For decades, most facility professionals have relied on either reactive or preventive maintenance strategies to keep their buildings’ heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and other mechanical systems, running efficiently.
Often called the “run-to-fail” approach, a reactive maintenance scheme relies on the use of in-house staff or third-party contractors to repair equipment after it breaks down. In a preventive maintenance model, facility teams try to avoid problems by following industry and manufacturer guidelines to inspect and service equipment at recommended intervals.
Technology advances and the ability to turn raw building system data into useful information have changed the game for facility professionals at healthcare and educational institutions. New intelligent service offerings give facility teams the tools they need to improve building system performance and drive significantly higher levels of system reliability and uptime.
As a result, their buildings use less energy, cost less to operate, have smaller environmental footprints and—most importantly—become productive assets that help their organizations achieve their primary healthcare or educational missions.
A well-designed and well-executed building operating and service strategy is essential to achieving optimum building system performance, especially in today’s high performance buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) emphasizes the importance of an effective and well-deployed service strategy, noting that a poorly designed building that is well-operated and maintained will consistently outperform a well-designed building with a substandard approach to service.
Service requirements can vary depending on a building’s size, location, function and mission. For example, a large regional hospital may require a different approach than a smaller specialty facility, and a multi-building college campus may have different service needs than a typical high school building.
Regardless of a building’s function, choosing and applying an appropriate service solution is one of the most important decisions that facility professionals make. An effective service strategy ensures that building systems deliver the comfort, reliability, efficiency and mission-effectiveness they need at a cost that makes sense both short-term and over the entire building lifecycle.
Many facility leaders in the education and healthcare industries have found that the conventional approaches to maintenance—namely reactive and preventive schemes—no longer meet the needs of their organizations. Intelligent Services Today’s most advanced intelligent services platforms use predictive or reliability-centered maintenance models, which enable facility professionals and their service partners to collect, analyze and act on real-time system data. As a result, service tasks are performed when service is actually needed. This is a step-change improvement over conventional maintenance models, which rely on the calendar or hour-meter to determine what equipment should be serviced and when.
For example, embedded sensors can be used to monitor the performance of an HVAC fan motor and alert operators if vibration levels exceed the norm so they can replace or repair the unit before it fails. Or, the maintenance team can change air filters based on the airflow rate and air quality readings rather than on an established schedule, reducing costs and improving efficiency.
Enabled by technology, new intelligent service platforms put real-time, actionable building performance information in the hands of healthcare and educational facility teams, helping them make data-based decisions that improve building performance.
The most advanced of these platforms continuously collect, interpret and act upon data from building systems and controls, giving facility directors the tools they need to manage energy consumption, reduce operating costs, minimize their environmental impact, improve building system reliability and uptime, and resolve more problems sooner, faster and more effectively.
The leading intelligent service platforms offer various levels of service such as alarm notification, active monitoring, and building performance.
An alarm notification offering includes 24-hour, seven-day monitoring of building systems and the ability for facility teams to work directly with a remote service facility. The in-house team is automatically notified if a critical event happens.
Users also received around-the-clock system monitoring and alerting services in an active-monitoring model. Technical specialists are also available to analyze trends and address problems immediately from a central location. In the experience of a leading provider of indoor comfort solutions and services, as many as 40 percent of problems can get resolved remotely, without the need to dispatch a technician, which reduces costs and improves response time.
Building Performance Model
“Building performance” is the most advanced intelligent service offering. This approach applies the best available analytics, diagnostics and human expertise for a step-change improvement in service capabilities and efficiency. Intelligent service providers start by conducting a complete audit to evaluate the performance of key building systems, identify potential problems, determine current energy use and set operating standards that are consistent with the healthcare or educational mission.
Standards are typically set in such categories as energy and water use, environmental performance, occupant health and comfort, and system reliability. With a building performance approach, facility professionals can set air quality, temperature, humidity, lighting, ventilation and other standards for individual physical areas within one or multiple building sites.
For example, a facilities team might set air quality, temperature, humidity and air pressure standards for different units, departments or buildings. The platform continuously monitors multiple locations in the facility and automatically adjusts settings to maintain stable pressure differentials, humidity levels and temperature conditions for each specific location and critical area.
The most sophisticated offerings use monitoring, diagnostics and analytics to keep each area of the building operating within acceptable tolerances of established standards. Data from various building systems are continuously collected and analyzed and the platform either automatically responds or provides specific recommendations to keep the building operating at performance levels chosen by the operator.
Hospitals or schools also can designate a key piece of equipment, such as a chilled water system, as mission essential because its failure would disrupt operations and impact patient care standards. Smart services offerings can use analytical fault detection and diagnostic software to continuously monitor the system’s operation and alert technicians before a small anomaly can turn into a big problem.
The availability of actionable information— in the right place, at the right time and in the right hands—can mean the difference between an efficient, reliable building and one that uses too much energy, costs too much to operate and puts the organization’s mission at risk.
The availability of actionable information can mean the difference between a reliable building and one that puts the organization’s mission at risk.
Neil Maldeis is energy solutions engineering leader for Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort solutions and services.