Smart buildings save energy and money

06 May 2013 | Michele Bedford Thistle, Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

In my January blog post, I first discussed the results of Microsoft’s groundbreaking Energy Smart Buildings project. Since then, the program was named a 2013 Computerworld Honors Laureate, an honor given to visionary IT applications that promote positive social and economic change. The program’s success—based on the vision of Darrell Smith, our Director of Facilities and Energy—has also been documented in a new multimedia piece, 88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the Future.

In the pilot energy program, Smith and his team turned Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., into a testing ground for Energy Smart Buildings software. At 500 acres and more than 40,000 people, our campus is about the size of Dubrovnik, Croatia (the medieval walled city known as the Pearl of the Adriatic); Greenock, Scotland (setting for the award-winning TV drama, Waterloo Road); and Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Australia (the largest Outback city, known for its rich goldfields). As the mayors of these cities might attest, capturing and analyzing their millions of data points is no small task. But in terms of cost and energy savings, it can be well worth the effort. At Microsoft, Smart Buildings software slashed the cost of operating the campus's 125 buildings, saving millions of dollars.

Here’s what your city can do with an Energy Smart Buildings program of your own.

1. Analyze the data you already have

Using the sensors, meters, and monitors you already have, you can develop a Smart Buildings program—without investing capital in new systems. You just need to add a layer on top of your current systems that will enable you to gather—and most importantly, analyze—the data that’s there. For more details on how this works, check out Computerworld's "Smart buildings get smarter."

2. Optimize your maintenance program

The great thing about this level of data analytics is that the system prioritizes maintenance and repair projects, so you can work on equipment when it needs it, instead of following an arbitrary schedule. This just-in-time maintenance greatly increases your team’s—and your equipment’s—efficiency. At Microsoft, Smith’s system shortened the maintenance cycle from 5 years to 1 year and saved $1 million.

3. Save energy and reduce carbon emissions

The opportunity for energy savings and emissions reductions is also huge. With commercial buildings consuming 40 percent of the world's energy and contributing 20 percent of the carbon emissions, using Smart Buildings programs to cut those numbers by 20-25 percent, as Microsoft has, will make a big difference.

4. Pay off your investment quickly

Energy Smart Buildings programs are more affordable than you might think. As my colleague Josh Henretig, director of environmental sustainability, recapped in his Microsoft Green blog post, the Microsoft pilot showed that these solutions cost less than 10 percent of annual energy expenditure upfront, with an expected payback period of less than 18 months.

For a detailed account of our Energy Smart Buildings pilot program, read the white paper we created with Accenture and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

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Michele Bedford Thistle
Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

About the Author

Michele Bedford Thistle | Business Manager, Government, National Security, and International Organizations, Worldwide Public Sector

Michele is focused on sharing stories from government customers creating real impact for citizens, employees, economies, and students. She joined the worldwide team from Microsoft Canada, where she was also marketing lead for several technology start-ups.