4  FM quick reads on controls

1. With Building Controls, Age May or May Not Be the Reason for Problems

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for the magazine: Facility managers should recognize common problems with older controls, but also recognize that the age of controls may not be the real issue.

One widely recognized problem with older controls is getting repair parts and service on older controls. Another common issue tied to the age of controls is greater difficulty integrating one control system into other systems. "Older controls generally have proprietary protocols," says Jim Sinopoli, managing principal for Smart Buildings.

Another issue is that older controls just don't have the capabilities to meet the needs of the organization. "The problem of aging controls is not always a functional problem, as much as a need for improvement to meet the wants of a tenant, the inability to control the use of energy or the ability to reduce labor costs associated with operating less dependable equipment," says Jack Althoff, owner representative, ProJX Inc.

Many older control systems do not offer capabilities like load-shedding or point-of-use zone control, says Althoff. With pneumatic or analog controls, tighter operating parameters are not possible because of the large swings in actuator travel inherent in such designs.

But when a facility manager is experiencing controls problems, it's important to remember that aging controls are not always the culprit, according to Jack McGowan, CEO of Energy Control Inc. The building control problems that McGowan typically encounters are not technical issues or control-failure issues. "The biggest issue is that over time a variety of staff interfere with, circumvent and bypass systems," McGowan says. "This is a symptom of the real problem, which is that there is rarely a disciplined long-term program to leverage controls, ensuring that they remain operational."

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.

Reduce IAQ Complaints Through Communication

In the past, the prevailing characteristic of new and more sophisticated controls was to reduce the influence of the occupants. Thermostats controlling individual spaces and operable windows were removed. The result was that customer needs were reduced to standards. The customer was left with other no means to control his or her environment than to complain.

In the absence of individual controls, facility managers should try to create ways for occupants to still influence their environment. Providing opportunities for occupants to set the quality agenda for their work environment through surveys, focus groups or interviews will go a long way to minimizing indoor air quality complaints. They are ways to replace individual controls with communications.

Facility managers can show a link between what the customer wants in the way of environmental quality and the operating strategies they employ. This gives control back to the occupants, reduces complaints and creates a partnership in environmental quality management. It is a no cost way to improve satisfaction and complements any planned capital improvements over time you may have in place that will return some control to occupants over their environment.


controls , building automation , energy efficiency

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