FORT DETRICK, Md. (March 24, 2014) -- It may look like a network cable coming out of the back of a regular laptop (well, okay, it IS a network cable coming out of the back of a regular laptop) but this wire is unique -- it will soon connect multiple buildings on Fort Detrick, Md., together in an energy monitoring and conservation project.

Using funds from the Army's Energy Conservation Investment Program, engineers from the Baltimore District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are connecting 11 buildings in a pilot project.

"Our goal is to build a central monitoring system for nine systems here and two buildings on the Forest Glen Annex," said Project Manager William Hettchen from the District's Fort Detrick Integrated Program Office. "The project will give installation officials the ability to track facility energy use, look for trends and find ways for each facility to be more efficient and thereby save on energy costs. The installation will also have the data to support energy conservation actions in these buildings."

The selected facilities are all of more modern construction. "We need fairly recently constructed buildings that have control systems with fully integrated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems," said Project Engineer William Conroy. In older facilities, there are multiple thermostats for multiple areas and often, different temperature settings. Conroy noted that this is not a best business practice for efficient energy use.

In addition, central management improves the speed of repairs. Facility management is usually a collateral duty where a regular office worker might make temperature adjustments in specific areas but must contact their department of public works, or DPW, for difficulties and equipment repairs. Conroy noted that facility managers are not mechanics or engineers.

Like most Army facilities, Fort Detrick has dozens of buildings that were constructed years (and often decades) ago. At that time, the cost of energy was lower and the design and construction focused on the mission, while energy conservation may not have been a key consideration. Now, it is essential in facility design and construction planning.

This ECIP project will provide immediate and recordable energy use data from each building via a secure website to a central monitoring point at the installation's DPW. Local technicians will be trained to access and interpret the data to make energy adjustments for efficiency and to spot trends. Over time, this monitoring and subsequent actions, as well as data accumulation, will lead to cost savings through intentional and more efficient energy use. In addition, the installation can later connect more buildings through the project?'s dedicated server to increase overall energy efficiency on the installation.

The Corps awarded a $754,000 contract in October 2012. A key component of the project is to develop and field an effective software package (currently under testing) to reach the project's goals. Five laptops will be configured with the new software and technicians will be trained to interpret and act on the data as the buildings are connected to the project.

The first building to be connected is bldg 1435 which is a medical administration building with a central energy control panel. Other buildings on Fort Detrick, and at the Forest Glen annex over 20 miles away, will also be connected. Project software will provide current data in a graphics presentation for each facility. The data will indicate if there are any areas of facility energy that are out of the set program.

The project is ahead of schedule at over 80 percent complete but they are still working to overcome several hardware and software issues including key connections to the energy panels in selected buildings.

"This truly is an investment program that will lead to energy conservation in these buildings," said Hettchen, "and elsewhere on the installation."