When a room is too cold, most occupants will adjust the thermostat, put on a sweater, or seek warmer shelter. In the end, a chilly room might be uncomfortable and a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s rarely cause for alarm. What happens, however, when the occupant doesn’t have opposable thumbs and a cold room causes more than just discomfort?
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) of New York is accustomed to providing homes for a wide variety of sensitive residents. The organization manages the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, including its flagship location and headquarters, the Bronx Zoo, as well as the New York Aquarium and Central Park, Queens, and Prospect Park Zoos. Keeping each exhibit at the correct temperature and humidity is a large task - one that takes more than just a zookeeper and an HVAC technician.
BUILDING AUTOMATIONAs director of purchasing, Jim Morley is responsible for securing the goods and services necessary to operate WCS and its parks. This includes HVAC-specific equipment and expertise to maintain these environments.
“Our facilities present a lot of unique challenges,” Morley said. “One minute an air handler in a public facility requires work, the next minute something needs attention at the elephant shelter building - and you’ve got to remember to stay behind the yellow line so you don’t get caught under foot.”
It’s the behind-the-scenes work that helps meet the delicate standards for WCS’ complex and diverse environments. All the parks require precision and control, and maintenance to match. To accomplish this, WCS uses building automation technology to streamline and manage facility operations and service. To help maximize the organization’s investment, Honeywell has begun installing its Enterprise Buildings Integrator™ (EBI), an integrated controls platform, across WCS facilities. EBI ties HVAC, security, life safety systems, and critical point monitoring together to provide a bird’s-eye view of WCS systems and equipment.
WCS has used Honeywell controls for years, however, independent vendors had handled much of the automation and integration work - resulting in a variety of standalone systems. By moving to EBI, WCS will have the necessary control and insight to keep its equipment up and running optimally.
With EBI, operators can view, access, and manage any system in real time, from any workstation, which helps increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. WCS plans to use EBI to gather equipment and location-specific data to enhance maintenance and help isolate potential problems before they become larger issues.
“EBI helps further support our efforts to presuppose preventive maintenance and keep up-to-date on all of our systems,” Morley said.
The EBI backbone is currently in place at most of the New York Aquarium facilities. Honeywell also is adding EBI at the Bronx Zoo, and the other WCS parks are in the process of transitioning to building automation systems for future EBI implementations as well. By having the backbone in place, WCS will be able to bring other systems and equipment online as part of future upgrades, system retrofits, or new construction work.
MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTOnce indentified, problems and maintenance tasks must be completed in a timely manner for each facility. To accomplish this, the organization has a longstanding, comprehensive service and maintenance agreement with Honeywell for all HVAC-focused needs at facilities across all five parks. Honeywell helps WCS keep close watch over the systems and technology that regulate the different conditions. Technicians travel between WCS locations to ensure stability, while the 265-acre Bronx Zoo - the largest of the parks - has dedicated Honeywell maintenance personnel onsite at all times.
The contract with Honeywell is not a typical maintenance agreement, according to Morley, due to the critical nature of the work, which consists of routine maintenance, system retrofitting and upgrades, and special project work. WCS requires in-depth expertise and attention from technicians who are familiar with the nuances and requirements of zoo animals.
“Service at our facilities is more of an insurance policy than anything else,” Morley said. “Not only do technicians have to presuppose maintenance, but they need to be creative and reasonable about how they’re going to get the job done.”
Honeywell works with WCS to strategically plan and conduct service work throughout park facilities, which are on a steady, round-the-clock schedule. Unlike office buildings, for example, which have a dark period at night when employees have gone home and building temperatures can readjust, park facilities require consistent temperature control 24 hours a day.
“Maintaining our facilities is, in some ways, more critical and detail-specific than maintaining conditions at a hospital,” Morley said. “Keeping environments at certain settings is crucial, and we can’t simply move animals if something doesn’t work. If a boiler fails, for example, what do you do with the gorillas?”
BUILDING AUTOMATION AND MAINTENANCE IN ACTIONUsing data from the building automated system integrator and employing multiple maintenance strategies, New York Aquarium personnel keep close watch over conditions to match the varying habitats of the aquarium’s diverse species. The aquarium relies on large heating and cooling systems to help maintain adequate temperatures in exhibit waters as well as the surrounding air and space.
To keep the aquarium’s systems up and running, Honeywell provides regular maintenance and upgrades to meet the facility’s delicate balance between special air and water needs. For example, the aquarium maintains open pools of water in its reef exhibit and in classrooms found in its education building. Too much humidity from the water can lead to mold and other issues. After the aquarium experienced issues with high humidity, Honeywell implemented a 20-ton rooftop unit and new ductwork to better establish airflow and dehumidify the air.
“Air temperature probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an aquarium, but it’s always top-of-mind for us,” Morley said. “Without closely managing it, we can disrupt habitats. Our sophisticated HVAC systems keep everything in balance.”
The aquarium also has its own hospital for treating marine life, which includes several isolation pools. Each pool requires different water temperatures and, as a result, relies on separate Honeywell heating controls to maintain appropriate conditions.
Also helpful in maintaining balance at the aquarium is a special database developed with the help of Honeywell. The database specifically tracks aquarium HVAC equipment at the end of its life cycle, and constant tracking provides data to help drive future planning.
Overall, building automation, service, and maintenance play pivotal roles in helping the WCS deliver on its mission of connecting humans and wildlife through sustainable interaction.
“No matter how you look at it - environmentally, operationally, or in terms of the wildlife we support - the more efficiently our systems function, the better off everyone is,” Morley said.