Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be contracted to draft HVAC master plans, as well as update past master plans, for a number of colleges and universities that look to their future growth, and, as time passed, I could see their planning pay off. Skipping over the other categories that make up a master plan, such as the school’s vision and mission statements, it’s contribution and impact on the neighborhood, it’s curriculum now and in the future, the buildings to support these educational centers, it’s architectural presence, etc., let’s look at how an HVAC master plan, table of content could look today with the new categories highlighted in “blue”:

  • Cover sheet
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction to HVAC Support to the University:
    • Categories of Responsibility:
      • Occupant comfort
      • Occupant Security
      • Indoor Air Quality
      • Acoustic Environment
    • Global Environment
    • Operation and Maintenance (O&M):
      • Utility Benchmarks
      • Deferred Maintenance Database
      • Central Plant Capacity versus Projected Campus Growth
      • Full-Time Employee (FTE) per Square Foot
      • Carbon Footprint Reduction Plan
  • Decarbonization
  • Electrification
  • Central Plant Description:
    • Heating
    • Air-Conditioning
    • Ventilation
  • Decentralized Systems Descriptions:
    • Building-by-Building
  • Facility Condition Index (FCI*) of HVAC:
    • Building-by-Building
  • Deferred Maintenance Master Plan
  • School’s Master Plan Growth Impact On HVAC
  • Recommendations

With today’s technology, “occupant comfort, indoor air quality, and acoustic environment” can now be monitored, measured and we can benchmark the existing conditions with relative ease and cost effectiveness, as well as security too. Technology being what it is today, recording the data can include security video capabilities that are great to have because a “picture is worth a 1,000 words.”

From the data collected, the individual pulling together the HVAC portion of the master plan can forward the end results to facility manager, who can then submit the final report to the administration of the overall assessment throughout the campus.

Often overlooked, the optimum acoustic environment doesn’t get included with HVAC design intent documents unless it is a theatre at the school. This topic should be included in the university master plan update because many of the campus buildings are places of study and unnecessary noise can be a distraction.

For years, students have been active in making “global environment” and preserving this environment but today the effects of global warming are becoming very apparent to many, if not the majority in this country and around the world. Students have pressured many university administrations in the past and will continue to keep this topic on the forefront of issues of concern in spite of the pushback by those financially impacted by the quest for decarbonization and electrification and so this should be included in the university master plan update.

Full-time employee (FTE) analysis has always been a sensitive subject and usually left out of master plan reports, to be dealt with in a separate study. Analogous to a double-edge sword, on one edge the FTE per square foot will usually show a shortage of full-time employees but, on the other edge, administrations often consider outsourcing the O&M staff to reduce operating cost salaries and benefits. The recommended solution(s) should be included in the university master plan update because the university will be projecting growth, and this will require more facility staff to operate and maintain the utilities that get extended/added.

The deferred maintenance database may currently not be perceived as a deferred maintenance master plan, but it should be looked at in this manner if the university is going to have a comprehensive campus master plan because it is the HVAC equipment/systems, as well as the other utility infrastructure that supports each and every building at the university.

A byproduct of a facility assessment to update the HVAC section of the school’s master plan is to note, “hindsight is 20-20”! Whenever I assessed the HVAC systems, I carried a series of checklists with me one checklist was titled, “What’s wrong with this picture?” with a list of things to take note of, including:

What is the pump discharge balancing valve set at, e.g., 75% open?

Are coils and plate and frame heat exchangers pipe counterflow?

Are there any HVAC systems indicated as being in the “manual” mode of operation on the building automation system (BAS) computer?

Walking in the door, of a building, did I sense outdoor air being drawn into the facility, e.g., negative pressure?

For the past several years, when asked to complete a facility assessment, update a campus master plan, or to update the university’s deferred maintenance database, I always recommend that the equipment, as well as the space, be barcoded for future handheld technology application and to link these bar code symbols with the school’s building information modeling (BIM) computer-aided (CAD) drawings that, in turn are linked to the HVAC assets shown on the BIM drawings.

*The FCI published by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) as a practitioner’s method to benchmark comparison between its numerical scale and the perceived existing condition of a building and its infrastructure.