February 2015

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The Importance of Lists

Part Three - This month I share my thoughts on field surveys.

Steven R Calabrese
Steven R. Calabrese
Control Engineering Corp.

Contributing Editor

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Back in March and April of 2014, I wrote a two-part series on the importance of creating lists to break a seemingly monumental project into smaller, achievable tasks. The first part outlined my procedure for estimating and quoting a large “plan-spec” project. I listed tasks and then elaborated on each task to demonstrate what it would take to cross that task off the list, as is the goal of any list. Included in this list were things like creating a file folder (both real and virtual), highlighting the plans and specs, creating a project summary, structuring the estimate and the proposal, etc.

In the second part of that series, I advised that my company is in pursuit of service or maintenance agreements, and I discussed a list that I generated to help me gather the information I would need in order to accurately generate a maintenance scope and annual cost. For this particular list, it is presumed that the client has a Building Automation System (BAS), preferably one that my company is a dealer of. The list was created to use on an initial walkthrough of the client’s facility, given that we’ve not done any business with the client prior to this visit. Tasks included in this list range from determining the general building information (year built, size, purpose, etc.), to BAS-specific information (number of controllers, software version, available documentation), down to what the customer will require in terms of service (number of visits per year, phone support, remote monitoring).

I’ve decided to revisit this topic with another entry (or two) on the importance of lists. This month I share my thoughts on field surveys and offer list items that help me go into a scenario by which the structure is existing, however new work is to take place, be it a BAS upgrade, an extension of an existing BAS, or a completely new BAS in a facility that may or may not already have one.

For facilities with existing BAS, I will be looking at some specific items, including system type, size, software revision, etc. Whether it’s a hardware upgrade or adding new controllers for new equipment being installed, I will address these specifics using the list that I generated for procuring service agreements.

For buildings in which we will propose to “tear out” the existing system and install a new system, and for those buildings that have no form of building automation, I will go about things a little differently. In all cases, there are certain things that I will address, and so I will start with these general items.

Conduit Requirements

In the Chicagoland area, this is a big deal. Not all municipalities require low voltage cabling to be in conduit, however many consulting engineers will specify these wires to be in raceway, regardless of the codes that the municipalities follow. The point here is, it’s not good enough to check with the local jurisdiction to see if they allow low voltage cable to be run “open-air” in ceiling spaces. If there is a consulting engineer involved, we need to check their written specification for the conduit requirements, or lack thereof.

That being said, for existing BAS, we may find that the network communication cable has been run in free air. Additions to the BAS may require communication cable to be run from the existing system to the newly added controllers. Again, it is not wise to assume that conduit is not required simply by going by what’s in place. It’s always a good idea to check with the building engineer, consultant, and local jurisdiction before basing your retrofit project on running low voltage cable free air.

Floor-to-deck Height

The question is, how big of a ladder do we need, or will we need a lift? The need for a lift may present itself not so much in typical commercial office building applications, but more so in industrial applications. A shop or warehouse may have relatively large floor-to-deck heights, and we need to know approximately what that is. If you can measure it directly, that would be preferable. You can ballpark it by counting concrete blocks up a wall, but be sure that you’re installing contractor knows that your value is an approximation, so that they can figure the proper lift for their installation work.

HVAC Equipment Locations

For either existing or new BAS, the most important thing is where the equipment is located. Okay, one of the most important things…anyway, from the roof right on down to the boiler room, we need to know where the equipment being controlled by the BAS is located. This is where the digital controllers will be, either mounted in unit controls compartments, as could be the case with rooftop units and VAV boxes, or inside wall-mounted enclosures, adjacent to equipment-level and plant-level systems such as air handlers and boiler/chiller plants. By mapping out where all of the controlled equipment is located, we will gain insight to the architecture of the networked BAS, and understand, in the case of the existing BAS, how everything is connected, or in the case of the new BAS, how everything will need to be connected.

Occupancy Issues

For existing buildings of which will be upgraded with a new BAS, or in which a BAS will be installed in place of non-networked control systems, it is important to know the function of the building, and how/when it is occupied. This is more of an issue with office buildings, those that are densely occupied during normal business hours, and less of a problem in larger, open facilities such as workshops and warehouses. With office buildings, if you need to work in the office spaces during normal business hours, you will need to contend with the office occupants and cube dwellers, which may or may not even be allowed. If not, then you’ll need to figure that your labor force will have to work after hours, which is a challenge in and of itself. Regardless, this is something that needs to be addressed.

Parking & Accessibility

[an error occurred while processing this directive] For the work that we do in the suburban areas, parking is typically not so much of an issue. But for downtown work, man oh man does this become a factor! For anyone living or working in a large metropolitan area (such as Chicago), you know what I’m talking about. So needless to say, downtown work comes at a premium because of the added cost and limited space for parking. Where will the vans be able to park? Is there a construction lot set up? Or is everyone on their own? With regard to accessibility, and to what that really means, I’m referring to building accessibility. Security issues, locked doors to construction areas, elevator restrictions. All of this needs to addressed and accounted for.

Tip of the Month: Tune in next month as I continue this month’s topic and discuss application-specific list items for both existing and new BAS-related projects. In addition, the AHR Expo is in town as I write this month’s column, so I’ll be attending the show and reporting back in the upcoming months on What’s New in the business of HVAC controls products!


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