Focus on specialty structures: Automation, controls and technology

Sports arenas, historical buildings, theaters and other specialty buildings require unique engineering design

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer August 16, 2019


Wayne E. Allred, PE, LEED AP 

Principal/Regional Director 

TLC Engineering Solutions 

Orlando, Florida 

Allred brings 30 years of electrical engineering experience to his position as Principal and Regional Director of the company’s Orlando unit. His career choice was inspired by growing up on Florida’s space coast, watching Saturn V rocket launches and other events.  


Scott Foster, PE, LEED AP 

Managing Principal 

Affiliated Engineers Inc. 


Foster joined AEI in 2007 and now serves as managing principal. He was a 2016 Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40 award winner. 


Kevin Lewis, PE, LEED AP BD+C 

Senior Vice President/Venue Practice Director 

Henderson Engineers 

Lenexa, Kansas 

As Senior Vice President/Venue Practice Director, Lewis has managed the design of more than a dozen LEED-certified sports projects. Before joining the company, he received collegiate scholarships for baseball and track. 


Robert V. Hedman, PE, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, Fitwel Amb. 


Kohler Ronan LLC 

Danbury, Connecticut 

As principal, Hedman serves as co-head of the mechanical department, oversees staff and managers numerous large projects. He focuses on coordination between disciplines and systems integration with architectural and structural design components. 

CSE: From your experience, what systems within a specialty-structure project are benefiting from automation that previously might not have been? 

Foster: Integrating occupancy schedules into the operation of the mechanical systems is becoming more common. This allows the mechanical systems to automate setbacks and at the same time ensure that the space is at temperature setpoint when the space is going to be occupied. 

Lewis: Sports projects can and will really benefit from a more integrated control system. To optimize these buildings the building control systems needs to be able to talk to each other. This optimization can lead to energy and operational efficiencies that haven’t been available in the past. Incorporation of the security cameras has also led to more secure facilities and can play active roles when issues do arise that require a law enforcement response. 

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

Lewis: The biggest issue is when systems are not compatible and/or don’t talk to each other, this leads to problems that can be difficult to resolve. The best way to overcome problems like these is to create an integrated control system that is both predictive and responsive. These systems should be able to learn patterns and react to them accordingly.  

Foster: Integrating the lighting system with the building automation system continues to be a challenge on many projects, especially projects with more sophisticated lighting control and dimming sequences. 

CSE: Is your team using building information modeling in conjunction with the architects, trades and owner to design a project?  

HedmanMore than 80% of the projects we are involved with are designed using BIM in coordination with the architect, owner and other trades. Kohler Ronan believes the use of BIM reduces constructability issues as these are identified during the design process provided the building systems, components, existing structure, new structure and architecture are modeled correctly. Additionally, BIM modeling is frequently used by the trades during construction to provide constructability review and to produce coordination drawings. 

CSE: Have you included virtual reality or augmented reality in the design of such a project? Describe the application of such tools.  

Foster: We have integrated VR into our design process. We have used it to show an architect how the exposed MEP/FP systems will look within a space, for instance or show mechanical room layout and access to maintenance and operations staff. We have looked into tools like the Microsoft HaloLens for maintenance training, but have yet to use one on a project. The day is coming when this will be commonplace. 

CSE: Has the internet othings come up in discussion or been implemented on such projects? How has this integration impacted the project?  

Foster: IoT comes up more and more on these types of projects. The conversation generally revolves around making sure the systems being installed can deploy a more robust IoT suite of solutions in the future. The time it takes to integrate and get all the systems properly working has caused the project closeout phase to extend beyond what the industry is used to. This has slowed the deployment of IoT solutions. 

CSE: How has your technology team worked with facility managers to implement security technology (biometrics, card-scan, etc.) in specialty projects? 

Lewis: One of the biggest concerns for facilities with a large population is security. To that end, we are consistently working on ways where we can implement better guards against various threats and a lot of this involves the camera system. When used correctly, the camera system tied together with door hardware, access and user verification can head off a lot of issues before they occur.