Corporate Responsibility

Kimco’s latest bright idea to reduce energy consumption

Posted by: Nate Mitten, Ph.D. Nate Mitten, Ph.D.
on October 8, 2012

As with most retail landlords, one of the biggest sources of energy consumption in our portfolio is exterior lighting at our shopping centers. That’s why we have prioritized our efforts to improve our properties’ lighting efficiency as part of Kimco’s overall sustainability program.

The result is a new initiative we’ve dubbed the Kimco Gateway Building Controls Program (Gateway for short). It’s an innovative approach to remotely controlling and optimizing the lighting, and soon other systems, at our properties. We are also growing our lighting retrofit efforts, but have decided to focus significant effort on lighting controls at this point. After all, turning lights off is the easiest way to save energy.

Gateway has been two years in the making. In that time, we’ve completed a proof-of-concept at five of our sites — Westlake Shopping Center, Mesa Riverview, Chatham Plaza, Oakcreek Village, and Plaza Centro. Most recently, we’ve finished our pilot phase at five of our properties — Fairmont Shopping Center, Brookvale Shopping Center, Monterey Plaza, Plaza 580 Shopping Center, and 280 Metro Center.

These pilot sites have been up and running successfully for about 90 days now, and early results show an average of approximately 25 percent energy savings at these properties as a result of our Gateway initiative. We wanted to share what we’ve been working on to date, why we created the Gateway program, how it works to save energy, and where we’re planning to go from here.

The Gateway backstory

Gateway goes beyond just reducing our energy costs. Our objective was to establish a long-term platform for remote monitoring and control of our properties to:

  • Improve our net operating income by reducing our operating expenses.
  • Increase our property management effectiveness. This includes improving our ability to manage our sites’ lighting usage in real time, address any issues immediately, and monitor all systems anytime, anywhere.
  • Enhance the retail experience of our tenants and their customers by ensuring proper lighting is always on when needed, and off when not needed.
  • Improve our environmental performance overall.

We worked with a research firm to comb the building controls market and gain a firm understanding of the technologies available, and the opportunities and challenges each solution presented. Our research led us to the NiagaraAX software framework from Tridium, an independent business entity of Honeywell.

What Kimco’s Gateway system entails

We built this technology into a weather-tight, modular kit, which is shipped to the site and installed on the side of a building or in a utility room. It connects to sites’ electrical systems to achieve both control and monitoring.

CONTROL HUB: Kimco’s Gateway control panel is mounted above the electrical panel at 280 Metro Center

CONTROL HUB: Kimco’s Gateway control panel is mounted above the electrical panel at 280 Metro Center

We also designed an attractive, intuitive Gateway iPad app, which our property managers use to control the system remotely. The app’s dashboard contains a robust set of functionality to create lighting schedules, a dynamic graphical site map, override capabilities, weather information, and an energy savings forecast tool to assist in optimizing energy performance.

MOBILE: The Gateway iPad app interface for our Fairmont center

MOBILE: The Gateway iPad app interface for our Fairmont center

How Kimco’s Gateway system works

Gateway connects to our properties’ site lighting electric systems. As usual, electricity is delivered to a site’s utility meter, and then travels into a breaker panel. From there, electricity travels to what’s called a “contactor,” which is a switch that turns multiple circuits on or off. Typically, photo cells or time clocks control the contactor, sending a signal to turn the power off and on at the various fixtures across the property.

CONNECTION: Kimco’s Gateway system connects to the overall electricity system

CONNECTION: Kimco’s Gateway system connects to the overall electricity system

However, our Gateway system replaces these photo cells and time clocks with a small computer. It provides the command through a cellular modem that communicates through the Internet back to Kimco’s server.

The system provides precise control of the contactor based on the schedule programmed by the property manager. It also measures the power flowing from the meter into the breaker panel. The Gateway system uses this energy data to establish a performance baseline, monitor ongoing performance, and verify that long-term results are achieved.

It also uses the power measurement to generate alarms, such as for power outages or maintenance issues. All of this information and control is accessible via the iPad app.

POWERED UP: A light pole at Kimco’s Monterey Plaza controlled by our Gateway system

POWERED UP: A light pole at Kimco’s Monterey Plaza controlled by our Gateway system

How Kimco’s Gateway system saves energy

Here’s a real-world example of our system in action to illustrate how it works and how it saves energy. This chart shows data from one of our pilot sites in Fairmont, S.C. The dark gray area (which is overlapped by the light gray area) is the energy profile of the site pre-Gateway. The old system turned the exterior lights on at 8:30 p.m., and started consuming just over 14 kilowatts of energy throughout the night until it shut off at about 7 a.m.

ENERGY PROFILE: Gateway has reduced our energy usage by approximately 20-25 percent at our Fairmont site

ENERGY PROFILE: Gateway has reduced our energy usage by approximately 20-25 percent at our Fairmont site

The light gray area shows energy consumption with Gateway installed. We’re often able to turn lights on a little bit later at night, and turn them off slightly earlier in the morning, yet still have adequate lighting. This process is called “offsetting” or the ability to dial into exact on and off times.

The bulk of the energy savings happens through our night lighting. At many sites, we are able to turn off about half the lights interspersed throughout the center for about five hours. No one is at the property during this time frame, and we don’t need it as brightly lit as we do during business hours. Lights come back on in full force in the early morning. Of course, we’re always conscious and considerate to not compromise the safety and security of our properties when evaluating lights to turn off.

This approach has resulted in an approximate 20 percent to 25 percent energy reduction at this particular site. Our goal is to continue averaging 25 percent energy savings across our portfolio through Gateway.

Next steps

We are beginning the next phase of our program, rolling Gateway out to approximately 40 more properties in our portfolio. In addition, we are planning to expand Gateway to some other property systems, such as irrigation, submetering, video monitoring, and HVAC. Over the longer term, we’d like to open Gateway up to our tenants, so they can use the system to manage their own facilities.

For some more information on our Gateway program, you can flip through this presentation covering why we created it, how it works, the timeline of our progress to date, and results achieved so far.

Kimco Gateway Building Controls Program

We’ll keep you updated on our progress as we move forward with the rollout of the Kimco Gateway program across our portfolio.

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