4  FM quick reads on maintenance

1. Maintenance and New Construction


I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is maintenance and new construction.

Organizations that undertake substantial renovation or construction projects to supplement an existing, state-of-the-art building portfolio always work to ensure the new development does not affect existing operations or occupants. When those projects take place in a health care environment, that focus becomes even more critical.

The challenge of melding existing operations with construction projects has not impeded the unprecedented Vision 2010 expansion by Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. The hospital is in the midst of a $1.5 billion expansion that features two new facilities, one building addition, and the construction of a remote campus.

The hospital's West Campus will feature a central plant, which the main hospital does not have. The hospital uses district chilled water and steam for its main campus. The central plant on the West Campus will feature two 1,200-ton centrifugal chillers that include variable-frequency drives, or VFDs, says Skip Milton, the hospital's assistant director of facilities operations, energy, maintenance and operations.

"When we open the central plant, we've got to have licensed operating engineers with experience in operating boilers and chillers," Milton says. "We have some on our staff. All we do now is bring in chilled water from our supplier at 40 degrees and run it through our systems and send it back to them warmer. We bring in 250-pound steam, and we run it through our different systems, and we send it back as condensate."

The hospital's energy costs are expected to jump from $19 million to $25 million with the Vision 2010 facilities, so the project team made sure many of the technologies in the new buildings, such as high-efficiency boilers, VFDs on pumps and fans, and T5 compact fluorescent lamps, for example - were as energy efficient as possible. The maintenance and engineering staff also is taking on retrofits designed to save energy and money in existing facilities.

"We picked energy-efficient equipment; that was No. 1," Milton says. "No. 2 is one of the major components of our energy costs is electricity. I'm trying to put together different tactics to reduce the cost of energy per unit."


2.  Fire System Record Keeping

It is important to schedule routine maintenance on a facility's fire-alarm and detection system. But that involves more than just making a call to a testing agency. Facility managers need to also provide the paper trail for the fire-alarm and detection system.

Useful records include the system's original as-built shop drawings, operation and maintenance manuals, and the written sequence of operations. These provide the testing agency with needed system operation and layout information.

This information is especially important when the fire-alarm and detection system interfaces to other building equipment, such as elevator recall, suppression-system actuation, door control, smoke control and HVAC shutdown.

Providing prior inspection records also helps the testing agency get a full picture of the system, providing information about previous system testing and deficiencies encountered during that testing.

3.  Maintenance and Green Buildings

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is maintenance and green buildings.

The impact of the green building movement has reached unprecedented levels. News about schools, commercial offices and health care facilities vying for green building certification is becoming more commonplace.

Lately, professional sports arenas and stadiums have joined the movement. It's becoming more common for new construction projects to incorporate green elements into an arena's plans. But what about existing buildings? The answer to that question begins with Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Arenas, especially those that host multiple sports teams, pose a host of maintenance and engineering challenges related to lighting, indoor air quality, and HVAC systems that no other type of facility can match. So when Philips Arena decided to pursue certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the committee spearheading the effort understood it would not be easy, especially on a strict budget.

"The first thing we did was sit down and look at the manual and determine what credits and what points we could go after," says Barry Henson, the arena's vice president of building operations. "We were also challenged with doing this and not having any capital outlay and not breaking the bank, so to speak. Everything had to have payback."

Take water efficiency as an example. Atlanta is the largest U.S. city serviced by the smallest aquifer per capita, Henson says, so initiatives to conserve water are critical. The arena installed urinals that use one-half gallon per flush during original construction in the late 1990s, and it has added one-half-gallon-per-minute aerators to faucets. All public restrooms also feature automatic faucets.

To meet LEED's Minimum Indoor Plumbing Fixture & Fitting Efficiency prerequisite in the water-efficiency category, the arena has implemented a strict preventive maintenance program to monitor the performance of its plumbing fixtures.

Finally, the arena's landscape partner has incorporated more indigenous plants to reduce the frequency of irrigation requirements from daily to weekly, earning the arena the Water Efficient Landscaping credit.

4.  Avoiding Problems with HVAC Systems

Failures of major HVAC systems can be costly and disruptive to address. Much better to find problems early and address them when they're still small. There are a variety of ways to do that.

First, keep up with maintenance. Although it's easy to put off when budgets are tight, regular maintenance is an excellent way to prevent problems. If scheduled maintenance has to be put off, don't let it go for too long. And be sure to use qualified technicians to perform the work. When they're performing maintenance, skilled technicians may see signs of trouble even in parts of the system they're not working on.

Skilled facility staff can play another important role just by touring the facility on a regular basis. Of course, doing that will let them find major problems, especially in unoccupied spaces. But experienced staff may very well detect signs of trouble that no one else would notice - a funny smell, for example, or an odd noise.

Another good idea is to recommission the system. Also known as retrocommissioning, recommissioning applies commissioning principles to existing systems. The idea is to verify that the system is operating as it was designed to operate.

All these measures have a bonus: Not only will they help prevent problems in the long run, they may very well reduce energy costs by ensuring that HVAC systems are functioning as they were designed to function.


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maintenance , construction , energy efficiency



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