utilities operators

Managing the U of L’s Buildings through technology

 

The University operates many complex systems on campus which are responsible for managing life safety, internal environments, room scheduling and many others. When any major system needs an upgrade, it can create a cascade effect on other services, and is no small undertaking. Last year, the Building Management System, or BMS, was scheduled for an overhaul.

At any given time, Facilities monitors roughly 35,000 measurements throughout the campus ranging from thermostats, baffles and ventilation equipment, numerous lights and fans, to the University’s boiler plant and its associated pressure and temperature equipment. In addition, approximately 85 rooms on campus are accessed through card swipes by students, faculty and staff. All are controlled by the BMS.BMS HVAC image

Information Technology Services (ITS) was brought in to assist with the software upgrade, and to provide consultation around possible improvements. Wim Chalmet, ITS Application Support Analyst, says the HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, was tackled first.

“A big concern Utilities had was a lack of redundancy. Since utility operators are able to manage and monitor the environment on campus from their computers, if a server went down, the software providing status updates on the systems would quit reporting,” says Chalmet. “Operators would be blind to how everything was functioning and consequently would have to physically patrol to monitor the most critical points. During cold snaps in the winter pipes can freeze within hours so staff would have to be on call at all times day and night.”

In addition to consultation, ITS upgraded all affected desktop machines and was able to repurpose two additional servers for the BMS. “This provides failover protection so that if one server goes down, another takes over and continues to provide status updates to operators.”

The Card Access system for the campus was another component of the BMS upgrade. “We have a number of classrooms that can be accessed by card swipe,” says Chalmet. “If a student registers in a course that is scheduled into one of those rooms, they get card access automatically.”

Chalmet adds that in order for this to occur, a custom designed interface is needed which permits the BMS system to automatically talk to our databases, such as Banner in this instance. “ITS has done an analysis of the entire structure to determine exactly how this interface currently works and recommended significant improvements to integrate the tool with the new software of the BMS environment.” Completion of the project is expected before September.