Facing the challenges of mixed-use buildings: automation and controls

Fulfilling the demands of a mixed-use facility can be challenging, considering the structure’s diverse components. Here, professionals with experience on such projects share advice and explain how to end up with positive results concerning automation and controls.

By CFE Media August 23, 2016


Dave Crutchfield, PE, LEED AP Principal, RMF Engineering, Charleston, S.C.

Julianne Laue, PE, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP, Senior Energy Engineer, Center for Energy Performance, M.A. Mortenson Co., Minneapolis

Robert Nixdorf, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, San Francisco

Rodney V. Oathout, PE, LEED AP, Energy + Engineering Leader, Principal, DLR Group, Overland Park, Kan.

CSE: When working on monitoring and control systems in specialty buildings, what factors do you consider?

Crutchfield: We often start with gaining an understanding of the existing campus control architecture and provider. Often, the campus will have a pre-existing agreement with a control manufacturer that we must use as our vendor. If we are not limited to a single vendor, we will engage the facilities team in the selection process to ensure that they are comfortable with the level of control and technology that they will be using. Ease of use and information sharing are key issues. Nowadays, facilities teams want their smartphones to alert them when alarms from the display data channel are triggered. This enables them to coordinate a response while offsite.

CSE: What types of system integration and/or interoperability issues have you overcome in such projects, and how did you do so?

Crutchfield: It is unfortunate to still see some clients with large campuses who have multiple front-end workstations on their desks running different controls systems. With all the work that has been done over the years to create a seamless controls standard, the reality is that true open-protocol controls are still difficult.

CSE: What unique tools are the owners of such projects including in their automation and controls systems?

Oathout: We are noticing a trend where owners are using performance-monitoring software that communicates with the building automation system to continuously analyze the performance of the asset. These tools have robust analytics programmed by commissioning professionals to maximize energy performance and provide information for proactive maintenance.

Crutchfield: Providing the facilities staff with either tablet computers (i.e., iPads) or smartphones with control system access is becoming standard.

Author Bio: Since its founding in 2010, CFE Media and Technology has provided engineers in manufacturing, commercial and industrial buildings, and manufacturing control systems with the knowledge they need to improve their operational efficiency. CFE delivers the right information at the right time around the world through a variety of platforms.