Category Archives: Industry Educational Resources

Successfully Managing Occupant Complaints Often Involves Determining Underlying Reasons For Complaints

It is much more palatable to think of complainers in a facility as simple cranks who are avoiding doing their real jobs, who get some sort of perverse joy out of filling out work orders. But there can be a lot of layers behind a complaint, especially one that looks frivolous on the surface. Successfully managing occupant complaints often requires digging deeper to find the underlying reasons.

Take this story, as told by Susan Mazur-Stommen, behavior and human dimensions program director, ACEEE, about a string of complaints that occurred at a new administrative building for a federal renewable energy laboratory. The facility was daylit and some of the people located near the windows started complaining about glare. But when they were offered cubicles away from the windows, the complaints disappeared.

“Their real issue was status,” Mazur-Stommen says, because in the new space they had lost their enclosed offices. But at some level they realized that HR was not going to be receptive to their perceived slight and instead tried to change their situation by complaining about glare, which is an ergonomics issue and must be treated seriously, she says.

When addressing complaints, it’s smart for facility managers to take a moment to try to peel back any additional layers, just so time and resources are being allocated properly, says Woodard. “In this business, sometimes we think we know the answer and can get the problem off our back quickly, but it turns out that wasn’t the problem,” she says. “There are times that you’re halfway done trying to solve it the way you would solve it, and you realize that’s not the problem at all. And now you’ve wasted all this energy and you have to start all over again.”

In understanding what is really going on, it’s also important to see who is involved and who is labeling the complaint as frivolous, says Mazur-Stommen. “Oftentimes, the building engineers are male and the complainants are female, and the situations get written into very gendered frames of reference,” she says.

Temperature wars are a place this comes to light. To paint it with a broad brush, men have set the standards for thermal comfort in commercial buildings, and cultural norms put men is a very standardized business uniform. “You have high summer and you have men wearing wool slacks, and undershirts, and socks, and closed-toed shoes,” Mazur-Stommen says. Meanwhile, women’s attire varies more to match the demands of the seasons. “To be specific, it’s cold in the building because we’re cooling men who are not dressed appropriately for the season. We’re spending a lot of money to let men wander around in wool slacks.”

When facility managers receive complaints they perceive to be frivolous, it would be ideal to take a step back and evaluate who is making the complaint and what else might be going on, as the individual might be trying to address feelings of lack of status, or low morale, or not being heard, by trying to control their environment. “It’s not the building engineer’s job to empower people,” Mazur-Stommen says, “But if you’re asking where these complaints are coming from, it’s a ‘kick the dog’ phenomenon.”

Frivolous is in the eyes of the beholder as well, she says. Ramps for ducklings might be the poster-child for a frivolous request, but only from a certain perspective. “Is it frivolous because it’s not about dollars and cents, and is instead about meaning and values and comfort?” Mazur-Stommen says. “Those are what makes us human. A building is more than just a building envelope and systems for heating and cooling. A building is a social structure, it is a community.”

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Learn how to not only manage occupant complaints, but minimize or eliminate them! Info@setpointsystems.com

LEED Credentials: 6 Reasons to Become a LEED Accredited Professional

1. It is the most popular green building credential in the U.S.

From my research, I believe that LEED is the most popular green building credential in the U.S. and globally. According to USGBC’s data, as of June 1, the total number of LEED credentials held is 187,428. This number includes LEED APs without specialty.

Compared with about 210 Green Globes professionals, 6,500 certified EcoBrokers, about 34,000 BPI certified energy auditors, and about 6,400 NAHB Green certified professionals, USGBC’s LEED credentials are the most highly sought after.

Since LEED is the most popular green building credential, it is also the most well-known and recognized, which means that more potential employers will recognize it.

2. LEED is internationally recognized.

LEED is an international green building rating system and has been used in 140 different countries. Similarly, LEED credentialing exams are held in Prometric testing centers, which have international locations – so there are LEED professionals across the globe.

This means that by earning a LEED credential, you could open doors to international job opportunities in the green building sector. While many green building credentials and certification are region-specific, LEED is globally recognized.

3. LEED is growing.

As of September 2013, there are approximately 50,000 LEED certified projects globally, with approximately 90% in the U.S. This accounts for almost 2 billion square feet of certified commercial space. The USGBC claims that there are 1.6 million square feet certified per day around the world.

The number of registered projects (projects that are currently working toward LEED certification) are more than double the number of certified projects – meaning that LEED is growing at a fast pace. 34,185 commercial projects are registered (compared to 13,084 certified) and 78,246 residential homes are registered (compared to 19,913 certified). With this upward trend, LEED credentials are only becoming more valuable.

4. Studying for the LEED exams will teach you about general green building principles.

If you are new to green building and LEED, but are looking for a career change or to improve your career in the building industry, earning a LEED credential is a great way to start.

The LEED Green Associate credential is a good step toward becoming a green professional. The Green Associate exam tests you on general green building principles, such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and responsible materials and resources. By studying for this exam, you’ll become familiar with sustainable building strategies – and prove your new knowledge with a recognizable credential.

5. Joining local USGBC chapters is great for networking opportunities.

USGBC has local chapters across the United States. LEED professionals can join their local chapters and meet other LEED credentialed, green building professionals in their area. This is a great networking opportunity, which is especially helpful in a relatively new and growing industry and during a down economy.

6. Some green jobs specifically require LEED credentials.

When I recently searched “LEED” on SimplyHired.com, I found 4,008 job postings. In my personal experience, I’ve seen several jobs that require or prefer LEED credentialed professionals. By earning your credential, you might be able to secure new job opportunities.

 

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High Performance Buildings: It’s Not Just Energy Efficiency

Legrand’s whitepaper The Drive for High Performance Buildings finds that performance buildings are driven by several factors beyond energy efficiency including security, information technology, environmental and regulatory forces, and changes in building design and management.

The white paper says buildings have evolved over decades, but there’s now a “paradigm shift” in expectations in the built environment impacting the building sector, from corporate offices to hospitals, retail and universities. According to Legrand, high performance buildings consider building operations holistically – accounting for everything from energy and water consumption to lighting and sound levels – with the ultimate goal of providing sustainable design principles to ensure optimal performance over extended periods of time.

Read more at Energy Manager Today.

Easy Ways to Improve Building Efficiency

A recent FirstFuel survey covering 60 million square feet of U.S. commercial building space has revealed that the majority of operational improvements for energy efficiency can be made with very little or no cost to building owners.

Although investing in facility retrofits can help with operational efficiency, an upgrade isn’t the only way to enhance system performance.

This research also found that the vast majority of low- and no-cost energy-efficiency improvements are still untouched in many medium and large U.S. commercial buildings.

Here are three easy operational improvements you can make today without spending money or retrofitting existing systems. These suggestions may seem like no-brainers, but the FirstFuel study proves that a large number of commercial buildings still haven’t implemented them.

HVAC/Equipment Scheduling
Equipment start-up and shutdown don’t always match building occupancy levels. The bottom line: If a building is empty, the HVAC system doesn’t need to be operating to maintain comfortable temperatures. More than 50% of the commercial buildings analyzed by FirstFuel have equipment ready for occupancy at least one hour before people actually arrive (and the equipment runs for at least one hour after tenants or occupants leave for the day). According to FirstFuel, switching to day-only operations can use up to three times less energy when compared to energy use for 24/7 HVAC operations.

Check Doors and Windows
To minimize air loss, make sure all doors (both traditional and automatic) and operable windows seal completely. If they don’t, check weatherstripping and make adjustments accordingly. Most automatic doors can easily be adjusted by in-house facilities professionals to ensure proper closure.

Clean Lamps and Fixtures
When it comes to building maintenance and cleaning, are you remembering the building systems overhead? According to BetterBricks, just cleaning lamps and fixtures can improve lighting output by 10% to 60%. Both lamps and fixtures gather dust very quickly due to heat and static charge. When dust and dirt build up, the amount of light reflected on these surfaces lessens, and less lighting output is provided. As a result, you end up turning on more fixtures to provide the lighting levels you need. Because cleaning existing lamps and fixtures improves lighting output, you may be able to turn off, dim, or delamp to save energy. Dirt and dust can also cause lamps to operate at higher-than-normal temperatures, which may shorten expected useful life.

Read about more low-cost or no-cost building improvements here.

Take your building efficiency to the next level?

Have you implemented all three of these operational changes? Are you seeing savings as a result?

Incorporate lighting controls with BAS to save energy- Part 1

Incorporating daylighting and lighting controls with a building automation system can result in energy savings.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the benefits of incorporating lighting, daylighting, and building automation systems.
  2. Know the codes and standards that govern lighting and daylighting.
  3. Learn to gather and analyze data from an automation system.

Continue reading

7 Keys To Successful Building Automation

Automation Integrator Guide: Successful automation projects contain these seven elements. How many will your next project contain?

Congratulations on your decision to automate. You want to build it faster, build it better, and build it safer. But with so many potential automation solutions available, it can be overwhelming for an engineering team to decide where to start. Once you have justified the need for automation, feasibility, and payback to your business, you are faced with a difficult question: How do you ensure your road to automation is successful?

Seven keys to successful automation follow.

1. People communication

Communication among all stakeholders is paramount. When creating system requirements for the automation solution, the various teams involved must work hand-in-hand. Clear and open communication may seem like an obvious key to success, but too often teams are not brought together until late in the automation process.

Each stakeholder will have different goals in mind. The quality team wants zero defects, the production team wants output increased, IT wants a sustainable and maintainable solution. Before you know it, an operator at the end of the line has an error-proofing application, a shipping application, and an inventory application all running on the same computer, yet none of the systems communicate. The operator is left to manually transfer data between the three systems, and operations become less efficient than pre-automation.

By working with all the teams from the start, you will be in a better position to make sure the solution accounts for the perspectives of all parties involved, and also meets as many requirements as possible. A system integrator can often act as a mediator to help remove the politics from meeting all stakeholder goals and assist in solving what can sometimes seem to be contrasting goals to create a solution that works for all.

When trying to collaborate with teams, one of the largest communication issues we see as an integrator is scheduling. It is difficult to free up all of your team members to be in the same place at the same time. Consider meeting off-site with all of the stakeholders and away from the production facility at the start of the project. Simply removing people from their day-to-day chaos allows the team to focus on the problem at hand. Most likely no one will be able to be away for more than a day or two, but the tight timeline to develop requirements will keep everyone’s focus razor sharp.

2. System communication

You may already have some automated processes in place, but these processes are often developed independently from one another and may not communicate with each other. System segregation leads to data segregation. Data segregation leads to inefficiencies and manual reconciliation, which can cause data loss or, worse yet, data corruption. To avoid this, you want to store as much data as possible in a normalized manner and in a centralized location.

To accomplish this, integration and automation should go hand-in-hand. Getting two automated systems to communicate can be just as important, if not more important, than automating a single process. A system that is a “black box” provides little value if it cannot communicate with other systems.

3. Standardized processes

Before addressing the potential automation of the manufacturing process, you should first standardize the process. Standardization of the process allows for reduced variation and reduced operator training, and aids in root cause analysis.

Without standardized manufacturing processes it can be difficult to identify how automation should be implemented. If you have “loose” processes in place, an automation project is the perfect opportunity to address standardization. Usually this occurs a naturally as a side benefit associated with automation. Let standardizing the manufacturing process help drive the automation process and vice versa.

4. Standardized (yet flexible) framework

When you are developing standards for your framework, focus on the data that is most important. Force the team to keep the same important pieces of data as a baseline for your enterprise to build on. By developing standard interfaces for systems, you can create a model framework for other facilities. Avoid making the framework too rigid so that it can be flexible enough to apply across operations.

With a standardized framework, your team shouldn’t be as bogged down determining how to implement a solution. Instead, they will be focused on developing solutions that will promote production innovation. A standardized framework promotes collaboration so that groups work together, share information, and are positioned for success.

5. Standardized data

Data is king in today’s manufacturing environment. For that reason, you want to avoid proprietary and closed systems as much as possible. Focus on getting, keeping, and sharing your data. You likely already have proprietary systems in place to solve manufacturing problems, and minimizing manual transfers of information between these systems is crucial. Automating important transfers between systems allows employees to focus on their job instead of the white noise.

6. Pick your integration strategy, not your solution, first

Identifying what data you expect your automation solution to provide before you select a solution will also help minimize inefficiencies. All too often clients decide on a solution before they have outlined what data they need. This can lead to two potential downfalls. Either the solution needs to be vastly modified to meet the requirements, or the solution cannot be changed and some of the requirements simply are not met.

The more industry knowledge you can obtain about what solutions are available, the better. This is where a true systems integrator should be able to help. A systems integrator should be able to match a solution to specific goals. Whether it is a custom software solution or an off-the-shelf software package, you want established business processes dictating software solutions used, not vice versa. Keep in mind that whatever solution is selected, it should be a solid and expandable one that the team in place can build upon.

7. Commitment to support

Consider who the end owner will be. Whoever will be supporting the automation solution, the infrastructure, and software should have buy-in from the start that the solution is both maintainable and supportable from a technological standpoint.

Over the past 10 years there has been a transition from the manufacturing team managing software solutions to IT managing the software solutions. While it may be the manufacturing team developing the automation systems, it is more frequently the IT team’s responsibility to maintain the system. With IT becoming such a key player in the process, it is important to get them involved early and often. By including IT at the beginning of the process, you can help ensure a smooth transition from conception to production.

An automation project can seem daunting, especially when you are faced with legacy systems, siloed teams, minimal framework, and varied processes. But if done correctly, automation can provide all the benefits to build it faster, better, and safer. With some planning, standardization, and communication, and maybe a little help from an integrator, the automation project should be headed for success.

Article By:

– Chris Mikola is a project manager at Leidos, formerly part of SAIC. He currently directs the software programming group within Leidos Engineering’s systems division. The programming group specializes in quality information systems, real time production information systems, and custom software development. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

Integration: Building automation and fire alarms

The building automation system can control all aspects of a building or campus, including its fire alarm system. This outlines best practices for integrating a fire alarm into a BAS.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the efficiencies of integrating building automation with fire protection systems.
  2. Name various communication protocols, such as BACnet and LonTalk.
  3. Learn about inspection and testing of systems.

The responsibilities of a chief building engineer are becoming more challenging as technology advances. Bigger and taller buildings are being constructed with an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and comfort, and the ever-increasing demand to keep construction costs and operating expenses down. In addition, building codes are changing the way these buildings are constructed in order to improve safety with an eye on new construction methods and materials.

There is also the somewhat traditional mind-set among those within the design and engineering community that building automation and fire alarm systems should maintain a significant level of separation with minimal connectivity or interaction. Most of this belief stems from the fear of the unknown and the desire to mitigate risk along with the old adage of “This is the way we’ve always done it.” In reality, the integration of building automation and fire alarm systems can result in overall reduction in equipment, installation, and maintenance costs while still maintaining the level of safety required for these systems to operate.

With the advent of smart building technology, heating, cooling, electrical, lighting, security, and other systems need monitoring and intercommunication for optimized efficiency and operation. With sophistication comes the need for a building automation system (BAS) to allow for nearly seamless operation of these various interrelated equipment.

Like BAS, fire protection and alarm systems have also evolved into sophisticated computer-based systems, which integrate fire detection and emergency communication systems as part of overall building operations during an emergency event.

Often fire protection and alarm systems must interact with other building systems to provide a proper level of protection. While the fire alarm system is fully capable of performing and initiating the necessary actions to accomplish the fire alarm and building systems’ responses, efficiencies can be obtained by integrating with the BAS. These efficiencies include minimizing additional equipment, expediting system acceptance testing, reducing installation costs, and sharing and consolidating information at a central location where all of the building systems can be precisely monitored during emergency incidents.

Smoke control systems are a good example of the marriage of building mechanical systems with fire protection/fire alarm systems. Fans are starting or stopping, dampers are opening or closing, and doors may be closing or unlocking while elevators being recalled. Although both the BAS and fire alarm systems have specific tasks to perform, there is a certain level of priority and sequences that must be followed. Failure to follow the proper priority or sequence may not only be non-code compliant, it may also lead to equipment damage or risk to human life. For example, if a smoke control fan operates before dampers open, ductwork may be damaged or door opening forces may be increased beyond acceptable levels for egress.

Communication

When the fire alarm system takes control of equipment that is not a listed component of the fire alarm control unit, the fire alarm system must either override the natural operating mode of the building equipment or pass off that command via a simple switch or data communications to the building mechanical systems. Likewise, each manufacturer’s BAS has its own protocol for monitoring conditions and communicating operational commands to maintain the proper building environment and efficiency. There are also standard open communication protocols such as LonTalk and BACnet that can be used to communicate with a multitude of equipment from various manufacturers in order to achieve an integrated building system.

The communication protocol for a fire alarm control unit to communicate to and from its indicating (input), initiating (output), and sometimes notification appliances is typically an analog or digital communications signal carried over what is referred to as a signaling line circuit (SLC). Because communications signals are typically proprietary protocol, each SLC is dedicated to a specific manufacturer’s equipment and cannot include connection of incompatible devices that use a different signal protocol.

Therefore, in order to integrate system alarm and control functions with the BAS in a manner other than relay logic, fire alarm system manufacturers had to also design and support the open communication protocols used for building automation, in a manner that would not compromise the integrity or the operation of the fire alarm system. This process of sharing information between both fire alarm and BAS came to be known as bridging, or open gateway processing. Because of the strict code and listing requirements of fire alarm systems, much of this communication has been primarily limited to one-way communication. However, some manufacturers of both fire alarm and BAS do produce equipment such as gateways that are listed for bi-directional communication with their equipment.

The use of these open gateway processors has the potential to eliminate the need for costly interface equipment and enclosures. A single gateway can replace hundreds of conventional or electronic relays and input sensors for control and monitoring while also eliminating the need for multiple wire terminations that can decrease the potential for system failure points.

Article By: Jon Kapis; Rick Lewis; Craig Studer, PE; The RJA Group Inc.