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Design/Construction Process / Tomorrow's Environment

Tomorrow's Environment: Software

May 1, 2011
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SOME WILL SAY MOST ENGINEERING, CONSTRUCTION, AND O&M SOFTWARE OFFERINGS ARE “SMART” BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL PROGRAMS BUILT FOR COMPUTER APPLICATIONS, BUT I SEE THAT SOME SOFTWARE HAS ADDED BENEFITS BEYOND THEIR PROGRAM INTENT. TO BEGIN, COMPUTER PROGRAMS ARE DEVELOPED TO PROVIDE A VARIETY OF TECHNICAL FEATURES, SUCH AS PERFORMING ENERGY CALCULATIONS AND SYSTEM/EQUIPMENT SERVICE THAT BLENDS TECHNICAL DATA WITH FINANCIAL DATA. EVEN MY OWN SOFTWARE PROGRAMS HAVE SPECIFIC FEATURES FOR COMMISSIONING AND AIR AND WATER BALANCING. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BENEFITS A PROGRAM CAN PROVIDE WHICH MAYBE WEREN’T PART OF THE INTENT?

WHEN THE CX-3 SOFTWARE WAS DEVELOPED, MY GOAL WAS TO PROVIDE A MEANS TO CREATE A SERIES OF FUNCTIONAL PERFORMANCE TESTS (FPT), SEQUENCE BY SEQUENCE, THAT WOULD ALLOW THE COMMISSIONING ENGINEER, DESIGN ENGINEER, OR FACILITY OPERATOR TO METHODICALLY DOCUMENT THE SPECIFIC HVAC SYSTEM PERFORMANCE FOR OWNER ACCEPTANCE. AFTER THE PROGRAM WAS DEVELOPED, WHAT I HAD NOT ANTICIPATED WAS THAT I COULD CAPTURE EACH SEQUENCE SHOWING EVERY DEVICE (CONTROL VALVE, TEMPERATURE TRANSMITTER, ETC.) REACTION ON THE FPT SYSTEM FLOW DIAGRAM, PRINT THESE SHEETS, AND BIND THEM INTO AN OPERATOR HANDBOOK. THE HANDBOOK COULD THEN BE USED FOR TRAINING THE OPERATOR, AND IT COULD ALSO BE A MANUAL TO TROUBLESHOOT PROBLEMS LATER AND TO RECOMMISSION THE SYSTEM(S). THE PROGRAM BASICALLY HAD THREE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS ON TOP OF ITS DESIGN INTENT.

USING THE SAME SYSTEM FLOW DIAGRAM, A TAB TECHNICIAN COULD CREATE A NEW SYSTEM FILE TO DOCUMENT HER PRE-TAB SYSTEM REVIEW, AND THIS WOULD BE THE START OF THE FINAL TAB REPORT. THIS APPROACH FULFILLS THE TAB REQUIREMENT PER THE SMACNA TAB PROCEDURAL GUIDE (SYSTEM REVIEW AND ANALYSIS PAGE 2.2).

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHAT I CONSIDER “SMART” SOFTWARE IS THE HVAC SOLUTION PROGRAM DEVELOPED WITH THE DESIGN ENGINEER IN MIND. WITHOUT GOING INTO ALL THE FEATURES OF THIS SOFTWARE (GO TO WWW.HVACSOLUTION.COM FOR MORE INFO), WHAT I SAW FOR THE TAB TECHNICIAN, AS WELL AS FOR THE FACILITY OPERATOR, WAS THE USE OF THESE SYSTEM FLOW DIAGRAM/DOCUMENTS AS ADDED BENEFITS FOR SEQUENCE-BY-SEQUENCE SYSTEM BALANCING (MAXIMUM FLOW, MAXIMUM DESIGN FLOW, MINIMUM DESIGN FLOW, ETC.), TRAINING THE SYSTEM OPERATORS, TROUBLESHOOTING, OPERATING MORE EFFICIENTLY, AND FOR IDENTIFYING AND UNDERSTANDING FUTURE SYSTEM EXPANSION POTENTIAL. JUST LIKE THE CX-3 OPERATOR HANDBOOK, THESE SYSTEM FLOW DIAGRAMS CAN BE PRINTED AND LAMINATED FOR QUICK REFERENCE WHEN HUNG IN AN EQUIPMENT ROOM.

WHAT WOULD YOU PRINT? USING A CHILLED WATER SYSTEM APPLICATION FOR MY EXAMPLE, AND LOCKING THE EQUIPMENT AND PIPE SIZES IN SO THEY DON’T CHANGE WHEN YOU CHANGE THE PARAMETERS, THE OPERATOR CAN END UP WITH A SERIES OF LAMINATED REFERENCE FLOW DIAGRAMS WITH THE FOLLOWING OPERATOR INFORMATION:

  • Maximum design chilled water flow (in gpm), pressure drop (and velocity), and pump horsepower (energy being used)
  • Nominal design chilled water flow, pressure drop, and pump horsepower
  • Minimum design chilled water flow, pressure drop, and pump horsepower
  • Waterside economizer design chilled water flow, pressure drop, and pump horsepower
Emergency powered systems on-line showing design chilled water flow, pressure drop, and pump horsepower

While the software computes engineering calculations and the TAB technician’s final TAB report may show slight variations in flow and pressure drop, the program will get the operator “within the ballpark” as a useful operator tool and help to routinely monitor the actual performance compared to the posted flow charts.

As with my experience mentioned above, I don’t believe the HVAC Solution program engineer realized at the time that the software had other benefits. With each software program, I encourage the user to look beyond what the program was originally developed for and try and re-apply the documentation to other applications to maximize what had been created on a specific job.

Smart software also can play a big role in Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) jobs, because what I’m suggesting is to take programs meant for commissioning or designing and see if you can integrate the specific program into another application associated with the job. What you want to do is ask the question, “If I can use this flow diagram for commissioning, can I use it for TAB; for estimating; for energy consumption; for carbon footprint impact; for training; for troubleshooting; for system expansion capabilities; etc.?”

If your IPD team is working to maximize data while minimizing documentation for efficiency reasons, you may find software that is currently being used for one purpose can become smarter software if everyone on the team offers their point of view with questions like “what if,” “why not,” or “how about this?” ES

Recent Articles by Howard McKew, P.E., C.P.E.

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