The manufacturer engaged Burns & McDonnell for a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility and potential value of an automated fault detection and diagnostics (AFDD) system as a first step toward installing a comprehensive energy management information system (EMIS) for all buildings on the campus. The EMIS would meet a number of requirements of the Energy Act while also complying with codes and standards of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as well as other quality process standards.
The pilot project scope was to monitor and analyze performance of selected air handler units along with a make-up air unit, variable air volume units, exhaust air valves, chilled and hot water supplies, and returns on one of the building’s penthouses.
With several buildings on this large campus and a planned expansion, the facilities team concluded that the pilot would provide key insights needed to implement AFDD and develop an EMIS. With data providing visibility into how the equipment was performing, it could then be analyzed to identify factors that may be causing equipment to perform less efficiently over time, as well as to establish the economic impact of suboptimal performance. Once those factors were known, the data again would inform development of a plan to improve efficiency.
The monitoring program was designed to capture equipment faults and other anomalies — defined in this instance as equipment that was not performing within optimal standards for efficiency. Equipment operating below optimal standards uses more energy than necessary while also experiencing excessive wear on parts and components, accelerating the frequency of needed parts and component replacements as well as reducing useful life overall.
The AFDD system would become a core element of the campuswide EMIS, enabling a monitoring-based commissioning process that would allow all essential systems and equipment to be continuously monitored for efficiency. Monitoring-based commissioning also exempts the entire campus from mandatory retro-commissioning every four years.
Setting Up the AFDD
This large facility already had a building automation system in place that generated data on the operating profile of various pieces of equipment. Metasys, the automated controls system running the HVAC and other equipment on this campus, was the repository of crucial operational data showing performance trends on all equipment included in the pilot project.
This data was provided on an encrypted storage device and delivered to the project team. It was then uploaded to SkySpark, a monitoring and diagnostic system, to perform the data ingestion and analysis. A version of SkySpark that is licensed to Burns & McDonnell is preprogrammed with unique algorithms that set rules to normalize data from various sources and can be customized with additional algorithms to enhance analytics for a facility.
SkySpark used the data generated by sensors installed on each piece of equipment and captured by the Metasys monitoring system. The SkySpark system then distilled this operational data into an easy-to-digest format, allowing the team to see a consolidated picture of trends and patterns of performance for each piece of equipment included in the pilot. This dashboard format showed, for example, if equipment was experiencing excessive vibration, heat, or any other factor — even showing if filters on the air handling units were becoming clogged faster than normal.
As the pilot got underway, however, the accuracy and quality of the operational and system trend data emerged as a key concern. The team discovered inconsistencies between as-built documentation and documentation of actual installation of certain pieces of equipment. In addition, some of the trend data received was up to six months old, making it problematic for analyzing current performance of some equipment. Other data inconsistencies were found across a range of similar equipment types. Another notable challenge for the testing and evaluation process was access to equipment to gain nameplate information and to verify operation and maintenance in the secure 24/7 environment.
The inconsistencies of data from the Metasys system needed to be reconciled in order to set up the SkySpark system so that its rules were consistent and applied to all the pieces of equipment being monitored. The lack of updated control drawings further complicated the ability to understand equipment characteristics, sequence of operation and proper overall data analysis of the equipment.
Commissioning professionals from Burns & McDonnell were able to resolve these issues. The knowledgeable team had the experience needed to make accepted changes within Metasys to reconcile data inconsistencies. With consistent rules for all equipment, it was then possible to see how each was performing against consistent data benchmarks that could be then set up for the entire campus.