Latest from Building Automation


Intelligent Building, Smart Operation

Nov. 1, 2011
How winner of Smartest Building in America Challenge leverages BAS to improve efficiency and environment

Located in Olympia, Wash., Providence St. Peter Hospital is a 290-bed, not-for-profit regional teaching hospital offering comprehensive medical, surgical, and behavioral-health services. Its mission, Facility Manager Geoff Glass said, is to offer all forms of health care to the area's poor at little or no cost.

"In order to accomplish this goal, we must be excellent stewards of our fiscal resources," Glass said. "We are challenged to provide a comfortable environment for our building's occupants while ensuring that not one energy dollar is wasted. To accomplish this goal requires a smart building."

For more than a decade, Providence's plant operators have been diligently implementing building-automation improvements throughout the 850,000-sq-ft facility. These improvements continue to impress the hospital’s board for their positive impact on the bottom line. Also, they have earned the hospital the title of "Smartest Building in America" for 2011 from Siemens Industry Inc.

Providence's relationship with Siemens goes back to 2001, when the hospital contracted with the manufacturer's Building Technologies division to upgrade and retrofit aging building controls and other equipment. The APOGEE wireless building-automation and control system was installed. In just a few months, Providence started to see significant reductions in electricity and natural-gas use.

In the years since, Providence and Siemens have continued to collaborate, analyzing set points and updating control and system-monitoring elements to gain new efficiencies and find the best balance of comfort and energy efficiency. Modular controllers provide flexible direct digital control of sensors, actuators, and equipment controllers, as well as chiller systems. Operators have gained excellent control of chiller staging, delta-P, and chilled-water reset.

New boiler controls and an economizer package were installed to create a three-path heat-recovery system. Now, boiler feedwater, space-heating water, and domestic hot water are heated via waste heat from the boiler. Essentially, a non-condensing boiler was made into a condensing boiler, with the hot air released into the atmosphere reduced by 250°F. On a 90°F-plus day, the temperature released is lower than the outside-air temperature.

Real-Time Information
Highly integrated networked controls provide operational transparency and an opportunity for continuous improvement. The Siemens Insight workstation provides a 360-degree view of HVAC and other systems, including MRI chiller, lighting, emergency ventilation, and life safety. Further, it provides real-time information and the ability to trend temperatures at multiple points. For example, the workstation monitors all areas served by an air-handling system. It looks at the temperature of every room and controls supply fans accordingly. In surgical rooms, for example, occupancy sensors communicate with the building-automation system to set back surgical air-handling units when operating rooms are not in use.

Monitoring and Control
With improved monitoring and control, operators at Providence are better able to assign HVAC priorities based on 24/7 occupancy and staffing levels that vary throughout the day. With sensors providing ambient-condition information in real time, discharge supply-fan operation can be controlled with accuracy. Thus, supply-fan discharge temperature can be optimized continuously to provide a high level of occupant comfort using the least amount of energy.

Part of Providence's energy-saving strategy involves using controllers to operate run-around glycol loops. This minimizes the need to open heating-water valves on supply fans until outside-air temperatures reach approximately 35°F.

Occupancy sensors are used for supply-fan setback.

Savings are particularly significant in heart-catheterization areas, where supply fans can be shut off at night without impacting occupant comfort or ambient-air quality.

Control of Mechanical Systems
The automation system provides a more sophisticated, granular level of control than the proportional, integral, derivative system it replaced. The technology is built on Siemens' Model-Free Adaptive control software, an industrial control algorithm.

Adaptive control automatically adjusts to fluctuations in mechanical systems and loads, as well as seasonal changes. It eliminates the need for seasonal tuning as it continuously and automatically adjusts to system changes, freeing up the staff's time. Better-tuned loops lead to both reduced cycling and reduced offset from set point to provide energy savings.

Remote Notification
Remote paging and notification software allows the hospital's operating staff to receive alarms and monitoring points via cell phone, pager, and e-mail and notifies the appropriate operator when corrective maintenance or other action is required. Critical areas, such as blood, bone, and tissue-bank freezers, are "double-alarmed," monitored by both building and private-branch-exchange alarms. Alarms are sent via the remote paging and notification software to building operating managers, preventing costly repairs to expensive equipment. If a generator switches to backup power, plant operators are notified instantly.

Reporting And Trending
Indoor-air quality not only is critical to patient care, it factors heavily into accreditation and certification by The Joint Commission. Reporting and trending provides the necessary documentation for compliance. The hospital can acquire data automatically and create reports on freezer temperatures, patient-room temperatures, and airflow in negative-pressure rooms.

Optimized Performance
All five of Providence’s plant operators are Building Operator Certification-trained and certified. Each operator has more than 20 years of HVAC experience. And each has trained extensively through Siemens’ customer-training program.

"Having a highly trained, motivated in-house staff is hugely beneficial on both sides," Dave Simpson, Siemens account manager, said. "The team's experience and creativity shows through in the implementation of ideas. Also, having a high knowledge level ... helps quickly resolve many issues over the phone."

Since initiating the controls upgrade, Providence has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star building-program award seven times and seen its Energy Star rating climb from below 70 to 90.

Next up: Providence is expanding an area for administration. Soon after that, it will embark on a multibed-area expansion.

"I share a tremendous admiration of our Plant Operations Division for their stellar work over the years," Jim Leonard, former chief operating officer, Providence St. Peter Hospital, said. "I applaud them for their ingenuity, dedication, and plain old hard work. We have turned these dollars saved into meaningful improvements in patient care in support of our mission."

Smartest Building Challenge

Launched in 2010, the Smartest Building in America Challenge recognizes innovative implementation of Siemens APOGEE and TALON building-automation systems to achieve business, efficiency, and sustainability goals.

Participants submit brief videos explaining why their building is the smartest in America.

The grand-prize winner receives $25,000 in products and services from Siemens Building Technologies or a $25,000 contribution to a qualified charity of their choice. The runner-up receives $15,000 in products and services from Siemens Building Technologies or a $15,000 contribution to a qualified charity of their choice.

The $25,000 Providence St. Peter Hospital won will be donated to the hospital’s Telestroke Network Program.

For more on the Smartest Building in America Challenge and to view the winning videos, go to

Terry Alboucq has worked in HVAC operations and maintenance for over 32 years. A plant operator at Providence St. Peter Hospital since 1985, he holds a City of Seattle Grade III Boiler Operators License and is a Siemens Master Building Operator. He served in the U.S. Navy as a boiler technician and was qualified as boiler-room "Top Watch." He can be contacted at [email protected]. Edward Krause graduated from The California Maritime Academy in 1978. He sailed with Mobil Oil Co. for 20 years, reaching the position of chief engineer. The holder of a Grade II City of Seattle Boiler Operators License, he has been plant-operations chief for Providence St. Peter Hospital since 1998. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Did you find this article useful? Send comments and suggestions to Executive Editor Scott Arnold at [email protected].