Send in the engineering troops: Building automation and controls
Military facilities present an army of challenges—exacting codes and regulations, stepped-up security issues, and budgetary concerns. Building automation and controls must be compatible across multiple platforms.
- Kevin D. Bomboy, PE, LEED AP, Chief mechanical engineer, STV Group, Douglassville, Pa.
- David Callan, PE, CEM, LEED AP, HBDP, Vice president, McGuire Engineers Inc., Chicago
- Robert L. Crance, Mechanical engineer, Black & Veatch, Overland Park, Kansas
- Joseph H. Talbert, PE, ARM, Project manager, Aon Fire Protection Engineering, Lincolnshire, Ill.
- William Valdez, Northwest justice and civic sector leader/principal, DLR Group, Seattle
CSE: What factors do you need to take into account when designing building automation and controls for military facilities?
Callan: The military does not have unlimited resources. However, in many instances they have more resources than your average facility owner. Technology plays a large role in the ability to effectively operate facilities. Though not always the case, generally the military has the ability to bring a higher level of sophistication to operations. For this reason, and the fact that military projects require a longer life span, we attempt to employ highly functional and featured control systems.
Bomboy: The main issue is that the government properties typically require that no proprietary control system be used. The control system must be either BACnet or LonWorks compatible and, in some cases, both.
CSE: When re- or retro-commissioning control systems in military facilities, what challenges do you encounter, and how do you overcome these challenges?
Bomboy: The biggest challenge is when there is little or no documentation for the existing systems. The solution is a boots-on-the-ground approach with a tremendous amount of time spent on field surveying the actual control system to determine what the system was meant to control and to what parameters.
Callan: People are people. Computers do not operate buildings; people operate buildings and computers. Computers are simply a means to an end. And, in the case of control systems, many engineers do not contemplate actual living and breathing people when designing a system. If the control logic and sequences are overly complicated or obtuse, the operator must override them until he or she is confident in the ability to control the systems. It is these overrides that, we find, cause the buildings to drift from their intended operational efficiency. Usually, in these cases, revisions to the control logic are required to join the people and the technology closer together.