Constructing college, university buildings wisely: Automation and controls
Engineering mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and fire protection systems in colleges and universities requires designers to look toward the future of postsecondary education, and consider all aspects of a building and its occupants. Building automation systems and controls are frequently specified.
Aravind Batra, PE, LC, LEED AP, Principal, P2S Engineering Inc., Long Beach, Calif.
Craig Buck, PE, LEED AP, Associate, RMF Engineering, Charleston, S.C.
Jeffrey R. Crawford, PE, LEED AP, CCS, Vice President, Director of Higher Education & Research Market, Ross & Baruzzini Inc., St. Louis
Andre M. Hebert, PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Senior Mechanical Engineer, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Boston
Sergiu Pelau, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Syska Hennessy Group, New York City
Scott Robbins, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Boston
CSE: When working on monitoring and control systems in college/university structures, what factors do you consider?
Buck: The biggest factors that we focus on are functionality and simplicity. It is critical that the controls operate the building in an efficient manner, and it is equally important that the owner operates and maintains the system once the building is turned over. Overly complex systems are sometimes difficult to implement during construction and even more difficult for maintenance staff to maintain and operate. Creating a system that is simple and easy to operate means that the maintenance staff can better maintain the building and deal with issues as they arise during the lifetime of a building.
Crawford: Some of the main factors we consider when designing monitoring-and-control systems for college/university buildings are:
- Energy/sustainability goals of the college/university
- Knowledge base and capabilities of the facility's operation staff
- Expected occupancy profile of the building over the course of a year
- Type and complexity of the building systems.
Batra: The factors we consider are current installation of controls: Are they proprietary or are they open to a more open protocol system? Do they have a migration path from proprietary to fully open? Do they have the ability to communicate to central monitoring systems with an open architecture? We also evaluate the capabilities of facility personnel on their understanding of the control systems; we customize the controls and automation to suit their capabilities, needs, and requirements.
Pelau: One of the main factors to be considered are the campus standards. Many universities have standardized their automation systems and expect to have the same controls for the new building for easier integration. Energy-metering requirements are also important, especially if there is a central utility plant providing utilities like chilled water, hot water, or steam to the buildings. The universities would normally want to have these utilities metered at a minimum, to assist in monitoring the building's energy usage. Another factor to be considered is the campus information technology (IT) and low-voltage connectivity. Are they to be part of the backbone system or stand-alone? And finally, the sustainability aspect could reflect into the BAS through LEED requirements such as measurement and verification (M&V) plans.
Robbins: Controls are the most critical factor in the successful operation of the HVAC systems of a building. We like to include many monitoring features that will benefit the operation of the equipment. A good example is filters. They will become loaded over time. By monitoring the pressure drop across the filters, we can have the control system inform the user when they should be changed.