Sounding Board

Oct. 1, 2010
Regarding Scott Arnold’s column “Running (Literally) to Failure” (Editor’s Notes, September 2010): In my 24-year career with four different health-care organizations as an operating engineer (eight years) and facility director (16 years), I have found that every chief executive officer/chief financial officer I have worked under either does not understand

Run-to-Failure Maintenance
Regarding Scott Arnold’s column "Running (Literally) to Failure" (Editor's Notes, September 2010): In my 24-year career with four different health-care organizations as an operating engineer (eight years) and facility director (16 years), I have found that every chief executive officer/chief financial officer I have worked under either does not understand or, because of immediate/short-term budget issues, will not invest the necessary resources to maintain a facility properly. I am speaking of every facet of facility maintenance, not just mechanical equipment. For the most part, the engineering/maintenance department is seen as a necessary evil, a non-revenue-producing money pit. The only exception is during capital-investment projects ($50,000 and up), when I get to select the new equipment being purchased. The rest of the time, I must use operating-budget dollars to fund small projects that don't require further approval. As far as preventive/predictive maintenance goes, anything beyond changing filters, greasing bearings, and washing coils is a pipe dream. I am pretty certain this is the rule and not the exception in most facilities.
Name withheld

I am pleased to say the Royal Navy never has run a policy so ludicrous as "run to failure." ... The whole basis of rounds carried out by watchkeepers ... is to check the condition and operating parameters of equipment and, from those assessments—whether visual, from readings from gauges, or from monitoring equipment—actively look for deterioration in the performance of equipment. My question to anyone supporting a run-to-failure policy is why would you send your son to sea in a submarine with two main MGS and two TGS that had never had VA carried out before sailing or any condition-based monitoring while on patrol? The next week that submarine will be sunk by something as stupid as a ruptured flexible coupling that costs peanuts, but tore because the resilient mountings were degrading because of a corrosive oil leak from the air compressor above, but it was missed because no one was carrying out preventive maintenance. Run to failure—don't make me laugh. ... The Russians run this policy because of a lack of finances. The result? The Kursk.

I work for a not-for-profit senior company with prior experience in the public sector. I am just floored at how they let front-end costs drive up operational costs, as it relates to paying higher costs for failures.

You would be surprised by the number of mechanical installations made with no thought given to maintenance. In some cases, installations are almost impossible to maintain. A local freezing plant had a motor on a flash-freezer unit go bad. It took two men almost a day-and-a-half to change the motor. When I saw the unit, I made a sketch as to how the blower and motor could be relocated to improve the efficiency of the blower, with the motor replaced in less than an hour. I was told they could not make the change I suggested, as headquarters had sent this leased machine, forbidding them to make changes.

I always told plant people, if you are not going to install a unit so it can be maintained, don't install it at all, as it will not be long before the unit is not operating.
Kenneth E. Robinson, CIH
Apex, N.C.

LEED-Certification Appeal
Editor's note: The following comments were posted on in response to the Liability & Litigation column by Gina Vitiello, LEED AP, on the appeal of the LEED certification awarded to Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wis. ("Appeal Raises Questions About LEED Certification," August 2010).

LEED is bogus. Let common sense prevail.

If anyone can explain to me why you can't simply say to an architect or engineer, "Design (for) me the most energy-efficient building you can without the need for another party intervening," I would like to hear why.

The way I see it, LEED is marketing, and that is it.

In reply to Rgr9969:

I agree. ... The USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) ... charge(s) to review ... project documents, but do(es) not check (if equipment) is installed per drawings. ... It is a money-making business. Now, LEED AP(s) ha(ve) to pay for 30 hours (of) training ... to keep their license. ...

Get a life. LEED is a standard of relative greenness, not a contract document for overpaid lawyers and underemployed engineers to litigate. Before LEED, there was little awareness of green design principles, much less an understanding of related issues. LEED, follow, or get out of the way.

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In reply to Ronaldperkins:
Mr. Perkins just doesn’t get it.

... Building a building just to "earn" LEED points, rather than building a building that improves the health of occupants (with minimal) lifetime costs, is total BS.

Once LEED certification made its way into contracts, the rules changed. I think most of us agree that we should build better than we have in the past, but building to LEED and ignoring building codes is the problem that occurred here.

Too many folks just care about LEED certification, not if a building really works.

It appears the emperor has no clothes. LEED has established itself like a beautiful flower that later becomes a noxious weed. The new IGBC (International Green Building Code) should help to eradicate the LEED weed without harmful effect. ...
Bill G

The USGBC has done a great job bringing environmentally responsible building into the mainstream of the construction industry. LEED certification is not without its quirks. Many of the points attainable were inherent in most of the projects I worked on. It was only a matter of pushing the envelope with HVAC or electrical systems to get a Gold rating. That issue notwithstanding, I would be more interested in knowing why the Building Committee members and the engineers would initially file the appeal. What was there to gain? Were they concerned for the students' health? Or was this an issue of in-house disagreements between board members? The school had its rating. What good could possibly (have) come from having it rescinded?

The LEED certification process is not arbitrary, nor is it subject to subjective interpretation by others. The USGBC is solely responsible for establishing the LEED certification requirements, review of ... submitted materials to determine credibility, and/or approving or denying submissions for LEED accreditation. The USGBC is not a governmental entity, nor is LEED accreditation a legally required construction criteri(on) in most cases.

If opponents of a LEED-accredited project wish to pursue litigation for a perceived faulty certification, they should direct their aggression toward the design professionals or construction companies (that) either: (1) did not construct the project in accordance with the submitted LEED accreditation documents or (2) did not fully inform the USGBC of design alterations that occurred following initial certification.

It should not be a surprise that additional documentation had to be developed or produced (because of) this appeal/litigation. Name one lawsuit that has not produced mountains of additional documents. If this appeal initiated a re-evaluation of the original LEED certification, it would stand to reason the USGBC would (go) back to the owner and/or design professionals for additional information.

This whole appeal sounds like a vain attempt at retribution by an unsuccessful architect/engineer/contractor who attempted to participate in the project. That, or some unscrupulous lawyer looking to produce a new revenue stream (like ambulance chasing).

In reply to Dan:
... The appeal (of) the Northland Pines High School (NPHS) LEED certification was made on behalf of five members of the NPHS Building Committee. ... They wanted to serve their community and wanted it to receive what it contracted for. They believed ... their community had been defrauded. Three of these people (are) construction professionals ..., one (is) a doctor, and the last (is) a local businessman and community leader.

The experts who prepared the appeal were engaged by those Building Committee members after they (the Building Committee members) were threatened by the design team with litigation if they did not shut up. A partial pre-bid design review found hundreds of violations of ... requirements for LEED-NC 2.1 (LEED for New Construction & Major Renovations Version 2.1) (EA-1 [Energy & Atmosphere Prerequisite 1, Fundamental Building Systems Commissioning], EA-2 [Energy & Atmosphere Prerequisite 2, Minimum Energy Performance], and EQ-1 [Indoor Environmental Quality Prerequisite 1, Minimum IAQ Performance]). ...

... A more thorough review of the post-construction documents ... identified more than 2,300 separate violations. ... In spite of the fact ... the appellants notified (the) USGBC (of this) and provided documentation ..., NPHS received LEED-NC 2.1 Gold (certification).

... This project cost the taxpayers of the Northland Pines School District $28.5 million, and actual utility data shows it uses substantially more energy than other schools of its size in Wisconsin.

As one of the experts you have accused of a "vain attempt at retribution," ... I took on this task because one of the appellants was an established client of mine who asked for my assistance. The other expert got involved at my personal request because he was the top man in the field. Our services to these people were provided on a pro-bono basis. ...

Finally, you really should take the time to review the appeal ( ... If you have any knowledge of construction, I think even you will find that the appeal was serious and well-documented. ... The reason the appellants and their experts chose to make the full text of the appeal ... public information was to allow design professionals and the public to draw their own conclusions concerning LEED certification. ...
Mark S. Lentz, PE
Lentz Engineering Associates Inc.

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(This) makes me think of the (U.S.) Census (Bureau) building that received LEED points for using a facade constructed of wood strips that required 2 million board feet of white-oak lumber to create an “interesting” look. Seemed (more) like a waste of high-quality lumber than a green-building component. Moeszu

As an architect doing a lot of LEED projects, I'm torn on this verdict. It certainly will make the USGBC take a harder look on projects with borderline documentation of credits, as (the USGBC) won't want to issue certifications that may not be valid, which means more-legit green buildings, which is good. But it will increase architect(s’) and especially MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) consult(ants') paperwork to prove they are compliant and have earned certification. The LEED review process already is extremely slow and tedious, and I think it's about to get even worse after this ruling.
Bill in Orlando

In reply to Bill in Orlando:
As an architect, you shouldn't have any misgivings. ... The prerequisite standards contain very specific requirements for documentation, which is part of the compliance path. If your engineers are not preparing the necessary documentation as part of their process, they are not doing their job. ...
Mark S. Lentz, PE

Fan Selection
The article on fan selection by Brian Mleziva ("Fan Selection and Energy Savings," August 2010) is excellent. It addresses all of the issues—almost. I wish it advised young design engineers to have the current editions of AMCA Publication 201, Fans and Systems, AMCA Publication 203, Field Performance Measurement of Fan Systems, and ANSI/AMCA Standard 210/ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 51, Laboratory Methods of Testing Fans for Certified Aerodynamic Performance Rating, included with their mandatory reading materials. The information contained in those publications is the basis of Mr. Mleziva's article, but it takes the issue one step further. Too many designers expect published ratings from a catalog or Website to be confirmed by data in a testing-adjusting-and-balancing report. As those publications tell us, published data never are expected to be reproduced in the field.
Andrew P. Nolfo, PE
Sun City West, Ariz.

Very nice article, but the section "Where Does Lost Energy Go?" is a little misleading. All of the brake horsepower of a motor, not just belt losses and motor inefficiency, gets converted to heat. So, all 3,750 W of a 5-hp motor connected to a fan located in an air stream will be converted to heat (12,800 Btuh) and should be accounted for by a rise in fan discharge-air temperature (approximately 2.37°F, assuming 5,000 cfm). Figure 6 shows 1,521 W of 3,730 W as heat generated, which, of course, would result in an inaccurate accounting of heat generated.
William E. Kuzan, PE
Grumman/Butkus Associates
Wauwatosa, Wis.

Author's response:
You are correct that all of the energy put into a system eventually will be converted to heat. The main intent of the example in the article was to show that even though 3,730 W of power is being supplied to the motor, only 60 percent of that power is converted to useful energy. The energy-flow diagram (Figure 6) accounts for the energy flow from the input of the motor to the discharge of the fan; it does not go into further detail.
Brian Mleziva
Greenheck Fan Corp.
Schofield, Wis.

Good article covering the key variables. The most important variable is the intent of the engineer. If a designer wants to optimize fan efficiency, (he or she) can lower the volume of flow by reducing load (work with the architect to improve envelope design) and/or reduce supply-air temperature. Then, large cross-sectional-area ducts and filters will lower pressure drop (in my opinion, anything over 1.2 in. TSP is waste). Doubl(ing) the coil, filter, and duct cross-sectional areas equals sevenfold fan energy savings. After pressure and volume are right-sized, choosing an efficient fan motor and fan will make the best use of a VFD (variable-frequency-drive) controller. It all depends on the engineer’s attitude about efficiency.
Ronald Perkins

Industrial Boiler MACT Rule
Regarding "Understanding the Industrial Boiler MACT Rule" by Don Wolf, PE, June 2010): One notable aspect of the (U.S.) EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency's) proposed emission limitations is that not even one existing boiler can meet (them). MACT (maximum achievable control technology) is supposed to be a calculation of the average of the top 12 percent best-performing units. However, because the EPA took the average top 12 percent for each pollutant and combined them into a single new standard, no boiler can meet the standard. In fact, some engineers point out that decreasing some pollutants (such as VHAP [volatile hazardous air pollutant]) may result in an increase in others (such as dioxin/furan). It's the equivalent of asking a decathlete to meet the best individual record in each event—all at once. It can't be done.

This rule will go to court—again. The important question is whether the (court) will stay the rule or allow it to move ahead during proceedings.

Letters on HPAC Engineering editorial content and issues affecting the HVACR industry are welcome. Please address them to Scott Arnold, executive editor, at [email protected].