March 2015

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The Importance of Lists

Part Four - Field Surveys continued

Steven R Calabrese

Steven R. Calabrese
Control Engineering Corp.

Contributing Editor

The Importance of Lists: The first part  The second part  The third part

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Last month I discussed my thoughts on field surveys of existing buildings, those in which new work is to take place, be it an upgrade or extension of an existing Building Automation System (BAS), or the installation of a new BAS in a facility which may or may not already have one in place. My list from last month started out with list items that would be common to both of the above scenarios: upgrade/extension or new BAS. This list included items such as conduit requirements for the electrical cabling, floor-to-deck heights, HVAC equipment locations, and the like. This month I continue the list with items that are specific to either of the above-mentioned scenarios.

For upgrade and/or extension of an existing BAS…

Front-end Location

So where is the operator workstation, and the network controller? Are they in the same location? If not, how far apart, i.e., across the hall or across the building? For a BAS upgrade, the hardware and software will be upgraded, or “replaced” with new, state-of-the-art, current generation hardware and software. Leaving the specifics to be figured out by the design team, we at least need to determine these locations and note them in our field survey.

Main Panel Locations

Again, for a BAS upgrade, these main control panels will be demoed, meaning that the current controllers will be removed, input/output wiring properly tagged, and new controllers will be installed, input/output wiring re-terminated to the appropriate terminals on the new controllers. In addition, new communication cabling may need to be run, depending upon the extent of the upgrade and the compatibility (or lack of) of the new controllers with the existing network cabling.

Verify Communication Wiring

Speaking of communication wiring, as we were just now, the existing cabling needs to be surveyed. Can the existing cabling be re-used with the new system? There are typically a series of numbers on the jacket of the cable, and these numbers should be noted, so that the cabling can be cross-referenced. Is the wiring in conduit? If the wiring needs to be replaced, how difficult will it be to pull new wire through existing conduit, or if run free-air, how will the existing cable facilitate (or make difficult) the installation of new cable? Finally, and this is a bit more difficult to determine, is the existing communication cabling run in a daisy-chain fashion, from controller to controller? Or does it spider off in all directions? If the cabling can be reused strictly from a cable specs standpoint, can the new system as a whole deal with existing communication wiring that’s tee-tapped and not run in a serial manner? All good questions…a lot more than just taking a look-see at the wiring to make sure it’s there!

Existing Control Drawings

Gotta ask the question! I find that typically more and more these days, these documents are on file with the customer, and I ask for a copy, either a hard copy or if they can scan them and email them to me. Either way works for me. Used to be that these drawings were not as easily tracked down, but for the more recently installed building automation systems, there seemingly has been more stock put into generating these, and having these on record. I don’t know…maybe we’ve all just come to realize the importance of having these drawings on file, but seems like it used to be that getting these was more of a wish list item and less of a reality. Makes it easier to determine the proper course of action for the BAS upgrade and or extension.

Square Feet Per Floor

I always try to get at least a general feel for the building’s floor-by-floor area. There may or may not be accurate blueprints laying around (did I just say blueprints??). If not, I want to know how far it is from controller to controller, for instance, and knowing the square foot area of each floor helps me to determine that, even if in just a general manner. A simple two-dimensional measurement (building width x building length) can really hold a lot of information, and for this reason I like to either ask for those dimensions, or take it upon myself to figure them out. Hey, I’ll even go online and get the bird’s eye view of the building if I have to!

For a new BAS…

Location of New Front-end & Network Controller

For those buildings in which will receive a brand spankin’ new BAS, this question is of the utmost importance! The answer to said question typically isn’t too hard to come by, as the operator workstation will likely tend to be located in the building engineer’s office. And most often so will the network controller. But it’s not a given, especially for the network controller. For various reasons, this controller may be better suited somewhere else. Doesn’t have to be in the engineer’s office. Regardless, these questions need to be addressed early on.

Ceiling Types

In commercial office buildings, most of the ceiling is suspended, and whether you need to run conduit or not in the ceiling space is up to the jurisdiction and the codes they must follow or choose to abide by. Facilities that have exposed structure, such as warehouses, big box stores, etc. may have a requirement that all cabling must be run in conduit, or in free-air parallel to building lines. Regardless, it must be noted as to which type of ceilings there are, and if there are areas in the building that are different, for instance, drywall vs. lay-in. This is a factor in dealing with equipment as much as it is with cabling.


Reliable Controls For multi-story buildings, are there wiring chases put in place specifically for low voltage wiring such as telecomm and Ethernet cabling? Are these chases located in closets suited to their presence, such as telecomm rooms or IT closets? Does the cabling run up and down the chase free-air, or are they in conduit? Can these chases be used for the BAS network cabling? If so, does the cabling need to be in conduit, or can it be free-air, from floor to floor? All good questions, and questions that need to be answered.

Customer Preferences

Last but not least…even when local codes may allow for certain things to be done in certain ways, we still need to be sensitive to the customer’s preferences. This goes for installation practices, conduit requirements, cabling requirements, panel mounting, housekeeping, and so on. It’s a good idea to bring this up early, and get a feel for the customer and their preferences. You may think you have a customer that’s easy to satisfy, until you get into some of these issues. Better to know up front instead of finding out down the line that your client has some stringent guidelines that their contractors must follow.

Tip of the Month: What is the best way to get to the AHR Expo when it’s in Chicago? Let’s put it this way…if it were a week later, the answer to that question would be “by snowmobile”. Joking aside, please check in over the next few months, as I will be sharing some of the things I took away from this year's show, from current industry buzzwords to new and exciting products. See you next month!


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