Fort Worth Home to Texas’ First Intelligent Building

January 4, 2019

Farukh Aslam is a real estate developer in Fort Worth who is currently remodeling 3 Historic buildings in downtown Fort Worth. The Sanger Building was built in 1923 as Sanger Brothers Department Store and was subsequently converted into an office building. In 1998 it was home to Color Tile, a national tile and flooring retailer when they led for bankruptcy. Aslam bought the building in that year and converted some floors into a “Data Center” with Bennigans Restaurant as an anchor tenant in the ground floor. In late 2013 he bought the neighboring Sinclair Building, an art deco masterpiece built in 1929 and on the National Register of Historic Buildings, to redevelop it as a luxury Marriott Autograph Hotel. He decided to relocate some of the office tenants at Sinclair into the Sanger building and also move some of the hotel “back of the house services” into the neighboring building as well. During this time Aslam was exploring low voltage LED lighting. Aslam finished another Marriott hotel in early 2016 with all LED lighting but with AC (line) power. He also contracted to install 46 zone Lutron dimming panels but the system had issues despite numerous attempts by Lutron to fix them. “It was very frustrating to be caught between my Electrical Contractor and Lutron Engineers” said Aslam.

He started exploring low voltage infrastructure for future LED lighting with simpler controls. In his research he came across Cisco Systems who were already involved in few small projects in various cities to do a “Proof of Concept” with POE (Power over Ethernet) low voltage lighting. Cisco also introduced Aslam to several Cisco partners who were making products that were leveraging this POE technology. Aslam decided to use this technology to power all of the lighting at Sanger Building that was being completely renovated starting in the fall of 2016. Today 4 out of 10 floors already have over 1100 POE powered LED lights. CVS is currently remodeling the first and second floor to be the first two story CVS in Texas and one of handful. Also it will be the first CVS to go to POE lighting and VRF air conditioning. There is also a banquet space planned on the 8th floor to cater to Sinclair Hotel and a high end Spa on a full floor. The basement will become part of the hotel operations as well. When all of the remodeling is completed by next summer, the building will have over 2000 lights powered using Ethernet cables. Early on in the project Aslam joined hands with Voltserver (, a Providence Rhode Island based company to deploy their patented “Digital Electricity” solution to power the Cisco Switches. “This is revolutionary” says Aslam. “We can install our Voltserver Transmitter in the basement next to the Electrical switchgear and run power to anywhere in our 10 story building using 18/2 speaker cable. We are currently powering 2000 Watts of power supplies in our 24 port Cisco UPOE switches using a 200 ft CAT 5e cable. This is all classified as Class II power and we don’t even need an electrician” said Aslam.

The City of Fort Worth has been very supportive of Aslam deploying this technology and have understood that low voltage infrastructure can be installed by a low voltage contractor and does not need to be installed by a licensed electrician. The results were so encouraging that at the beginning of the year Aslam decided to roll out this technology at his upcoming Marriott Autograph hotel essentially making Sinclair Hotel to be the first hotel in the world to use POE technology to power all of its lighting. “We have already teamed up with Somfy ( to power all of our motorized shades and drapes using POE. We recently convinced Electric Mirror, a high end
hospitality LED Mirror manufacturer to use POE to power their new Savvy line with built in Bluetooth and TV to use POE in lieu of AC power. We are confident that within next 12 months, guestroom VRF air conditioning unit and up to 55” TV can also be powered using POE technology. Similarly we are exploring converting our in room  minibars to the same power source. The possibilities are endless and I think we have not even scratched the surface yet”. During the last week of November, Alsam rolled out a “Wireless Mesh” in his conference room and with “Network Presence Sensing” software from Ivani he is able to bring in accurate and intelligent occupancy
sensors in the work environment.

The recent development of Bluetooth Mesh standards is bound to take intelligence in commercial and industrial buildings to a new level. “To me this Mesh technology is like the beginning of Smart Phones which were then followed up by hundreds of companies developing applications. Our existing POE powered lighting running on a Cisco network switches gives us the infrastructure to easily expand Wireless Mesh to integrate all kinds of sensors” says Aslam. “I have been very intrigued by the whole EV (Electric Vehicle) industry. I envy Elon Musk’ vision and passion for improving our planet. While everyone out there is focused on finding ways to store more energy in a small battery, I have started focusing on reducing the energy consumption of the existing buildings. I am confident that by using POE powered lighting and new VRF air conditioning technology we can save 35% of power in a typical building. We have results to support that by looking at the history of our power consumption”. There are many other benefits of connected infrastructure. Using POE, you are now sending power and data over a single connection. You can be notified if a device stops responding. The energy management system is integrated with the LED driver software. There are several companies offering POE lighting and it is gaining momentum. According to Aslam, the cost of the POE lighting is similar to AC powered LED lighting with similar features and this will only come down as POE drivers are mass produced. Another myth out there is that POE enabled light fixtures are some specially made fixtures. “That is not true”, says Aslam. “Any LED fixture available in store or online can easily be made to power using POE. As a matter of fact, a POE LED light is simpler. You just remove the AC driver from off the shelf fixture and power it using a POE driver”.

The most interesting moment in this project was recently when Aslam decided to replace the proposed diesel generator with several UPS systems. “I was looking over the shoulders of my architect rendering the basement space and I noticed a large room (515 sq ft) dedicated for a 350 KW generator. That day I decided that I am not going to have a pollutant in my building and I called my project Electrical Engineer and together we started exploring replacing the generator with series of Lithium Ion batteries. I can see a shiny new Tesla Roadster in the same generator room on a swivel platform with its 200 KWh on board battery connected to the building backup power system” said Aslam with a smile. These buildings are sure to change permanently how commercial building infrastructure is designed in future.