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4  FM quick reads on project management

1. Retrofits, Troubleshooting, and Energy Efficiency


The process of installing high-efficiency HVAC equipment in institutional and commercial facilities is rarely without complications, challenges or problems.

One case in point is the construction of a 174,109-square-foot addition to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., in 2011. The project included two new high-efficiency chillers, and it incorporated the installation of two new high-efficiency boilers in the existing hospital.

"One problem was that when we were trying to do a warm-up of the boilers, they would never really stay in the warm-up mode," says Joseph Buri, the medical center's manager of energy solutions. "So when it would try to warm up, you would just put the flame on low instead of turning it up high right away. But the boiler would jump into a high-fire condition.

"We found that the boilers were shipped with some faulty sensors. Through some control work, we tried to do some workarounds and finally discovered what the issue was." The problems also extended to the plan to link the two boiler plants under a single header. "The system never functioned the way we had intended, which was to be one cohesive unit," Buri says. "I think (the problem) was the distance and piping sizing and probably some other factors that led to it not working quite as well as we were hoping."

The difficulties in getting the boilers to operate as designed and as needed to properly heat the facilities created some discomfort among the operators.

"The operations staff was very leery about that system," he says. "They were concerned about the reliability of the system and the new boilers. As a result, they either ran the new boiler room or the old boiler room — never together. So if they needed 500 horsepower, they wouldn't run one three (hundred hp boiler) and one two (hundred hp boiler). It would just be two threes. It kind of turned into (separate) winter and summer boiler rooms."

The boilers' problems prompted Buri and his department to turn to retrocommissioning as a way to discover the source of the problems and identify potential remedies.

"We kind of stood back and looked at the whole system and tried to work with the controls contractor to develop some new sequencing," he says. "Basically, through the controls, we were able to make the system work a lot better."


2.  Project Management: Chiller Challenges

The process of installing high-efficiency HVAC equipment in institutional and commercial facilities is rarely without complications, challenges or problems. One case in point is the construction of a 174,109-square-foot addition to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., in 2011. The project included two new high-efficiency chillers, and it incorporated the installation of two new high-efficiency boilers in the existing hospital.

Successful installations often depend on the ability of maintenance and engineering managers and their staffs to troubleshoot the problems and make the needed changes quickly.

"As far as the issues with the new building, the commissioning and the involvement of the operations staff had a lot to do with minimizing the problems we had," says Joseph Buri, the medical center's manager of energy solutions.

Advocate Condell, with 281 beds, opened in 2003. The level-one trauma, acute-care facility with 745,034 total square feet sits on a 72-acre campus and is the largest health care provider in Lake County, Ill.

One goal of the 2011 addition was patient comfort.

In addition to allowing the expansion of outpatient services, Buri says, "The other piece to it was to allow the hospital to become all single-occupancy rooms." The addition featured two 600-ton centrifugal chillers, both with variable-frequency drives, which brought additional benefits to the hospital's maintenance and engineering department.

"We chose them because they matched our current chiller plant, which were centrifugal, as well, from the same manufacturer," says Buri, who was the medical center's director of facilities and construction at the time of the project. "We were looking to maintain some equipment uniformity. That was the one piece to it. We also wanted some flexibility in operations. We were looking for efficiency to be able to take advantage of the utility rebates.

"Because we went with a high-efficiency chiller, we received some rebates on the motors. So because of the higher efficiency, we received rebates of about $48,000 from the utility."

3.  Managing a Retrofit To Preserve History

Even a building with stunning architecture needs a makeover eventually. After more than 80 years of service to the state of California, the time for a makeover finally came for the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building in Sacramento.

Considered a masterwork of neo-classical design, the library and courts building was built in 1928 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The building covers 188,000 square feet, six floors, and a full basement.

Preserving the grandeur of its early 20th Century style while bringing 21st Century energy efficiency was the primary goal of the $65 million project, says Pella McCormick, project director with California's Department of General Services.

Once construction crews got inside the walls to renovate plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, they braced for curveballs that might come their way.

"It was actually like a treasure hunt between the walls," McCormick says. "The way they built this thing was like there's massive exterior masonry walls, and what you see inside them is like plaster over black iron. It looks very massive on the inside, and it's really kind of a shell, somewhere between 8 inches and 3 feet of cavity between the shell and actual structure of the building."

More surprises loomed as the crew renovated a plumbing system that had been worked on over the years but only in piecemeal fashion. McCormick says that was one of the project's bigger challenges.

"There had been so many renovations over the years that when we started opening up walls and ceilings, what we found in no way resembled any of the documentation we had," she says. "We basically initiated some of the demolition and had a team from the designers and contractors work together to document the entire plumbing layout. They basically had to redesign the entire plumbing system on the fly — a fairly monumental task so as to not affect any of the ongoing construction."

The plumbing system was updated with standard copper pipes and cast-iron waste lines and some of the old cast-iron porcelain fixtures were reused. They also installed low-flow faucets that use 0.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm), toilets that use 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf), and urinals that use 0.125 gpf. Early projections indicate the changes could produce a potential 55 percent decrease in potable water usage.


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