Battling the complexity of designing government facilities: automation and controls, codes and standards

The government can be a tough customer, and the projects that state, municipal, federal, and military entities approach engineers about are highly complex. Here, engineers with experience tackling such tall orders offer advice regarding automation and controls and following codes and standards.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer December 28, 2016


Mohamed Abdelmoneim, PE, Peng, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Electrical Engineer, EYP, Washington, D.C.

Raymond Krick III, PE, LEED AP, Project Manager, RMF Engineering, Baltimore

Allen Poppe, PE, MBA, Principal Mechanical Engineer, Mechanical & Chemical Group, Manager, Stanley Consultants, Muscatine, Iowa

Rick H. Troberman Jr., PE, LEED AP, CBCP, Mechanical Engineer, EEA Consulting Engineers, Austin, Texas Lindsay

Zanders, PE, PMP, Sr. Project Manager/Director of Projects, Primera Engineers Ltd., Chicago 

CSE: When working on monitoring and control systems in government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities, what factors do you consider?

Zanders: Typically, government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities involve more than a single building. The entity can be a collection of closely located buildings in a campus setting, like a military base, or it can be individual buildings spread across a city, state, or country, such as fire stations. The common element is the operation and maintenance (O&M) team. A recommended practice is to connect individual facility building automation systems (BAS) to a central collection system. An advantage to a central monitoring station is the ability for the O&M team to collect information on all of their facilities without physically traveling to each site. The monitoring station can also provide remote control if the individual facility BAS is configured correctly. Determining the capabilities and feasibility of a central monitoring/control station depends on the quantity and location of facilities, operation/occupancy at facilities, and the staff mobilization plan. Distributed buildings providing critical services are the ideal application for remote monitoring and control.

Troberman: The control systems must meet the open-protocol requirements, and the earlier in the design process, the better for working out challenges with respect to controls and overall integration of systems. It is very important to understand the Army’s definitions as well as the difference between the building-level BAS and the utility monitoring and control systems/energy-management control systems (UMCS/EMCS) per the guide specifications. Additionally, it is important to consider and be aware of what systems are required to be included in the scope of the monitoring and control systems. We are seeing more systems being required to be monitored.

Poppe: Military specifications are set up for separate UMCS and direct digital control (DDC) systems. The UMCS provides basewide connectivity of one or more building-level DDC systems. The current policy is for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Air Force Civil Engineering Center to use the LonWorks standard. Naval Facilities Engineering Command uses the BACnet standard. In reality, various bases have their own legacy systems. From a practical standpoint, it is best to try to match the existing system from an interoperability standpoint. The trend toward joint bases further complicates the matter.

CSE: Please explain some of the codes, standards, and guidelines you use during the commissioning process. Which codes/standards should engineers be most aware of in their commissioning of these buildings?

Poppe: We structure our commissioning process based on ASHRAE guidelines and industry standards of practice established by the Associated Air Balance Council (AABC) Commissioning Group (ACG). ASHRAE Guideline 0-The Commissioning Process is also used. State and federal projects are increasingly requiring professional accreditation. Many of our commissioning professionals are accredited by the ACG. We see the CxA Certified Commissioning Authority credential being required for military facilities. Engineers should be aware that ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) include commissioning requirements.

Krick: Most government clients follow the codes from the International Code Council (ICC), such as the International Building Code and the International Mechanical Code, but some government clients follow additional codes, such as the UFC or the National Institutes of Health Design Requirements Manual (DRM). The UFC documents cover every aspect of facility design and apply to military departments, defense agencies, and DoD field activities. These documents reference the ICC codes and other industry standards. The DRM is a comprehensive guide for laboratory design.

Troberman: They should be aware of ASHRAE Guideline 0 and ASHRAE Guideline 1.1: HVAC&R Technical Requirements for The Commissioning Process, ASHRAE 189.1, and NEBB Procedural Standards for Whole Building Systems Commissioning of New Construction.

CSE: NFPA has issued the latest version of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code in the 2016 edition. How do you anticipate these changes to impact future projects for government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities?

Zanders: The 2017 edition of the NFPA 101: Life Safety Code requires risk assessment for mass notification application. NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, Chapter 24, is a guideline on how to perform this risk assessment. The new code will encourage owners to increase safety and communication among buildings by implementing mass notification systems in high-risk environments.

CSE: Please explain how you are addressing ASHRAE Standard 188-2015 Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems. How is ASHRAE 188 impacting projects for government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities?

Krick: ASHRAE 188 has helped us to advise our clients during their implementation of a Legionellosis risk management plan for their facilities. The standard also serves as a great checklist for us during the design phase to identify potential sources of transmission. We have worked in some facilities where there is much greater sensitivity to the Legionella issue lately, such as a Veterans Affairs hospital. ASHRAE 188-2015 and ASHRAE 12-2000: Minimizing the Risk of Legionellosis Associated with Building Water Systems offer guidance on the design of a building water system that has minimized risk for the occupants.

CSE: What are the most challenging codes and standards to follow for government, state, municipal, federal, and military facilities? What makes them so challenging?

Mohamed Abdelmoneim: Implementing and adopting energy codes in the IECC, NFPA 900: Building Energy Code, and ASHRAE 90.1 represent major challenges when designing government and military projects. While these energy codes and standards are geared toward reducing overall building energy costs, the requirements are not always feasible within government project budgets and also may not fit the building’s operation-especially when dealing with renovations. For example, plug-load controls (which would require behavioral change) may add an additional tier of controls but might not be practical in terms of operations. Automatic shutoff for computers, as a second example, that reduce phantom loads will result in undesirable performance and user/occupant frustration if the end users are not aware of the energy-saving benefits and how to best achieve them. In addition, these codes and standards that were listed for the same project represent a great challenge, as the requirements for lighting power densities and lighting control are different. For instance, a project based on the 2012 IECC daylight zones can be manual versus one based on ASHRAE 90.1-2010, which has minimum space limitations in terms of daylighting, but controls must be automatic.

Troberman: The military’s UFC can present challenges in that it will sometimes override an international or uniform code for which one would typically design. Juggling the order of precedence on these projects is a particular challenge. For example, this often comes into play in fire protection/alarm design because the UFC will often override the ICC.

CSE: How are codes, standards, or guidelines for energy efficiency impacting the design of such buildings?

Troberman: The federal/military agencies are continually pushing for higher efficiencies. The military actually has a goal of being net zero by 2030, which is driving the other agencies forward.

Poppe: UFC 1-200-02: High Performance and Sustainable Building Requirements is required for military facilities. The current version of this standard requires new construction and major renovations to achieve a 30% energy-consumption reduction with respect to ASHRAE 90.1-2010’s baseline. Unlike LEED EAc1: Optimize Energy Performance, this reduction excludes receptacle and process loads. Also, this is based on consumption reduction instead of energy-cost savings reduction. Being 30% better than the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline was possible using traditional HVAC systems. As the baseline progresses to newer versions of the code, traditional HVAC systems will not meet the more stringent requirements.

Zanders: Energy efficiency is mandated by energy codes, so building and system design must comply. The owner can also choose to pursue additional certification or standards, such as high-performing buildings or LEED. Energy-conscious design has been so prevalent for the last 10+ years that engineering systems naturally already investigate efficiency during development. For engineering systems, energy efficiency has the greatest impact on the building envelope, HVAC, and lighting design and control. Size, location, quality, and quantity of windows will dictate HVAC sizing and lighting control. Lighting levels and control are more focused now on real occupant needs and automatic energy-savings adjustments. If energy cost is the metric to measure efficiency, then some HVAC infrastructures will be eliminated (depending on the cost of local utilities).

Abdelmoneim: From an electrical engineering standpoint, these energy codes and standards significantly impact the development and implementation of complex lighting control and plug-load control strategies as well as metering systems. During initial programming and design, it is crucial to collaborate with facility engineers throughout the entire process. Implementing control and metering strategies provides the opportunity for personnel training to ensure proper usage and systems maintenance.