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Feds tap IBM for building energy-efficiency project

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The contract will cover more than 50 of the federal government's most energy-wasting buildings; projected savings could be $15 million annually.

Over the past few months, we've reported about the various energy efficiency projects being embraced by government agencies, including various branches of the military.

These initiatives are cropping up in response to the directive signed by President Obama in October 2009 calling for more sustainable operations strategy across the federal government. There's a certain amount of pressure to act, as the feds have roughly three more years to get their act together on this, and I doubt that even a change in the White House administration would reverse this particular initiative. After all, this is about saving taxpayer money.

Because of the vast amount of real estate used by the federal government, energy efficiency measures have been highlighted as a major part of the push to eliminate waste. Various statistics project that commercial buildings use roughly 40 percent of the energy in the United States on an ongoing basis -- and the federal government owns approximately 182 million square feet of office space nationwide.

This is why the U.S. General Services Administration's move this week to put IBM in charge of its smarter building projects makes sense. If things go right, it could save more than $15 million annually -- working toward the GSA's goal of reducing energy usage across federal buildings at least 30 percent by 2015.

The contract calls for IBM to create a cloud-based centralized system that will monitor building performance and feed information into a central building management dashboard. That dashboard will provide a real time view for tenants, so that they can make decisions about energy efficiency measures that might benefit their unique situation.

The belief is that better analytics will help the government automate some of the building controls more effectively, while allows property managers to take more active control over areas of concern.

The initial focus during the first year of the smart building initiative will be 50 buildings that have already been identified as energy hogs. IBM will install controls at those facilities, which will integrate with existing systems and then feed performance data up to the cloud-based service.

The project could save approximately $15 million in operational costs annually, according to the GSA and IBM.

That's theory, at least. Waiting to see how this works in practice.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure