A BAS was installed on the St. Vincent Health System campus in Arkansas, saving an estimated $1 million and improving O&M.


Established in 1888 in Little Rock, AR under the name the Charity Hospital by the Sisters of Charity, St. Vincent Health System has grown into the premier health care facility in the State of Arkansas. The multicampus network consists of an eight-story infirmary, a four-story hospital, and a medical center, all in Little Rock, plus a three-floor rehabilitation facility and a health care center in Morrilton. In addition, St. Vincent has numerous medical clinics throughout the state of Arkansas.

In 2002, with no expectations other than to provide the best solution to meet St. Vincent’s immediate need, Middleton (the systems integrator) worked with Distech Controls and its regional distributor (Control Tech Supply) and soon gained the customer’s total trust to begin the retrofit of the health system campus.

The Challenge

Like many hospitals that date back to earlier centuries, St. Vincent grew over time around a center core of aged buildings and infrastructure systems. Many of the critical areas, notably the surgery suites, had obsolete HVAC equipment and building automation controls. It was becoming increasingly difficult to meet the needs of a controlled medical environment and of patients who expected modern standards of comfort. Furthermore, very few technicians had sufficient knowledge and expertise to service the first generation proprietary controls systems technology. St. Vincent faced the challenge of implementing upgrades to address its most urgent needs while also developing a plan for long-term sustainability.

With continuing growth came more additions and buildings spread over a wider geographic region. Monitoring controls and servicing the ever-expanding network of buildings added to the challenge. Networkability across multiple campuses was non-existent and there was no central monitoring capability. St. Vincent recognized that it was critical to best practices levels of operating efficiency and long-term sustainability.

While many issues were identified, the immediate priorities were the old pneumatics and proprietary systems and lack of interface between systems, resulting in inadequate monitoring, the inability to expand upon the existing BAS, and the need to ensure dependable, cost-sustainable technical support. Additionally, hospitals have unique and challenging air quality and control requirements. At St. Vincent, for example, some surgery suites must maintain a strict 11°C (52°F) temperature and a 30% rh level.

The Solution

Middleton approached all these challenges by first developing a retrofit master plan to replace individual, antiquated systems with a fully automated and interconnected system. The new system provided for a modern-day level of data input, reduced overall operating costs, and laid the groundwork for future upgrades by creating an open and sustainable BAS. St. Vincent approved Middleton’s recommendations for upgrading the BAS to a more sustainable level, thereby providing for campus expansions with best-in-class products and technologies.

For the upgrade, Middleton chose Distech Controls’ EC-Net web-based multi-protocol platform with Distech Controls’ LonMark® certified controllers. EC-Net provides a sustainable BAS platform for network integration and graphical user interface, powered by the Niagara Framework®. Additionally, EC-Net provides for the seamless integration of all HVAC systems and protocols, such as Modbus™ for the boilers and LonWorks® and BACnet® for the HVAC controls and the VFDs. Furthermore, it lays the path for future expansion of any HVAC control or terminal equipment, regardless of protocol or manufacturer.

The control system also uses Distech Controls’ LonMark-certified programmable controllers, allowing full customization of control sequences and enabling the flexibility to address all specific requirements of the HVAC equipment.

All controllers are programmed using Distech Controls’ EC-Net wizards that significantly improve efficiencies in the engineering and programming process. The controllers also provide additional features including the programmable controllers’ manual switches for “Hand-Off-Auto” override of any mechanical function. This feature ensures dependable emergency backup and faster troubleshooting.

The plan embraced many more needs - some critical, such as instant notification of alarms through cell phones, texting, and e-mails, plus others that make the workplace safer and easier for technicians.

Customer Benefits

St. Vincent has achieved its goal of a sustainable, automated system for its multi-building campus. The new level of quality, convenience, and comfort benefits all who work in or visit the facilities, and St.Vincent Health System estimates a savings of over $1 million annually since the startup of the retrofit.

From an operations standpoint, maintenance has improved tremendously now that St. Vincent can access a central monitoring and control interface. Moreover, all the new and user-friendly technologies integrated into the BAS make it easy for St. Vincent technicians to identify any issues and promptly correct them. ES