A two million square foot cancer treatment and research facility in Florida needed assistance in upgrading their existing Building Automation System (BAS), but such a large undertaking was daunting to attempt in one fell swoop. The original building, constructed in 1986, had portions of the campus that housed Building Management System components from that time. The outdated BAS did not provide any proactive feedback, its only function was controlling the HVAC systems, some security functions (door monitoring), and lighting control. Since initial construction, four major additions had been constructed to bring the facility to its current state which required the need for a viable standard for building automation.
Since initial construction, four major additions had been constructed to bring the facility to its current state which required the need for a viable standard for building automation.
The hospital leadership requested to move away from the existing building automation system for a variety of reasons, but the main motive was that it was proprietary and vendor driven. They were locked into one supplier, which gave them limited options in terms of equipment and service, and did not provide them competitive pricing moving forward. Components of the original 1986 install had begun to fail and replacement parts were difficult or impossible to find. Portions of the existing system were so fragile that technicians were fearful of causing more damage by opening or inspecting components and hindering repairs. They needed someone to create a long-term masterplanning solution; something that would set their buildings on a path of success.
Portions of the existing system were so fragile that technicians were fearful of causing more damage by opening or inspecting components and hindering repairs.
Synergy was hired to evaluate the existing system and create a comprehensive BAS masterplan that would remain viable for the next ten years. The masterplan helped the client conceptualize the long road ahead of converting the current BAS system to a new one as well as including any future plans for new additions and/or renovations. Synergy suggested upgrading from the old, proprietary BAS to an open-sourced web-based
system. In order for the facility to develop a new BAS standard, they needed forward-thinking, technology driven options that would serve the best interests of the facility.
The Synergy team understood the massive undertaking in converting the existing BAS to one that would allow for data analytics and emerging technologies. In collaborating with the Owner, Synergy was not positioned as a vendor, but as an advocate that would keep the best interests of the Owner and facilities at the forefront. The hospital Owner interviewed multiple open-sourced providers and settled on Niagara by Tridium. Synergy collaborated with the Owner and helped them determine the best way to deploy the system by creating crucial standards and guidelines moving forward.
The following controllers Java Application Control
Engine (JACE) zone planning document:
- Network level controllers Java Application Control Engine (JACE) zone planning document. Using life safety drawings, the team laid out where the controllers would be placed based on central locations and estimated point load for space. See Figure 1 below.
- A standard specification for HVAC instrumentation and controls This document outlined approved Contractors, graphic standards, standardized controllers to be utilized, communication standards, and auxiliary control devices (ie. control valves).
- Equipment graphics standards – the original BAS was completely text based with no graphics. A concerted effort was made to create standardization for all graphics from the beginning.
- Niagara BAS equipment and point labeling standard. See Figure 2 below.
- Masterplan BAS network riser diagram.
It was imperative to keep continuity in the integrations and graphics, so a 2 Tier contractor arrangement was setup. The Tier 1 contractor provided the following services and responsibilities:
- Maintained the Niagara BAS server, Graphical User Interface, and associated standards.
- Reviewed all Tier 2 BAS Contractor controls and product data submittals for compliance with the standards.
- Integrated all Tier 2 BAS network level controllers (JACE or Andover Continuum) into the Niagara server.
- Provided 3rd party Commissioning of all new network level controllers and field level controllers.
The Tier 2 BAS Contractor provided the following services and responsibilities:
- Provided all network and field level controllers as standardized in the facility’s specifications and guidelines.
- Coordinated with Tier 1 Contractor on a project-by-project basis on where network level controllers (JACE) would be placed. Together, with the Owner, a determination was to be made if previously installed network controllers could pick up new project control points or a new one needs to be installed.
- Labeled all hardware and software points to the Facility BAS Equipment and Point Standards.
- Provided product data submittals to Tier 1 Contractor for review.
- Performed all field installations and brought on sub-contractor as required.
- Performed a complete point-to-point checkout of the project before turning over to Tier 1 Contractor for completion.
Once the BAS provider was selected and the guidelines and standards in place, it was time to take the deep dive on the BAS overhaul. For this installation, Niagara was connected on an Owner server and a dedicated network was set up. Next a test project was selected that was a combination of converting existing controls and additional new points (air handling unit replacement project). This allowed the Owner, Tier 1, and Tier 2 contractors to begin installing the infrastructure, create template graphics, and test the process standards/guidelines.
As of this writing, through multiple projects, approximately 25% of the facility has been converted to Niagara. Through the creation of the standard BAS specification, all new projects and renovations are based on Niagara and added to the current infrastructure. When failures occur to the existing BAS, the team, including the Owner, determine if it’s best to create a project to upgrade to the new BAS or repair the existing system.
Before the BAS upgrades began, many of the functions and monitoring of the HVAC systems were manual. Technicians would walk to key pieces of equipment and manually document conditions hourly on a clipboard. For systems that had been upgraded, all this information now automatically collects data and can be viewed through the BAS graphical interface.
Additional benefits to the owner:
- New BAS data is easily shared with data analytics software. All new projects will be setup during construction to be implemented into the analytics software. Data can be used for fault detection and energy tracking/ conservation as well.
- Having the BAS system accessible on a web browser makes project management and repairs much easier for technicians.
- Data for Joint Commission and other authorities can be easily available to confirm compliance.
- Ease of use to connect to other information/control systems. Utilizing BAS to track door positions ensures safety as it can be used to lock down the campus as well as tracking the fire alarm system.
Alarm tracking and management has greatly been improved as the equipment condition is no longer manually collected. Alarm classifications and levels are key in alarm management. If facility personnel are unaware of the levels of importance, the alarms will be ignored and not effectively used as diagnostic tools. With the new BAS system, once an alarm condition occurs, it is flagged and sent to the alarm console for technicians to respond with appropriate action.
Critical alarms are sent to the facility’s Command Center that is manned around the clock. It is vital for getting buy-in from the Owner at the beginning to drive the importance of alarms and include during the Design and Construction. For this project, it was a lesson learned for the BAS to include more general alarms than Data Analytics. A new BAS is not the blunt force tool and not every alarm is worth looking into. However, with applying analytics and benchmarking, alarms are an asset and effectively replace the manual equipment tracking.
Another lesson learned was the awareness to include all teams from day one. Even though the existing BAS contractor position would eventually be eliminated, their expertise is vital to the smooth transition. It’s also beneficial to include the Facility’s IT and security teams on the process so they understand masterplan and their exact role. Integrations can often times get delayed due to network access not being set up or granted.
It may also be helpful for the Owner’s Design and Construction and Facilities departments to be aware of the masterplan and how the Tier 1 and Tier 2 BAS contractor setup works. This can be slightly different than the standard construction process and oftentimes require acquiring separate contracts. All MEP design engineers must be aware of the standards and guidelines to be incorporated in the designs. Overall, clear and effective communication and compliance to the developed standards essential when overhauling such a massive BAS system.
In larger facilities, there can be more than 20 projects at various stages at any given time, possibly ranging in size from a single pump replacement to a new eight-story building. The status of each project must tracked, issues documented, schedule clarified, and team members informed.
Setting out to replace an archaic BAS system should not be done in haste. A systematic approach with a competent masterplan is the cleanest path when embarking on a potentially messy transition. Ultimately, as this healthcare system continues to upgrade in buildings and technology, their masterplan will hold true as they continue on the path of BAS success.