Major Satellite Broadcaster Tunes Into IBS

When owners and engineers began designing Sky Latin America's newest broadcasting facility in Miami Lakes, Fla., the operative word was "automation." Today, after nearly three years as the main provider of satellite programming feeds in Spanish and Portuguese to nearly a million homes throughout Latin America, the firm's automated building concept has become a reality.


When owners and engineers began designing Sky Latin America's newest broadcasting facility in Miami Lakes, Fla., the operative word was "automation." Today, after nearly three years as the main provider of satellite programming feeds in Spanish and Portuguese to nearly a million homes throughout Latin America, the firm's automated building concept has become a reality.

The key to its uninterrupted operation is an integrated building system (IBS) that links all critical functions to a centralized building automation system (BAS).

"The corporate decision was to build a completely automated facility," says Cesar Colls, building services manager for the facility. "To us, that means having the fewest number of 'hands on' as possible. It's not just an issue of lower operating costs; it's really more of an issue of reliability and reduced errors."

Colls further explains that there can be no such thing as downtime: A loss of signal could mean millions of dollars per minute.

The facility's critical systems are tied into the central BAS via two workstations. These systems include: a fire-alarm and life-safety system; electrical switchgear power monitoring; a card-access security system and closed circuit television (CCTV) via two security PCs; a fuel-tank monitoring system; three open-protocol chillers; and computer room air-conditioning units. Field equipment includes nine modular building controllers (MBCs), more than 600 F/A devices, 30 card readers and 20 CCTV cameras strategically located throughout the facility.

Backup on backup

The owners planned for all contingencies. Each primary piece of equipment—emergency power generator and chiller—is backed up by two additional units. As Colls describes, "Each backup is backed up by a backup." Operation of these units is rotated to keep them in prime running condition. Even the facility itself is backed up by a redundant, 23,000-sq.-ft. "divert site" in St. Lucie County, about 90 miles away.

Colls says the IBS automation scheme is like having extra, highly skilled people on staff and no margin for errors. "It couldn't be done without integration, in my opinion," he adds. "No matter where I am, I can dial up here using my laptop and perform virtually any task as if I'm on-site. I can, for example, turn on a generator, or check to see which equipment is operating at any given time. I can also troubleshoot problems before they become serious and then dispatch the right people to the right places as needed."

While security from intrusion is one priority, protection for employees and visitors is equally important. "We're running at very high power here—23kV in certain rooms", says Colls. "We don't want anyone walking into these areas by accident."

Also, in the event of a fire, the system will identify the specific smoke detectors that are affected. For operators of the IBS, in the event of an alarm condition, the system will issue an audible and visual alarm along with the appropriate message that advises the security guard what to do.

Customizing the programs within the IBS allows simpler changes to be made to the operation, a feature that Colls appreciates. For example, if the critical chilled-water set point that cools the computer room exceeds its limit, the system will page Colls first with a specific code that identifies the problem and its location, even before it is dispatched to security. This approach allows Colls to assess the situation before others take any action.

Coordinating the integration of all the building systems, which are supplied by a number of manufacturers, was a difficult and time-consuming challenge. "The consulting engineer's specification called for all of these systems," says Colls, "which traditionally fall under separate trades, to be included under a special section called 'Division 17, Integrated Systems,' which meant that one turnkey systems integrator was responsible as the integration contractor for assuring that all of the systems were linked together and worked together as designed."

From his workstation, Colls can provide customized access to anyone he chooses. He can also generate custom management reports, such as for power consumption or energy efficiency.

Change is constant

Since the facility was completed, the IBS has been on a continuous upgrade path to accommodate growth and change, as well as to enhance performance, add new capabilities and refine certain operations and procedures.

The facility has added a number of roof package units that had to be sequenced to provide cooling for critical rooms. Adding a third chiller was considered an upgrade because the sequencing program had to be altered significantly, from a lead/lag approach to a run time specification. In fact, depending on the conditions and optimum run times, the system now chooses the correct chiller from the three units.

According to Colls, the IBS is a major asset in helping to accommodate changing building requirements. "This industry [broadcast satellite] changes on a daily basis, so we need to stay on the cutting edge of that change to remain competitive," he notes. "The flexibility of the IBS is a valuable benefit; it allows us to adapt more easily to change. We've modified the original design scheme of many of the air-conditioning units for new offices, and we've also added VFDs that were brought on-line for monitoring. We will be adding many more of these devices with soft-start capabilities so that we can monitor static pressure throughout the facility."

In this facility, a change in certain areas can signal major issues for the building services manager. "Our engineers and station manager are looking at adding a studio in one end of the building. My challenge is to determine what the HVAC and lighting needs will be, as well as controlling airflow that limits noise to microphones and other broadcast and recording equipment. This is in addition to assessing the building support functions—such as fire alarm, life safety and security—that will be needed to augment what's already installed."

For the future, Colls believes he and the facility are well prepared to handle most facility management challenges. "We have been collecting trend data on the operations here through the system so that, in the future, we can look at actual historical information to change while maintaining continuous operation."

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