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Skip Milton, Assistant Director of Facilities Operations, Energy, Maintenance & Operations with Texas Children's Hospital, discusses his hospital's building-automation system and its impact on energy efficiency.
William (Skip) Milton
Assistant Director of Facilities Operations, Energy, Maintenance & Operations
Texas Children's Hospital
Your hospital has used a building-automation system (BAS) since 1994, but you upgraded to a more robust system in the last year. What additional features and functions does the new system provide?
The new system utilizes open architecture and is fully Web-based. The system provides integration vehicles that allow for integration of our computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), fire alarm, materials management, and other systems into the BAS. It also provides us with the ability to access the system via Wi-Fi or smart phones using Web browsers. The system can send e-mails and pages to disseminate information.
What are the unique challenges of upgrading a BAS in an acute-care hospital?
First, system failure is not an option here, as we have more than 470 acute-care pediatric patients in our hospital. We worked with the vendor and our internal information-systems group to model and dry run every aspect of the conversion before changes were made.
All upgraded hardware was installed and checked out prior to the conversion. Every change was inspected by our internal change-control group. The conversion was accomplished in phases, one building at a time, over weekends. Our most critical building, the hospital, was the last phase to be completed.
What type of training did you and your technicians need to receive before operating the upgraded system?
The entire Texas Children’s Hospital team that interfaces with the BAS attended operator training provided on site by the vendor. We purchased a complete training simulator from the vendor and use it to train new operators and retrain existing operators. Every one of our control-room operators is going through a three-year training program to certify them under established ISO standards.
The hospital's Clinical Care Center earned an Energy Star label this year. How did the BAS contribute to the operational changes that led to improved energy efficiency?
The BAS allows us to monitor the energy consumption for our buildings. We cross-check our data against our energy vendor’s data. We are able to real-time monitor changes to mechanical systems, lighting, and space environments as we change setpoints and status. We also trend a lot of operating parameters for cause-and-effect relationships. The information is used to operate our systems using adequate but minimum amounts of energy.
What role will your building-automation system play in streamlining the maintenance and operations of the $1.5 billion expansion the hospital will complete in 2010?
The Vision 2010 expansion is one of the reasons we upgraded the BAS. The BAS point count, currently about 30,000, was becoming cumbersome for the older system. We also needed a Web-based system that could integrate other systems into the BAS platform.
Technically, the core BAS never changed. The way the system was accessed and managed changed. Individual controllers didn’t change, just the way that they communicated changed. We will use the BAS platform to monitor and control all of our facilities and systems from a central service-response center located on the Texas Children’s Hospital main campus in the Texas Medical Center in Houston.