San Francisco International Airport: Laying the Groundwork for Net Zero

To achieve its bold target of net zero energy consumption by 2021, San Francisco Airport needed to take a vital first step: understanding energy use across its large campus. With over 90 buildings operating systems of varying ages, at least 29 standalone building management systems, and a myriad of gas, thermal, water and electric meters this would be no easy feat.

WSP was engaged to help design a system that could gather and analyse data from buildings across the complex site, allowing the client to get a clear picture of energy consumption patterns and start planning a path to net zero. The client also needed the system to be able to interact effectively with databases managing airport business such as flight information, calling for a particularly sophisticated solution.

The resulting design brings together the airport’s different building management systems onto a single platform, allowing operators to see and control them through a common interface. A dedicated analytics platform aggregating the airport’s gas, thermal, water and electric meters provides a detailed picture of consumption behaviour across the campus, offering access to information such as who the highest consuming tenants are, the impact of different aircraft types on energy usage at the airport, how the movement of people and weather patterns can be used to predict energy consumption, and where most electricity or water gets used.

Dealing with legacy issues

One key challenge was making sure that any data feeding into the platform would be contextual and usable, something complicated by the fact the airport’s legacy systems did not conform to a single naming convention. While humans are able to infer information from an equipment or point name, digital systems are not, and an important part of our role was to create a common tagging standard inherent in the platform. These tags would allow the users to query across all pieces of equipment regardless of the underlying vendor and extract value by correlating multiple data sets.

Additional priorities included implementing cybersecurity guidelines for improved cyber-resilience when migrating the previously standalone building management systems onto the client’s converged Industrial Control System (ICS) IP network.

For such a complex piece of engineering, we needed to make sure the right vendor was appointed. And so, after translating the client’s vision into a biddable scope, we conducted an extremely rigorous assessment process including an early contractor involvement phase. This gave us a detailed understanding of the proposed solutions and helped us advise the client on the differences between them. This allowed the client to make the ultimate selection from a pool of candidates we were confident were capable of meeting the project’s requirements.

Equipped with the tools to really understand its energy and water consumption, San Francisco International Airport will be in prime position to move towards its landmark net zero energy goal and be a leading light in the city’s push for a greener, cleaner future.