Learning objective: Designing K-12 schools: Automation and controls

In K-12 schools, technological advancements, code requirements, and other demands placed on engineers are consistently increasing, while limitations like budget restraints remain a challenge. Building automation systems and controls are key to occupancy comfort.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer March 26, 2015


  • David Ellis, PE, CEM, LEED AP Senior Vice President of Engineering Allen & Shariff Engineering LLC Columbia, Md.
  • Nestor Ortiz Senior Construction Engineer, Project Officer Parsons Brinckerhoff Long Island City, N.Y.
  • John C. Palasz, PE, HFDP Mechanical Engineer Primera Engineers Ltd. Chicago

CSE: When designing integration monitoring and control systems, what factors do you consider?

Ortiz: Major components for designing integration monitoring systems and controls are efficiency and energy conservation. For example, motion sensors are being used to shut off lights when there are no occupants in rooms, and mechanical equipment is designed using heat wheels to save energy and minimize heat loss.

Ellis: To the extent possible, operational and maintenance complexity has to be reduced.

CSE: What are some common problems you encounter when working on building automation systems?

Ellis: Given the proprietary nature of most control manufacturers’ architectural approach, despite the drive toward open systems, defining architecture is still subject to customization by each vendor.

Ortiz: Some of the challenging problems we have encountered with our expansion/renovation project are dealing with modifications of existing systems or integrating them with new ones. The older systems are sometimes obsolete and need to be integrated with the new system. To avoid further issues, the old system will be upgraded as well.