By Jacob Dextradeur – VoltServer Business Analyst
Nestled in the coastal city of New Haven, Connecticut, it is hard for any I-95 passerby to miss the iconic Pirelli Tire building. Since its completion in 1970, the building has stood out as a symbol of brutalist architecture, a landmark of the city that has earned its place on both the State and National Registers of Historic places.
Despite its universal recognition and prime location, the building has been vacant since the late 1990s. In 2019 it was sold to a developer with an audacious vision for its transformation: The creation of Hotel Marcel, a Hilton Signature hotel and the country’s first “net-zero” hotel, that provides an unparalleled guest experience through smart-building technology powered by VoltServer’s patented Digital Electricity ™. Additionally, the project is on track to become the country’s first Passive House–certified hotel.
The smart building upgrades would need to adhere to strict guidelines for rehabbing a historic building. The renovation must preserve the building’s existing architecture in every way possible. Such an approach required a flexible and unobtrusive electrical and data network that could navigate through the building’s interior while helping to achieve the goal of net-zero.
Net-zero is a classification for buildings that “combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources” (US Department of Energy). At Hotel Marcel over 1,000 solar panels lining the building’s rooftop and parking lot canopies provide green energy. The building can completely sustain its energy needs even on cloudy days using 1MWh of battery storage. Any excess power is sent to the grid whereby the hotel receives credits via net metering. Even with all the on-site power generation, the long-term success of the hotel’s net-zero model would depend on its ability to consume less energy than it produces over time – making energy optimization a focal point of the electrical design.
Optimizing a building’s energy consumption can be tackled in two ways: By increasing the efficiency of its electricity-drawing devices, and by using intelligent monitoring and control to reduce wasted energy. Such intelligent networks are the specialty of Sinclair Digital Services (SDS) – a leading Class 2 Power and PoE integrator. The development firm Becker + Becker selected SDS to design and manage the infrastructure and network installation at Hotel Marcel.
The wide array of integrated IoT devices throughout the hotel creates the luxury experience that Marcel was seeking to provide for its guests. Each of the 165 guest rooms and suites is equipped with a fine level of monitoring and control that allows guests to customize the room’s environment to their desire with a touchscreen controller. However, the high number of edge devices spread across each room also brought a level of complexity to managing both the power and data needed for each device. The Pirelli Tire building was not constructed with enough local power to deploy PoE switches in the existing IDF closets. The traditional way of adding power would require core drilling with large gauge cables and conduit would be too invasive. In addition, provisioning transformers and circuit breakers would be costly and require a separate pathway from the fiber optic data layer. Facing the congested and delicate environment, SDS brought in VoltServer, whose Digital Electricity™ power distribution platform made it possible to deliver power to the network’s edge in a simple, discreet way.
Digital Electricity can deliver the power levels of AC with the convenience of Class 2 wiring practices due to the inherent safety and intelligence. The VoltServer transmitters take energy from the AC mains whether powered by the grid or the solar arrays. Then it is converted to Digital Electricity, where it is transmitted to remote VoltServer receivers. The receivers, power PoE switches in the IDF closets. The switches then provide power and data over Cat6 cable to a network of low-voltage nodes. Each node acts as an intelligent hub for the PoE lighting and sensor devices.
The result is a single, centralized source of power and data for all the connected devices. This reduced the project complexity by eliminating the need for separate power and data paths in a historic building. The project realized cost savings by reducing the number of contractors required for power and data of the intelligent network. Energy is saved by transitioning low-energy fixtures and intelligent, automated monitoring control. The Marcel Hotel now offers guests a luxury experience in a historic building while achieving unprecedented sustainability goals.