May 01, 2006

By Staff
Appeared in Building Operating Management/FacilitiesNet

It’s the first day of the new fiscal year. The facility executive has been given the go-ahead to upgrade existing campus energy management control systems — many of them legacy systems that have become fragmented and obsolete — serving buildings on a large campus. Yet, before a dollar is spent on the upgrade, it is essential to develop a master plan describing energy management goals and ways to meet them.

The first step is to initiate preliminary master planning sessions to identify attainable facility operating goals. This in-house process lays the groundwork for discussions with control system designers and engineers who will develop the master plan.

In-house discussions centering on sharing campus system technologies — for example, identifying a campuswide IT communication infrastructure for interoperability and existing HVAC or plant equipment with the capability of direct communication integration — will help define the minimum criteria for all energy management control system projects.

Other operating criteria might include reducing energy consumption, possible reuse of existing pneumatic or conduit infrastructures, maintaining universal spare parts, developing a training program for operating personnel, and requiring commissioning of new systems.

Facility executives also should begin gathering the information needed by designers, including a site plan, AutoCAD architectural documents for each building, HVAC contents of each building, and system documentation. This information will enable the design team to understand the existing mechanical and electrical systems. This is essential to ensure optimal installation and proper operation of the new system.

Building the Right Team
The next step is forming a dedicated project team comprising on-site facility personnel and control system design professionals. On-site personnel will have ownership for the implementation and operation of the system. These site specialists must have technical knowledge and experience in operating the existing campus HVAC and plant equipment. They ultimately will be responsible for maintaining and operating the new system, including upgrades.

The engineering services request for proposal (RFP) should require significant experience with master planning or design of systems of similar size and technical complexity. Firms should provide a list of comparable completed projects that have energy management systems with control features desired for this project.

The selected firm should understand the management process required to organize multiple building-related projects into discreet phased efforts, with deadlines and milestones identified in advance, keeping in mind spending constraints.

The firm should have first-hand knowledge of control system technologies, legacy systems, pneumatic controls and communication infrastructure issues, such as open communication standards. Its understanding of codes, regulations, laws and guidelines should be reviewed.

Master Plan Strategies
Site specialists and design professionals working together will develop the master plan based on the as-built data and goals for the new system. The overarching goal is to achieve greater and more precise control of multiple building systems in a unified approach. The team will identify global system software and control strategies during master planning sessions.

The process of developing the master plan raises many issues:

Software Applications
The planning team would also do well to consider certain specific applications software programs:

A Living Document
The master plan will guide replacement of obsolete legacy systems with new state-of-the-art equipment providing precise control that increases occupant comfort and reduces occupant complaints. All too often, facility executives then breathe a sigh of relief and place the master plan on the bookshelf.

To serve its purpose, the master plan should be treated as a living document. It should serve as a desk guide for site specialists as they go about daily operations, a planning guide for all control system projects and a source of up-to-date documentation. Equally important, the master plan should be revised as the physical plant, facility operation goals and technology evolve. An up-to-date master plan serves as a valuable tool to help meet energy management goals.

Building a Paper Trail

Among the documents facility executives should gather to prepare for the design of an energy management control system are:

  • Site plan indicating locations of all buildings.
  • Plans for connecting tunnels between buildings or existing campus communication loop.
  • General information for each building, including classification information (dormitory, office, laboratory, hospital, central plant, etc.), height, total area in square feet and mechanical equipment room locations.
  • Existing documents indicating HVAC equipment located in each mechanical equipment room.
  • Existing documentation on all control systems serving each building, including information on existing temperature control manufacturer and product installed, workstation locations, control panel locations, temperature control drawings and specifications, and pneumatic riser and compressed air system infrastructure.
  • Normal and emergency power distribution locations for each building.
  • AutoCAD architectural documents for each building.
  • Contact names of all existing site temperature controls and energy management system maintenance providers.
  • Sequence of operations for all systems being controlled.
  • Software documentation.
  • Equipment naming convention.
  • Computer print out of all connected points to each existing standalone energy management control system.

Carlos Petty is an associate partner and group manager in the New York City office of Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting, engineering, technology and construction firm.