Writer: Julie Troy, Bisnow
When a building’s HVAC system fails, timing is everything.
The sooner a system is up and running again, the better, and every minute with a system down is a minute where a building’s occupants are uncomfortable, office appointments may need to be canceled, and, in some cases, landlords may have to offer rent abatements to make up for the inconvenience.
One way building owners can ensure they don’t experience the long-term ramifications of an HVAC outage is to partner with the right HVAC team that can not only quickly diagnose and fix the problem, but can implement solutions to keep it from happening again.
“When you’re facing an HVAC outage, every second counts,” said Brendan Dowd, service team leader at Boland, a Washington, D.C.-based provider of commercial HVAC systems, services and building energy solutions. “It’s important to work with a knowledgeable team that knows how to work fast.”
Dowd shared a story about a medical office building in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that experienced an outage to both of its chillers — shutting down cooling to the entire facility. The building had gone through a repositioning a few years earlier, and while some of the air handling systems had been replaced, the old chillers had remained untouched. At this point, he said, these chillers had reached the end of their life expectancy and as a result, when one failed, they both shut down, creating a serious issue for the facility.
Boland was able to install a rental chiller within hours to resume medical services and keep the building's occupants comfortable. Later on, the team replaced the failed chillers with high-efficiency water-cooled Trane chillers.
“Luckily, we had two brand-new machines, which were in stock in our factory,” Dowd said. “So the owner executed a contract and 30 days later, the old machines were out of the building, the new machines were operating and the temporary rental chiller was removed.”
The Boland team went even further than just replacing the failed chillers; it also upgraded the facility’s building automation system, implementing new controls and technology that allow for optimized heating, cooling, lighting schedules and sequencing. It also upgraded the lighting system by replacing 660 T8 fixtures with LED fixtures throughout the building and the garage.
“Now we have a connected building, where we're monitoring the energy usage and utility usage in real time, with 24/7/365 monitoring,” said Mechelle Munn, an energy performance engineer at Boland. “We're watching that building every minute of every day to ensure it is operating optimally.”
Munn and her colleagues on Boland’s Applied Building Insights team work to provide clients with data-backed insights for continuous building energy and sustainability improvements.
As a result of these upgrades, the client not only has a reliable HVAC system that fosters a safe, comfortable and healthy indoor environment, it saw a 34% reduction in electric consumption, which led to $168K in electricity bill savings. As for the cost to the client, Dowd said the lighting system paid for itself within 10 months, while the building automation system paid for itself in just six months.
To ensure that things continue to run smoothly, Dowd said, the Boland team is not content with simply monitoring the building automation system and waiting for a problem to present itself. Instead, it meets with the client on an annual basis to discuss the client's long-term plans for the asset and develop strategies to keep the building and its equipment operational and efficient for years to come.
“It’s all about having an experienced team by your side who can work fast,” Dowd said. “When a catastrophic failure occurs, you don’t want to waste time searching for the right people. You need a reliable team you can count on who can provide an immediate solution, and then work with you on a long-term basis to ensure this never happens again.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Bisnow's Studio B and Boland.