The Bank of Montreal's deploying a very long arm to monitor and adjust branch heating, lighting and cooling from a central location, hoping to shave waste that can result from having too many light switches in too many places.

"You can get a variety of behaviors [toward cooling and AC], and we want to tighten that up," says Jim Johnston, director of environmental sustainability for BMO Financial Group, which just embarked on a project in partnership with United Technologies Corporation to implement a building management system with remote energy controls. "We want to set business rules we can program and monitor which will reduce cost and emissions as a result."

Through the project, which began in July, the cooling, heating, electricity and security systems of 15 retail branches across Ontario, generally ranging in size from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet, will be monitored and controlled externally. The bank's goal, based in part on projections of the impact of standardization and better control, is to cut electricity use at branches by 20 percent and natural gas use by 15 percent, as well as extend the lifecycle of equipment. "Sixty percent of energy use comes from heating and lighting," says Doug Washburn, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Based in the results of the pilot, the system will be rolled out to the bank's 900 branches in Canada and in the U.S. Michael Sahm, an applications engineering fellow at UTC Integrated Building Solutions, says the product works by utilizing information that is native to a security system. Intrinsic equipment energy monitoring capability is used or sensors are placed on endpoint devices to provide energy use data. This data is collected at the branch using an open architecture IP based local device. The branch devices communicate with a centralized server that trends energy use across the enterprise, allowing users and facility managers to quantitatively and visually see how energy is being used at each location. From this data, energy intensity and comfort index can also be quantified to provide a view of the energy cost of maintaining comfort.

"The major new approach is the interconnection between the building automation and security systems that enables sensors dedicated to physical security to also be used to reduce energy costs," says Sahm, adding BMO is the first bank to use UTC's system for energy use monitoring and controls.

Johnston says the bank hopes to achieve buy in from branch staff, which will be losing some control over heat and air conditioning control, by pointing out the savings will be dedicated to those branch's bottom lines. "We're not doing this to take away from the comfort level of the employees," he says.

Tim Maurer, vp of marketing and product development for Energy New England-a consortium of municipal energy companies that runs energy management programs for commercial customers including banks, says the payback of wireless energy-use sensors is "very rapid. You can get a 20 to 30 percent reduction across electricity, gas and other fuels," he says.

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