The Eastern Illinois University students residing in this 30-year-old twin-tower high-rise averaged two to three calls per day complaining about the lack of heat. An air/dirt separator was a key part of solving this problem.
Attended by over 11,500 students, Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL, encompasses three million sq ft spread over 70 buildings. As at many higher education facilities, deferred maintenance had been piling up at EIU for years. And given the State of Illinois' fiscal condition, there wasn't much relief in sight.

It was basically a typical facility management nightmare: having to manage major educational facilities with a huge deferred maintenance backlog, aging infrastructure, and a limited budget. This forced the university into a "run-until-it-fails" maintenance mentality that resulted in inefficient operations, unreliable systems, and a perception of poor customer service delivery.

Breaking ground ... and maintaining the pace

As the school's utilities manager and acting director of facilities management, it was Gary Reed's responsibility to make certain these buildings are kept comfortable all year long for students and faculty alike. So when the state invited EIU to explore energy savings performance contracts in 1994 - which were an emerging method of upgrading utility systems without paying any upfront capital costs - Reed jumped at the chance. Work under the 10-year agreement included upgrades to lighting, HVAC, and BAS.

Ever since, EIU has become a model of energy efficiency, thanks in large part to a series of performance contracts. The school embarked on a comprehensive project in 2000 and selected Honeywell as its ESCO. Before beginning the work, Honeywell conducted an investment grade audit to determine necessary improvements.

The scope of this project was aggressive and wide-ranging, including several lighting upgrades, a new pool filtration system in a recreation center, and comprehensive water retrofits in 33 campus buildings. However, the biggest part of the project was replacing seven 30-year-old absorption chillers with four new electric chillers. Along with the new chillers, Honeywell provided chilled water piping modifications and new pumps with VFDs in 10 buildings. The upgrade addressed more than $4 million in capital renewal needs and mitigated the liability of major equipment failure. Two underground piping systems were extended to tie buildings together on common chilled water loops.

The project also expanded the university's existing BAS - new VAV controls, VFDs, and new high-efficiency motors were installed on 50 AHUs. In addition, Honeywell rebalanced and re-commissioned these units to significantly improve comfort control and restore proper ventilation rates.

In 2004, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity cited the school in a report to the Illinois General Assembly as having the lowest energy cost per-square-foot amongst all Illinois public universities.

"Ultimately, being more energy efficient helps us avoid having to pass the cost of new equipment and energy rate increases on to the students and Illinois taxpayers," Reed said.

Good Separation

Another key initiative that resulted in large energy savings came about when Reed realized that air and dirt problems in several buildings on campus - which were costing the university both money and man hours - didn't have to be considered routine maintenance and could be totally eliminated.

These problems were making his job very difficult. Carman Hall was considered the "problem child" by the campus maintenance staff. The students residing in the 30-year-old twin-tower high-rise averaged two to three calls per day complaining about the lack of heat. The record, though, was more than 25 calls in one weekend.

Like many buildings on campus, Carman Hall is heated by a two-pipe system that takes steam from the central plant and converts it to hot water. One Aurora horizontal split-case pump moves 760 gal through 6-in. pipe for both the hot and chilled water. With a series of valves, hot water is changed to chilled water as the weather dictates.

Reed saw a working demonstration of a Spirovent® Combination Air & Dirt Separator, which is made by Spirotherm, Inc. and employs the patented Spirotube® coalescing/barrier medium to scrub air and dirt from hot and chilled water systems.

Reed ordered the first combination air and dirt separator, and the unit's installation process meant the maintenance staff could do the installation themselves without hiring a contractor. In the past two years, EIU has installed Spirovent combination air and dirt separators in six of their 12 residence halls.

Reed explained that there's been a definite improvement in system performance since the Spirovent was installed. "The valve clogging problems have been virtually eliminated, and the no-heat calls have all but disappeared," he said.ES