CSU, Chico News

CSU, Chico Wins Sustainability Award for Energy Monitoring System

Date: 08-25-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Neil Nunn, Engineering/Energy Management
Facilities Management Services

California State University, Chico has received a 2010 Best Practice Award for the Energy Efficiency Partnership Program with the California State University System. The award was presented at the 10th Annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference held in July at CSU, Long Beach. The program has resulted in significant energy cost savings for the University.

The monitoring-based commissioning improvements CSU, Chico made for the LEED Silver Student Services Center (SSC) were deemed the best in both the UC and CSU systems. CSU, Chico also won the same award for Yolo Hall in 2009.

The energy partnership program with the Chancellor’s Office started four years ago. The Chancellor’s Office and the University each provided part of the funding to look at the energy performance of five existing buildings (Tehama, Performing Arts Center, O’Connell, Yolo and Student Services Center). The project was under the direction of CSU, Chico’s Chief Engineer/Energy Manager Neil Nunn, and Facilities Control Specialist Dan Hayden.

Staff in the Chancellor’s Office actually submitted an application for CSU, Chico because they felt that the campus had accomplished an outstanding task in terms of using campus resources and engineers, writing the programming and producing significant results in lowering energy use and therefore costs for energy.

The first step in the project was trending energy data over a period of time and performing pre-functional testing, worked performed by Cogent Energy, an energy company hired by the Chancellor’s Office. As a result of the testing to determine if equipment was performing according to its design intent, Cogent Energy identified deficiencies and recommended remediation measures.

“Both SSC and Yolo Hall were in good shape to begin with, so the fact that remediation measures taken by CSU in a record amount of time resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of energy savings is remarkable,” said Nunn.

The recommendations from Cogent Energy involved complex sequences of operations that required programming changes for the air handling mechanical equipment; for example, fan speeds, previously controlled by static pressure, were changed to volume demand control. The change in fan speed alone cut the energy needed to run the fans in half. The savings, Nunn explained, is not half of the energy, but three-quarters. This has resulted in the lowest energy cost per square foot for buildings on campus.

Hayden, formerly a controls technician for Yamas Controls Inc., has had extensive experience in the programming of commercial buildings. Having Hayden, said Nunn, is like having a contractor working for the University. That is one thing, said Nunn that distinguished CSU, Chico’s work on the project from other universities that had to hire outside contractors.

“Cogent Energy provided guidelines, but Dan had to figure it out and do the programing,” said Nunn. “It took untold hours for him to do it.”

There was some final programming needed beyond what Hayden had done, and College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Technology student Scott Vanni was able to use the software Hayden provided and, in just a few weeks, had it done.

“It was the final pieces of the puzzle we needed to complete the project,” said Hayden. “It kept everything in house by using the incredible student talent we have on campus. The whole team owes Scott a lot for getting the project completed.”

One of the things that was difficult for Hayden and his co-worker Jeff Talerico was that SSC was occupied during the process. “We re-programmed 475 variable air volume controllers,” said Hayden, “and that meant that a lot of people working in the building were patient and flexible. I want to thank them for that.”

In addition to the air volume controllers, six plant controllers and six universal network controllers had to have increased programming with more sophistication to serve up web pages. Finally, all of the graphics had to be modified to reflect the changes. The whole process probably took 470 staff hours, estimated Hayden.

“The best part of the whole project (including all five buildings) is that the University benefits from the energy savings for the life of each building,” said Nunn.