Controls Upgrades: Step 4: Manage the Upgrade Project
Once a project has been justified and a short list of vendors selected, it's up to the facility manager to ensure that the project is successful.
Sharpe recommends that facilities managers have vendors they are interested in demonstrate their equipment. "Then insist that they leave the equipment with you so you can test it."
Timing on controls projects can be complex. In Oklahoma's case, a new EMS/BAS system is being installed. The first phase is expected to cost $1 million plus and will replace about 30 to 40 percent of existing controllers.
"Even if we had all the money, it isn't realistic to replace everything at once," says Cherry. Instead, the state is using a planned replacement schedule, starting with buildings that most need upgrading. "As we redo controls, we'll save the older ones that are still operating as spare parts," says Cherry.
Paying attention to the nuts and bolts is essential to project scheduling. "As you replace field controllers, there's a period of time where the controller is not controlling anything," says Sinopoli. "So there's a lot of preparation and scheduling involved. Generally, you try to install the new controller next to the old one that is still operating. Then, when everything's in place, you transfer to the new one so that field devices are up and operating."
Issues on the use of UPS for controllers and emergency power also need to be addressed. "If the controller loses power, all things connected to that field controller are compromised," Sinopoli says.
In a project as complex as a controls upgrade can be, facility managers should choose carefully when selecting the experts.
"One thing we learned in doing the specifications was that we needed to double-check the controllers' software requirements," says Cherry. "Devices could come from multiple vendors, but as end-users we didn't want two or three laptops running software packages to run the building." This can be addressed by insisting all use the same software. Otherwise, building operators may need to learn several software formats.
For assistance in this area, Cherry recommends using a systems integrator consultant that is independent from any of the vendors, but that understands the needs and requirements of building automation.
Sharpe agrees that the choice of systems integrator is crucial. "The systems integrator can make the EMS/BAS work or give you the biggest headache you ever came across."
Rita Tatum, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, has more than 30 years of experience covering facility design and technology.