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Managing the buildings at the University of Richmond

by gbaf mag
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With a campus set in 350 acres (1.4km2), the University of Richmond is a liberal arts college that surrounds the Westhampton Lake just west of downtown Richmond. It earned the Princeton Review’s Top spot for ‘Most Beautiful Campus’ in 2020 because of its collegiate gothic architecture and stunning landscape of pines and rolling hills. The campus is a regularly used location for TV and film shoots.

Being ‘home’ to over 3,900 students and 1,700 faculty and staff throughout more than 70 buildings, the stakes are high to ensure that each of the buildings are as comfortable and as energy efficient as possible. Julian Morgan, Associate Director, Energy Management, has been instrumental at updating the campus legacy Building Automation Systems (BAS). Starting in 2014, Morgan needed to update 41 buildings and 1,300 pieces of equipment by integrating the legacy Staefa Control System to Niagara JACEs to unify the front-end workstation with a better user interface. 

Building Management
When evaluating options for the integration, Morgan quickly settled on J2 Innovations’ FIN Stack – an out-of-the-box version of our open market software for simplified building management. It was chosen for the centralized graphics, data collection, alarms, and uniform user interface across all platforms, desktop, smartphone, and tablet.

“When I first evaluated J2 Innovations’ products for the conversion to Niagara I was only interested in the graphics. When I was shown the software, the history app was what sold me. To have that amount of data at your fingertips is invaluable – I could see so many possibilities for the campus with FIN Stack.” – Julian Morgan, Associate Director, Energy Management

The implementation helped unify the campus and gave more options for facility management and reports than ever before. It provided the campus with a simplified graphical user interface, unified alarm management, integration, a campus wide cross vendor control structure through bLine. a mobile platform for technicians to view the campus BAS when needed for problem solving or just monitoring campus HVAC equipment and the ability to view, graph, format, and download all point data in the history collection via the Historian App.

This was just the beginning of the story for the building management system at the University – since the initial integration in 2014, over 55 of the campus’ 70 buildings are now connected with FIN Stack, with more being added. Today, FIN connects to 2460 pieces of equipment and over 63,600 data points.

Troubleshooting

As well as leading the integration, another large part of Morgan’s role is troubleshooting, a job that he finds easy due to the superior data collection, reports and analysis of current and historical data:

“At the moment, we are in ‘shoulder-season’ when we have to constantly question – are we cooling or are we heating? Having data trends at my fingertips really helps get through this as I can look at each building as an individual to get the correct temperature, save energy and keep the occupants happy”

Viewing historical data this way is also helping the university plan for the future. With new buildings being commissioned on campus, troubleshooting data provided on existing building stock has helped the team look at optimizing the new buildings at commissioning stage. Naturally, the new buildings will be able to enjoy the benefits too.

Energy dashboard

In 2018, Morgan replaced the existing ‘Energy Dashboard’ and brought it over to FIN Stack.  This has played a key part in improving efficiency throughout campus as building data can now be exported and connected to off-site. This helps with out-of-hours troubleshooting as estate staff can access key building data at any time.  Even students have taken an interest in the abilities of the dashboard, with a recent request from an Environmental Studies student who wanted the data to support their internship.

The Future

While the University has upgraded the FIN software to the latest release (FIN5), they are excited about the future and the ever-growing capabilities of the software, including implementing Edge2Cloud functionality.

FIN has supported them with campus preparations in the current Covid-19 pandemic. With over 1,000 VAV systems throughout the campus, FIN has made it easy for them to meet ASRHAE recommendations for COVID-19. The team have rolled out necessary changes to VAV and AHU systems in 2 weeks – this has been significant at making sure staff and students feel safe and secure when they return to campus.

“FIN Stack is not just a BAS integration system; it is facility management tool that I can customize the user interface to make my job of managing the campus easier. Set-points, sequences, and schedules – these are the bread and butter of optimizing energy efficiency for facilities managers. It saves us a lot of time so we can focus on making our campus a great place to work and study.”

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