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Project Profile: Building Automation Retrofit

Part 1: Building-Automation System: Retrofit Starts with Metering

Part 2: BAS: Direct-Digital Controls, HVAC Equipment Improve Energy Efficiency

Part 3: BAS Upgrade Lowers University's Energy Bills 20 Percent


BAS Upgrade Lowers University's Energy Bills 20 Percent

By Dan Hounsell, Editor - April 2010 - Building Automation


The project has led to a host of benefits.

For the university, the major benefit has been the creation of a successful template for cost-effective, efficient BAS upgrades. And the template has worked: Three other buildings subsequently have gone through similar controls upgrades.

"Now, any building has got to have one of these upgrades," he says, and renovation and new construction must comply with the standardized controls.

Another major benefit has been to the bottom line. The building's annual utility bill has dropped by about $40,000 a savings of about 20 percent, Barsun says.

For the physical plant department, the impact of the project goes beyond the bottom-line benefits. Managers and technicians feel its impact on operations many times every day.

After all, Chavez says, "We're the people who have to live with the end product." The project is especially satisfying because it provided savings and benefits that typically come from a BAS replacement, which costs more upfront.

Perhaps the biggest benefit involves productivity. Before the project, a hiring freeze had made it challenging for Chavez to find qualified technicians to operate the old BAS and perform maintenance properly.

"The new system made it a lot easier in terms of maintenance," he says. "We aren't being reactive anymore." The BAS monitoring technology has been especially beneficial.

"We can do maintenance on screen now, instead of having to send someone out to look at the problem," Chavez says, adding staff can control the system remotely.

Before the upgrade, "every time we would get a call, we'd have to go put out the fire," Chavez says. "Now we can be a lot more proactive. We can perform preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance. We can spend more time on other buildings."

The project also has enabled the department to address problems with HVAC components. For example, technicians have gone back and fixed thermostats that had not been functioning properly because of problems with the original BAS.

Long-Term Lessons

For Chavez, the project has provided valuable lessons other managers can use.

First, he says, managers must make sure contractors pay attention to building details and understand all relevant aspects of the project. He advises telling contractors, "Field-verify before you give us a bid."

Second, communicate with occupants about a project's scope and schedule, as well as how it is likely to affect them. While such projects are designed to improve building operations, he says, "it's not going to be as comfortable as a modern building."

Finally, Chavez advises managers to make sure contractors have ready access to all needed replacement parts and equipment. Failing to pay attention to this level of details, he says "can throw a wrench in the works pretty quickly. It can really drive up the cost unless you do careful planning."

[Commissioning Resources]

Maintenance technicians with the University of New Mexico benefited greatly from commissioning its building-automation-system upgrade.

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities offers resources for maintenance and engineering managers seeking to commission, recommission, or retrocommission a new or existing building or system. For example:

  • NEBB Procedural Standards for Retro-Commissioning of Existing Buildings provides a set of criteria for the performance of the retrocommissioning process when applied to a building's mechanical, electrical, and building-envelope systems.

For more information, visit www.edfacilities.org/rl/commissioning.cfm.

— Dan Hounsell




Project Profile: Building Automation Retrofit

Part 1: Building-Automation System: Retrofit Starts with Metering

Part 2: BAS: Direct-Digital Controls, HVAC Equipment Improve Energy Efficiency

Part 3: BAS Upgrade Lowers University's Energy Bills 20 Percent


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