Up until now, we have been talking about clues that would be evident from information you could gather before you went on site; things like the mechanical drawings, the control drawings, National Weather Service Climate data, and utility bills. Getting on site opens the door to a couple of more quick clues and the sitting down with the operators to find out what they know is a really important one.
The General Case
In my experience, most of the time, the operators of a facility have a pretty good idea of where the problems are.
Many times, the lead operators will have either been people that have been there since day one and know the facility inside out; Paul at Marriott Camelback and Jing at the Marriott San Diego Marina come to mind. You can point to a concrete floor and these guys can tell you how many conduits are cast in the concrete, where they are running and what they serve; good information to have for a whole bunch of reasons.
Or, the lead will be someone who is new to the HVAC industry but has a wealth of practical, hands-on experience managing people in technical projects and applying technical skills like welding things, wiring things, trouble shooting machinery, and programming controllers.
Most of the time, these very competent individuals simply need someone to champion their cause or provide some technical guidance. These are things that the commissioning team can typically provide, always remembering to give credit where credit is due.
Our Target Facility’s Case
A couple of years ago, the Engineering Manager for our Golden Colorado hotel was building IMAX type flight simulators. That means he has a wealth of experience managing projects and people and important skills like how to build really big, complicated things on time on budget. What is new to him is the hospitality industry and HVAC and the pneumatic controls that manage the systems in the hotel.
Almost as soon as we sat down to talk, the engineering manager just flat out told me that he was on the steep part of the learning curve regarding the pneumatic control systems in the facility and that he would love to learn anything we could tell him and that we would likely find some issues with the controls.
This was an important clue on a number of fronts. For one thing, it told us that a critical element in the energy efficiency delivery path (the control system) might be in need of attention, and lacking that attention, might be malfunctioning. As you will recall, we suspected this, but now we knew it for certain.
Chuck’s candid nature also told us a lot about the character of the person running the facility, that being that they placed the successful operation of the facility ahead of their ego. That takes real integrity and character and dedication to cause. In my opinion, it is exactly that type of person that you want to have in charge of the machinery. Knowing what you don’t know is extremely powerful because it opens the door to learning and then applying the lessons learned for the good of all.
That aside, in the course of our discussion, I also learned that Chuck had a number of projects underway that would improve the efficiency and performance of the facility and had ideas for a few more that he wanted to discuss. And, he was concerned about the balance between the corridor make-up air systems and their related exhaust fans and their over-all control because those systems had been giving him a few problems. So, I was not the only person thinking the MAUs would be good RCx targets.
The bottom line is that the folks running our facilities are usually one of our most important resources as commissioning providers (aside from the person you see in the mirror every morning when you are brushing your teeth). So, we should foster that relationship and all the benefits it can bring to our process.
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering