WyteStone Plaza – W.J. Vakos & Co.

The Players

Richmond, Virginia’s WyteStone Plaza, strategically located within the city’s financial district, is an iconic commercial office building with a historic past. Built in the mid-1960s, the 17-story Modernist-style structure (originally named the Ross Building) was the first high-rise built in the city since 1928, and the first to feature a glass curtain wall. Having entered its fifth decade, however, WyteStone Plaza was showing its age. A weathered and inefficient glass exterior, along with an outdated building control system, brought wasteful energy use and mounting tenant complaints. In 2007, developer/property manager W.J.Vakos & Company launched a three-year renovation, upgrading the building’s interiors, exterior and control system infrastructure. Now with significantly higher occupancy rates, WyteStone Plaza’s energy costs have been dramatically reduced, while its occupants enjoy a stable and more comfortable environment.

The Solution

“Our technical ability to understand and address the building’s older systems was key to the business,” remarked Mike Guss, Vice President of Sales for Support Services at Automated Logic - Virginia. And with good reason: the company has supported WyteStone Plaza operations since 2001. The building’s infrastructure included an older Direct Digital Control (DDC) system in the central plant plus tenant-operated pneumatic controls on individual floors. The central plant’s HVAC installation included a particularly challenging piece of equipment: a three-pipe hot water/chilled water system, each with its own supply line plus shared return line. The DDC was replaced with Automated Logic’s WebCTRL® building automation system, and the pneumatic controls were replaced with digital controls in private offices, allowing users ±2° adjustable setpoints; static setpoints remained in common areas. Like many building retrofits, the system upgrades were carefully phased to minimize disruption to existing tenants and to meet buildout deadlines for new tenants. Following installation, a number of energy-saving strategies were implemented including occupancy scheduling; optimum start/stop; trim-and-respond on the air and water systems; and continuous ENERGY STAR® profiling.

The Story

The building automation/energy management solutions provider didn’t stop there. “We calculated the potential energy savings with a switch-out to low e-glass on the building’s shell,” remarked Automated Logic - Virginia’s Kristy Schomaker, Energy Advisor, LEED AP O+M. Building owners authorized the project, and the glass was completely replaced over a 10-month period ending July 2009. Improvements both inside and out have resulted in significant cost savings and more efficient use of energy. With occupied space up 50 percent, energy costs were nevertheless reduced 18 percent, saving $130,475 over a recent 12-month period. Building maintenance has considerably improved as well. “From the manual side of operations, [WebCTRL®] works wonders for me,” remarked Chief Engineer Cas Bradshaw. “I don’t have to physically go to all of the mechanical and control equipment locations, but can check on system operations from a single screen.”

“The three most difficult challenges in any high-rise office building are HVAC, elevators and janitorial. Without an adequate building automation system, WyteStone Plaza was impossible to control,” added Bob Waldrop, C.P.E., Vice President of Richmond for W.J. Vakos. “Now, it’s like putting an HVAC mechanic in every location – and they’re talking to each other! “In the past, we couldn’t react as quickly – the building is on a north-south axis, and winters had been a particular problem,” Waldrop continued. “Now, we can make adjustments before the tenants even know and keep costs down [Automated Logic - Virginia’s Guss also noted WebCTRL’s ability to support quick response to any system alarms]. Complaints have dropped, and everything is easier,” Waldrop concluded.

Client: WyteStone Plaza – W.J. Vakos & Co.

Location: Richmond, Virginia

Controls Contractor: Automated Logic - Virginia

Project Type: Retrofit

Building Size: 285,710 square feet (17 stories)

Reduce energy costs and increase occupant comfort.

Design Considerations: Operability with older equipment and ease of use.

Major Decision Drivers
Branch's history with building and understanding of older systems.

HVAC Controls: Automated Logic

Installation Date: 2007-2010

The Challenge

  • Replace pneumatic controls system with near zero downtime (due to food processing demands)
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Increase operational reliability
  • Reduce operating, repair and preventive maintenance costs
  • Enable maintenance personnel to monitor and control HVAC equipment from anywhere in the facility


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