A new building automation system and equipment scheduling has contributed to more than $600,000 in energy savings during the first year at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA - Thomas Jefferson University is an academic health center with 13 buildings comprising about 4.5 million square feet of space. With both a hospital and a clinical research facility, including a bio-safety level-3 (BL3) AIDS research lab, the university needs precise control of environmental conditions in laboratories, animal facilities, and operating rooms.

In an effort to simplify facility controls to one platform, the university selected Siemens Building Technologies Inc.

While the Siemens Apogee® building automation system (BAS) provides the control reliability the hospital needs, the platform also helps reduce both operational and utility costs. Apogee's ease-of-use and Siemens' training program make the building staff effectively self-sufficient, providing both time and cost savings. And thanks to the installation of a full-scale energy conservation program during the past year, the hospital can claim savings of more than $1 million in utility costs.

"The upgraded system helped improve efficiencies for our department, as far as maintenance and operations goes," said Robert Ayling, facilities manager at Thomas Jefferson University. "It will continue to help in the long run, as well. As the cost of energy keeps rising, the continued energy savings will be important."

Client Objectives

For the university, protection of researchers, students, and patients hinges on one thing: reliability. The BL3 AIDS research lab is required to have a regulated number of air exchanges per hour during occupied times to protect occupants the hospital. At the same time, the hospital must protect its valuable research; highly sensitive biological specimens can die quickly if precise environmental conditions are not maintained.

The university needs this high level of control and corresponding documentation for compliance with Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), and the Department of Health. At the same time, the facility manager and the control systems administrator both wanted a system that would be easy to upgrade, maintain, and install, for its technology-savvy staff.

With 105 nodes in the network, Siemens integrated a wide range of equipment from various manufacturers, including York and Carrier chillers, Trane air-handling units (AHUs), lighting, and laboratory equipment, such as fume hoods.

"Our BAS is much more user-friendly," said Ayling. "We do our own installation and repairs internally, so because the operators only have to understand one system, it helps increase the response time and efficiency."

Critical equipment and systems, such as medical gas units, large air handlers, incoming service lines from the electric company, and emergency transfer switches, are all set to alarm if performance strays outside of the set parameters. Control room operators, mechanics, and supervisors receive alarms via Siemens' Reno remote monitoring system, increasing the team's response time.

More Control

Siemens helps the university program equipment to shut down or slow down based on time of day or occupancy schedules. Lighting and fume hood airflow in laboratories are cut back when rooms are not in use. In some buildings, fans shut down at night, and in others, airflow is reduced based on static pressure.

Siemens also provided extensive training not just for system operation, but also for installation and programming. Equipment scheduling has contributed to more than $600,000 in energy savings during the first year.

The reporting feature provides documentation for proving that consistent temperatures, humidity, pressures, and airflows are maintained in critical environments.

With redundancy in alarming, all problems are handled as quickly as possible, ensuring utmost reliability. Also, supervisors stay informed without having to seek out information.

As a result of Siemens' training program and Apogee's relatively easy-to-use interface, the university crew installs, maintains, and services about 90 percent of all equipment. The crew also programs the system, including point data basing. This self-sufficiency reduces operational costs.

Publication date: 06/27/2005