The philosophy behind creating an Office of Energy Management helped California State University (Northridge) make the transition from $350 million in damage to $700,000 in annual savings.

After the 1994 earthquake caused over $350 million in damage to its facilities, California State University - Northridge (CSUN) has undergone major campus rebuilding that has improved facility performance dramatically. In the university's words, "Not just back...better!"

Laying The Groundwork

One of the keys to the remarkable comeback actually began in the early 1980s with the formation of the Office of Energy Management. The office established energy conservation policies and procedures, and it formed a partnership with Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. (Buffalo Grove, IL) for a building automation system (bas), which became the foundation for long-term facility growth.

Much of the university's effort to restore the campus to full use following the earthquake was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A state-of-the-art, $28 million central plant also was constructed using California state funding.

Throughout the restoration, and during the past two decades, the bas has continually proved its long-term value to the university. Today, the Windows NT(r)-based Apogee(r) monitors and controls hvac systems in 23 of CSUN's major buildings. The system, which comprises a host computer, two dedicated Protocol II networks, and numerous field panels, is fully supported by a customized technical support program.

As Tom Brown, assistant director of physical plant management, notes, the partnership has had a positive impact on campus operations. "Siemens Building Technologies has provided extraordinary support," says Brown, "resulting in an easily learned system that has become a powerful facilities management tool." Siemens has helped the university with major additions, such as telecommunications and trunk upgrades to fiberoptics, computer, and exterior lighting systems, and specific hvac device optimizations.

The versatility of the bas also has allowed Brown to easily implement new ideas for numerous applications. One example is his design and application of an exceptionally accurate and automatic digital clock system for buildings, hallways and classrooms throughout the campus.

While Brown is concerned about the present, he also is focused on the future. He explains, "Our partnership has given us exceptional flexibility in meeting our renovation, expansion, and ever-changing facility needs. Even today, the campus is undergoing several building refurbishing and construction projects to bring them up to date in automation."

Central Plant Grows Savings

The automation partnership has helped the university record among the highest savings figures in its history, with the total savings as a result of the bas for the new central plant projected to exceed $700,000 a year. Yet, CSUN is realizing other important benefits, as well. Campus comfort and health levels have risen sharply, largely due to indoor air quality and air purge enhancements.

In addition, a strategic control scheme to regulate swimming pool water chlorine and pH balance to within the state's Department of Health Services guidelines earned CSUN the California Governor's Safety Award.

Equally important, according to Arthur Elbert, CSUN's vice president for administration and finance, the university's new, highly acclaimed central plant positions CSUN's facilities among the most technologically up-to-date campuses in North America. "This will be one of the most modern and efficient utility plants in the country," Elbert says. "It takes advantage of all modern technology and equipment that's available today and provides much improved heating and cooling for classrooms and laboratories."