By Casey Lauer, Assistant V.P. Power Plant & Utilities
It’s an exciting time to be part of the Facilities team – Over this past year, strategic investments were made in our staff, in critical components for our buildings, and in processes aimed at enhancing the services we provide for Campus. We’ve accomplished much in the areas of Engineering, Utilities and Maintenance, and I’m excited to share some of our highlights from the past 12 months.
The Chilled water expansion project and our own optimization strategies have contributed to massive Campus utility savings. The total campus utility consumption was 7% lower than last year. A great achievement considering we added 600,000 SF to our systems through the addition of new buildings like the College of Business and Engineering Hall, and by adding existing buildings that once had localized cooling systems. Our Campus Plant Manager, Tim Brunner, will specify more details in a future edition of the FM News.
Regarding our plants, some critical points of failure were upgraded in our existing Chilled Water Plant. The cooling towers were rebuilt, and communication lines were replaced in order to integrate the new and existing plants together. At the new Chilled Water Plant, an additional heat exchanger is planned which will allow us to cool the entire Campus in the winter by utilizing the outside air temperature rather than utilizing chillers. In the Steam plant, a boiler was reconditioned to operate at a lower steam-generating capacity, which will boost Campus efficiency by providing a greater flexibility in running equipment to satisfy the variable Campus steam demand. Additionally, a mobile plant software solution was implemented to streamline the task of recording routine equipment logs. These logs are now automatically archived and compared against established tolerances for predictive maintenance forecasting.
A new chemical treatment contract has provided some needed upgrades, but more importantly, it’s eliminated chemical handling exposures for our plant staff, alleviating some potential safety issues. Most excitingly, four of our plant operators gained certification as class-three operating engineers and are now licensed through the Society of Power Engineers.
In building maintenance, metrics are extremely important for understanding progress and for identifying barriers. AiM specialists on staff are developing a live report to capture key performance indicators like response time, backlog, cost/SF, and workload among employees. Metrics from AiM were utilized to balance staffing levels with Campus needs. The most frequent work request on Campus is in response to lighting issues, a task usually assigned to our Maintenance & Repair Technicians (MRT) who have many competing priorities including preventative maintenance. Based on AiM data, four MRT positions were added to the zones with the highest needs. In the near future, IPads will be an important tool for our technicians to remotely access work assignments, access building analytics and assets, source parts to complete assignments, and enhance the ability to communicate.
The building controls and utilities group will actively manage profiles for the above-mentioned iPads, along with providing hands-on training and field mentoring during the on-boarding process. The partnership between the building controls group and HVAC technicians is collaborative. The groups have developed a rotational schedule and meet weekly to ensure adequate coverage for Campus when manpower is short. This intentional, regular interaction has carried over into an in-the-field mentorship when they’re faced with issues requiring a higher level of technical knowledge. The Controls group is also in the process of implementing software to integrate Campus classroom scheduling with HVAC systems to save energy during times of low demand. To more easily identify energy efficiency opportunities through the use of building utility meters, the Utilities group has evaluated several options for linking building utility meters with an analytics platform, as well as, linking the data with FIS for bill-processing. A recommendation will be made following the RFP process.
I’m proud and appreciative of my staff and the many who contribute to the success of Facilities. I get energized with positive changes that enhance our roles in supporting the Campus and I’m looking forward to the year ahead.