipment and using smart scheduling to reduce energy consumption are two of tasks the programmer is required to implement in the system design phase. Just as the integrator is required to design a system with the capability to use energy efficiently, the programmer is required to implement the software to make these functions happen.

The latest development from InfoComm is the release of a draft of a new proposed standard called the Audiovisual Systems Energy Management (www.infocomm.org/cps/rde/xchg/infocomm/hs.xsl/7028.htm). This standard is currently undergoing review and will be presented to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) organization for approval. There are many aspects of this proposed standard, which rely on the control system programmer to implement. The entirety of the document is too vast to discuss in its entirety, but some key points that a programmer should be aware of are:

1) The Energy Management Plan: measurement and continuous monitoring of energy usage are required.

2) Display of current power consumption: Power consumption data shall be provided to users of the AV system in the form of a visual display.

3) Display of current power consumption: The display shall be readily available and easily accessible to the user. The display shall use an integration time of at least1 minute, or an integration time suitable to display changes of system states, whichever is lower.

4) Display of current power consumption: The display shall include, at a minimum, the following: realtime power consumption levels in watts, current system state (on, standby, off). Examples of control system touchscreen displays are shown in the appendix of the standard document.

5) Automation system control has two aspects: If the space is divisible, each space shall act as separate AV systems. This allows energy savings by turning off a space that is not being used. The programmer should also monitor the occupancy of the room by using sensors which can turn off equipment and lights if the area is unoccupied.

6) When the AV system is in use, components shall be in the lowest system state possible without adversely affecting system performance. If particular pieces of equipment are not being used, the control system should keep them in off or standby until needed.

7) During normal business hours the control system should monitor the room occupancy and automatically place the system in a standby mode if the room is vacant for up to 30 minutes and turn it completely off if vacant for more than 30 minutes.

There are many terms, organizations, documents, and standards that a control system programmer should be aware of and familiar with when dealing with programming for a green AV system. This discussion has only briefly touched on the wealth of information that is available when discussing green AV and sustainable technology. InfoComm appears to be leading the field in developing guidelines, programs, and standards for green AV in the commercial integration community. The organization should be a key reference for all discussion about green AV in the commercial industry. Control system programming is at the heart of the entire green AV movement and control system programmers should be prepared to continue working with the green AV movement and be ready to implement the environmentally friendly AV systems that are coming.



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