Smart City

Panasonic opens its first smart building at new Denver headquarters

The Mile High City is home to Panasonic's first smart building in a new development. Read about Panasonic's smart city solutions that are part of its CityNOW initiative.

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A rendering of Panasonic's new facility in Denver.

Image: Panasonic/bsulley

Panasonic Corp. has opened its first smart office building at the new Denver headquarters for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions.

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions is a technology and solar offshoot of Panasonic Corp., and it had been headquartered in Newark, N.J., until it outgrew the site and a 25-city search landed the facility in Denver. By 2018, there will be 350 employees at the Denver operations hub, which is part of a 400-acre environmentally sustainable development at a new development called Peña Station Next. Peña Station is a few miles southwest of the Denver International Airport.

The first building of the operations hub opened on September 12, with employees reporting to work in the smart office at Peña Station. Panasonic is developing smart city solutions that will be part of Peña Station and other areas around Denver, including smart lighting, smart parking, community Wi-Fi, and digital signage, said George Karayannis, vice president of Panasonic's CityNOW initiative.

SEE: Smart cities: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

The operations hub will produce more energy than it consumes, as a result of solar power and energy efficient strategies such as LED lighting and VAV air conditioning. The building automation system is integrated with the air conditioning, lighting controls, electrical power panels, and battery control system, allowing it to automatically load shed and reduce its power consumption if the battery is low on charge and there is a lack of solar power during a utility loss, ensuring that critical loads can stay on-line even under a disastrous power loss scenario, said Michael Hess, vice president of smart and sustainable buildings for Panasonic.

Other features of the new operations hub include:

  • 40% water savings inside the building via low flow faucets, showers, toilets and urinals
  • Easy access to alternative transportation and the light rail line
  • Bicycle storage and showers to encourage employees to bike to work
  • Electric vehicle charging stations
  • Reflective roof to reduce the urban heat island effect

Denver won out over Dallas, which was the other finalist for the Panasonic project, in part due to the city's open political climate that "puts the politics aside and allows for moving forward for a smart and sustainable city," said Jarrett Wendt, vice president of strategic initiatives and business development for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions.

It's really a technology partnership with the city, Wendt said. "Denver is the most open, willing city to introduce new technologies. They've been very fluid. They're different than most cities."

Another project that is part of Panasonic's CityNOW initiative include a light rail transit line that opened on April 22. It starts at the center of downtown Denver and ends at the airport, with seven stops, including Peña Station. The CityNOW project includes working with Xcel Energy to develop a microgrid energy storage solution for the airport with a 1.3 Megawatt AC canopy solar installation to serve the grid and provide backup power. It is scheduled to be online and operating by the first quarter of 2017. Smart LED streetlights installed at Peña Station are powered by solar cells and brighten when there's foot traffic and dim when there's no activity around. The lights also house HD security cameras to create a safer environment.

Panasonic is one of the investors in Peña Station. "That's part of our strategy going forward, to invest in these large iconic developments," Karayannis said.

SEE: Inside Kansas City's goal to become 'the smartest city on planet earth' (TechRepublic)

"The city is using Peña Station Next as a technology test bed with environmental sensing and community Wi-Fi, so that the city can understand the costs and benefits and technology, and we can help them build a use case," Karayannis explained.

Evan Dreyer, deputy chief of staff for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, said that Panasonic has helped the city of Denver focus and work on smart city projects by bringing different state and city agencies together.

"Panasonic has brought a bit more focus to some of the complicated issues that we are grappling with and trying to move forward with. Everything from sustainability and energy to housing. They're not just focused on their own specific project. They have a broad world view about how to innovate and use technology to improve lives everywhere," Dreyer said.

"That's one of the most gratifying parts of the partnership, that broader worldview. They claim a global perspective because of who they are and where they are in the world that we would not otherwise have here in Denver," Dreyer said.

Dreyer said, "Their cutting-edge innovation and technology combined with community building is really that added value that Panasonic has brought to Denver."

The top three takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Panasonic Enterprise Solutions has opened its first smart office in the Peña Station CityNOW development it's building in Denver.
  2. Denver was chosen as the home of the CityNOW project because of its open political system and ability to accept changes.
  3. There will eventually be 350 employees at the Denver campus for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions.

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About

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. With a background in fashion writing at People and W magazines and WWD, she ties together the style and substance of tech.

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