Hoffman Building Technologies: Learning and Giving

Few on the medical staff of the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital know or care much about what the facility’s utility bill is. Nor do patients. The mission of the 536-bed teaching hospital is saving lives, not energy. But working with the right experts, Moses Cone has been able to slash its energy usage and trim costs – all without patients or personnel ever noticing anything.

“It’s very difficult to save energy in a hospital,” says Bryan Lampley, sales engineer at Hoffman Building Technologies. Along with many other costs involved in providing healthcare, energy consumption is typically factored into the bottom-line. Lampley’s company worked with Moses Cone on a solution to modernize its central energy plant system with the latest data-gathering and decision-support tools. Those efforts resulted in noticeable financial benefits for the hospital – about $250,000 annually, says Lampley, who is based in Raleigh. “The project at Moses Cone is exceeding expectations on cost-savings – all without impacting the mission.”

Hoffman Building Technologies applies the latest design, installation and service innovations for commercial and institutional Hoffman_Logo_11-2014.jpgbuildings. The expertise of Lampley and his colleagues allows the company’s clients to adopt intelligent systems that control nearly all aspects of a building’s performance. Much, but not all, of that work involves HVAC systems. Hoffman is also a go-to name when it comes to integrated real-time energy management for lighting, security and other “smart” systems available for maximizing building efficiency while keeping its occupants comfortable and safe.

A unit of privately-held Hoffman & Hoffman, Inc., Hoffman Building Technologies counts among its clients large multi-building campuses like educational, healthcare and manufacturing facilities – all of which use considerable energy. “There’s no better way to save energy than by cutting it off,” Lampley says. But hospitals, manufacturing plants and university settings are 24/7 operations lacking that option. The experience at Moses Cone demonstrates that integrating building automation and control solutions enables clients to do well by doing good. “The beauty behind Moses Cone is that it makes financial sense,” says Lampley. “It’s good for the environment and society as a whole, but it also makes financial sense when it’s done the right way.”

In the past, building managers and owners could detect little about their energy utilization – until the monthly utility bill arrived. Today, Hoffman’s integrated, digitally-based solutions get various building systems talking to each other. Their performance is graphically displayed to engineers and physical plant technicians on a real-time basis. The result is better-functioning facilities, reduced energy consumption and significant cost savings.

Smart management systems are increasingly standard in today’s new structures. Much of Hoffman’s work, however, centers on existing buildings. “New construction is a multi-million dollar market,” explains Steve Carter, the company’s Greensboro-based director of sales. “But the renovation market is an even bigger opportunity.”

Hoffman Building Technologies’ solutions are perhaps the initial wave of what’s being called “the Internet of Things,” a vision for linking appliances, equipment and technologies under a single networking rubric that maximizes performance through constant real-time data gathering and analysis. “We have the ability to connect all these things together,” Carter says. Networked monitoring and management systems now going into commercial and institutional buildings will someday be woven into our homes, he predicts. “There are huge sums of money to be saved by these systems,” says Carter.

The bulk of the company’s business is currently focused on the mid-Atlantic. In addition to its Greensboro headquarters, Hoffman Building Technologies maintains offices in Charlotte, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville (S.C.), Raleigh and Roanoke. “We tend to play in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia,” Carter says. But the company’s portfolio also includes clients in Florida, Iowa and Tennessee. Its expertise is globally respected with projects as far away as Europe.

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Hoffman Building Technologies traces its roots to the 1980s, as a wave of innovation began changing how buildings are designed, constructed and operated. Its parent company, which was founded in 1947, had traditionally worked with contractors and equipment vendors. Rusty Hoffman, president of Hoffman & Hoffman, Inc., says Hoffman Building Technologies grew from the increasing involvement by building owners in the choices engineers and designers were making in the mechanical systems going into buildings. “Things like LEED and ‘green building’ got going, and energy efficiency became more popular,” Hoffman says. “As we got more involved with new technologies, it took us closer to the end-users.”

How great is the market potential for the company’s integrated solutions?

“It’s limited only to the amount of good people we can hire,” Hoffman says. His company looks for people skilled with electrical or mechanical systems. “Whether you’re an engineer or not, you have to have an engineering mindset,” he says. Some experience in the industry also is required. So too is commitment to customer, company and community. “When we find them, we hire them,” he says.

Hoffman Building Technologies joined the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster in January 2015. “We find it interesting to be part of this concept,” Hoffman says. Neither he nor his colleagues harbor any pre-conceived notions about where environmental innovation might take their industry over the coming decade. “It’s going to be fun to watch and see how the cluster evolves over the next ten years,” Hoffman says. “It’s as much a learning experience as it is a giving experience.”

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