In Balance: UCSC Manages Comfort with Long-Term BAS Provider

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 22, 2004

The University of California Santa Cruz is ranked first in the nation for its academic research impact in the field of space sciences, as well as physics. The campus, situated in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, has also been rated “most beautiful” by multiple publications, partly attributed to the area’s Mediterranean-like climate. Keeping both of these distinctive qualities in balance is a top priority for the building operations staff that works to maintain the right indoor comfort level for both scientists and students.

Dennis Parks, a programmer analyst who has been with UCSC for 18 years, and the building and utility services staff manage the 547 buildings that comprise the 2,000-acre campus. The research and science labs can be challenging to heat and cool since many experiments demand that materials be kept at a constant temperature. The remainder of the buildings are heated for comfort, but not cooled.

“Researchers can lose six months worth of research if the temperature suddenly fluctuates,” Parks said. “It’s our job to make sure the labs’ temperatures are strictly controlled.”

Because the UCSC campus is lush with redwood trees, it is also important to make sure that all of the outside lights are functioning properly. Heavily wooded areas become dark earlier than the open areas, Parks said, so timing the lights is a complicated issue.

Protecting investments with a single provider
The university has found building integration to be the key to managing the HVAC and lighting systems effectively, and has partnered with one building automation system provider over the past 32 years because of the company’s expertise in BAS. UCSC chose Honeywell because they were the first in the market to introduce intelligent direct building control, an improvement from the pneumatic controls used previously.

Dennis Parks has experienced each round of system upgrades, and has been impressed that the university’s legacy systems are still going strong.

“With each new system, we have been able to bring the legacy system forward,” Parks said. “We never have to throw away old equipment because Honeywell helps us migrate at our pace.”

Because Honeywell is continually upgrading and improving their equipment, UCSC has multiple generations of control systems running in different buildings throughout the campus. Providing continuity between the generations is important to the university and has reduced the need to purchase new equipment, Parks said.

“Our campus staff doesn’t know which building is using which system, and that’s a good thing,” Parks said. “The old and the new work together flawlessly.”

Making BAS look easy
In 2000, Honeywell installed its Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI) that will allow all three of UCSC’s existing earlier-generation front ends (the man-machine interface that gathers data from the controller sub-networks) to be run through one central command center.

“EBI makes managing our building automation look easy,” Parks said. “It’s easy for our plant operator to use, and has greatly improved the productivity and efficiency of our operations.”

In addition to using building automation for HVAC, the campus is also able to run approximately 90% of its outdoor lighting controls through the system. This allows system operators to make sure lights are turning on at the right time, and sends alarms when maintenance is needed. Ensuring that the campus is well lit at night increases the safety of UCSC’s faculty, staff and students.

Using energy-efficient HVAC systems also helps the university conserve energy, which is crucial in California. Because all systems are integrated through EBI, as opposed to operating on their own, the university saves a considerable amount of energy and money.

“People are very concerned about energy consumption in California,” Parks said. “Through the use of Honeywell’s systems, we’re able to do our part in helping the energy crisis while keeping our costs down.”

Quality of service
With a $1.9 million project in the new physical sciences building expected to be completed this fall and the addition of a brand new engineering building this summer, Parks is confident that adding these new buildings into their EBI will be smooth and seamless.

Eventually, Parks would like to replace all of the legacy systems. Mapping all controllers and replacing all older systems, including the migration of the existing front ends into EBI to achieve ultimate efficiency.

Due to the nature of Parks’ job, he stays on call 24 hours a day, and on weekends. If something goes wrong with any of the systems, Parks hears about it via his cell phone, no matter what time of day. This kind of schedule may seem unappealing, but Parks doesn’t mind at all.

“Knowing our systems are running smoothly allows me to go home and sleep at night,” Parks said. “My position can be pretty high pressure, but working with [these] systems makes my life easier—I really believe that.”