This Rhode Island center of higher learning challenged an initial benchmark and forged a vision of better energy management through an upgraded campus-wide BAS. A design-bid approach, a five-point scorecard for grading bids, and a full-time monitor for the new setup were just three example of how process can drive performance in educational and commercial settings alike.

Today, colleges and universities are struggling with the recession that has affected them in so many ways, but they have not lost focus on global environmental issues. Even if they were to take their eye off this world-wide concern, students, faculty, and alumni would be quick to bring the issues back into focus. In recent years at Providence College (a 4,900-student institution in Providence, RI) the physical plant staff, like other operation groups, has embraced both environmental and energy conservation concerns. As a result, it has been proactive and in sync with the campus leadership regarding a common vision for infrastructure improvements.

Figure 1. Strategic plan flow diagram.

This physical plant vision began with a simple calculation of the total energy consumption (gas, fossil fuel, and electricity) divided by the campus building square footage that showed the college was operating at approximately 120,000 Btuh/sq ft/yr.

At first glance, this could be considered a reasonable benchmark, but the physical plant staff knew better. Providence College is a liberal arts college with very few high-energy use facilities outside its ice rink, athletic facilities, and kitchen/dining halls. Most liberal art schools do not have research buildings or sophisticated library buildings with large rare book or art collections. A more realistic energy benchmark could be 100,000 Btuh/sq ft/yr, with an ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutral status in five years.

Armed with this information, the physical plant took its vision and created a strategic plan (followed by a tactical plan) to achieve this vision for optimum operation, maintenance, and sustainable facility management (Figure 1-Static plan flow diagram).


Integral to this plan was the need to connect all the buildings together through an open protocol campus automation system (CAS), so that the staff could begin the process of managing each building efficiently via 21st-century computer programming and internet technology.

Up to this point, the college had operated with limited building automation. It was also understood that computers alone could not change the culture of the college and that education and computer-literate personnel needed to comprise this new physical plan organization if it was to achieve its goals.

With a good strategic plan documented, the next challenge was the tactical plan of implementation. The big question was where to begin on this mission. There were several possible answers, but the one chosen was to select approximately 30% of the buildings and to retrocommission those before a CAS could connect them to the physical plant.

The first tactical plan/step was to include the existing HVAC system controls in the first of a two-phased open protocol system project connecting all the building across the campus. The college determined that it needed to commission those systems to the original basis of design, knowing future energy retrocommissioning of the sequences to optimize performance and associated reduction of energy consumption would follow. The college contracted the services of Timothy J. O’Leary, The Building Doctor (Boston), to assist in the consolidation of record documents and the process of commissioning each unit in the first phase of the plan. O’Leary and members of the physical plant worked closely to compile what would become the document room where each building’s retrocommissioning documents were added to the record drawings and the record automatic temperature control (ATC) submittal.

The next task in the tactical plan was to contract RDK Engineers, an Andover MA-based consulting firm, to facilitate the process of soliciting bids from CAS open protocol firms. RDK and Providence College recognized that with open protocol came a wide range of means and methods to integrate open protocol to existing building ATC systems consisting of various ATC equipment manufacturers. They also recognized that much of the status quo relied on “old technology.” The CAS team chose to pursue a design-build (D-B), performance-driven solution that would allow each CAS vendor the opportunity to shape the CAS project in a way that provided flexibility for each building while giving the college the end results it desired.


Like most campuses that have grown and modernized their buildings over the years, Providence College had a mix of pneumatic controlled ATC systems and (DDC) ATC systems. Each type of system contained different equipment manufacturers and installing ATC contractors.

While there was one primary ATC manufacturer represented on campus in several of the facilities, it was safe to say all the systems were antiquated, and that to start, the open protocol would be limited to connecting to existing DDC systems and providing individual system graphics (because there were none). These buildings would be operated as-is until the next step of the strategic plan could be implemented: investing in enhancing the day-to-day operation via the CAS.

RDK recognized that no single design-bid-build project delivery approach could be engineered that would allow multiple CAS bidders to complete, and so D-B became the chosen project delivery method. Based on past D-B experience, RDK drafted a performance-driven contract document rather than an equipment-specific document with the use of “and or equal” requirement. Within the performance specification, the bidders were required to break out their cost into two phases. Phase one would be to connect a new front-end computer for the 14 buildings that had been retrocommissioned. Phase two would be to connect the remaining 30 buildings.

In preparing the request for proposal, the D-B documents included the bid form, reference to the document that would become the contract between owner and D-B firm, a selection scorecard, the General Conditions (Division 1) specification, and CAS (Division 15) specification. While most of the documents are relatively standard and edited by RDK to fit this project, the Selection Scorecard told the bidders how selecting the D-B CAS firm would be made. The categories and points were as follows:
  • Design-Build Approach Narrative – Maximum of 25 points
  • System Open Protocol Description and Capabilities – Maximum of 25 points
  • Phase 1 CAS Project Price - Maximum of 25 points
  • Lead ATC Technician Resume, and Reference - Maximum of 20 points
  • Innovative Approach - Maximum of 5 points
This scorecard emphasized the five categories that were considered to be critical to overall project success. The D-B narrative was intended to outline the performance-driven approach that would be implemented by the successful CAS project firm.

The system’s open protocol description was intended to educate the college about the transition from the existing controls to the open protocol and future computerized interface features and capabilities.

The Phase 1 CAS project price, along with the Phase 2 pricing, defined the cost to furnish, install, and educate, and included in the warranty features, such as software program updates, over the next three years.

It was agreed by the college and RDK that the CAS firm’s on-site, day-to-day lead ATC technician would be critical to the D-B project’s success. It was understood that communication was essential between all parties associated with the project and also with student and faculty during the construction phase. It was important that the lead ATC technician be a good communicator along with being a really good technician, with an ability to show ownership since he or she would represent the company on a daily basis.

Figure 2. Dashboard screenshots.

The last category in the selection scorecard process was for innovation. Each firm had the opportunity to show its innovation, creativity, and/or unique experience that could differentiate them from the other pre-qualified CAS bidders. The D-B firm selected Automated Building Systems, Inc. (ABS), whose “live” online energy dashboard showed carbon footprint avoidance at another site (Figure 2). This feature clearly achieved its intent by differentiating the successful CAS firm from all the other bidders.

This performance-driven approach and associated selection scorecard allowed each D-B firm to propose their open protocol solution and thus not prevent any CAS firm from not being qualified to bid and/or not being competitive due to proprietary limits that can find their way into the more traditional contract specifications. Prior to receiving the bids, Providence College and RDK held an open discussion with the six propective D-B firms, all sitting at one meeting to discuss the issues and concerns relative to campus existing conditions, construction conditions and limitations, and other job-related questions.

The results of this open, team approach found that four out of the six CAS firms were within $40,000 of each other in providing a Phase 1 and Phase 2 CAS solution to the 44-building campus project.


Often the most overlooked piece of a campus BAS management is the commitment to assign a dedicated CAS operator to drive the open protocol system as a full-time job. This individual represents the potential for maximum energy conservation success and maximum carbon footprint reduction by dedicating one’s self to taking advantage of all the possible action measures for efficiency.

With a downturn economy and a hiring freeze on adding staff to the physical plant department, the college will take advantage of the CAS Internet capabilities and ABS ability to fill this void with an off-site “monitor, manage, and report” process until the time comes that the college could bring a CAS operator in-house. The importance of this need is to ensure that the college will capitalize on its infrastructure investment in the short-term as well as the long-term CAS business plan.

The next phase of the open protocol system process will be to expand the system to all the remaining buildings. In addition, the college is committed to adding utility meters to each building to maximize the open protocol business management tools to improve energy consumption performance while reducing operating cost. The goal is to have meters in each building for city water, electricity, chilled water, hot water, and steam.

The aforementioned dashboard is scheduled to be posted in a public space on a high-definition monitor to make sure the students, faculty, and visitors to the college can see the campus’s continuous monitoring of energy consumption and carbon dioxide avoidance (AKA reduction in campus carbon footprint). The purpose with this approach is to not hide the “brains of the automation” in a back room, but instead to move it out into the public space for education about O&M and, ultimately, to demonstrate success and improve customer satisfaction. Other monitors will be provided to feature student activities, environment issues, and student competition relative to environmental issues.


The college’s director of physical plant had developed a campus automation vision based around an open protocol, keeping in sync with 21st-century computerized technology. Transforming the strategic plan into a tactical plan required some out-of-the-box planning and implementation. D-B request-for-proposals based on performance and using a D-B selection scorecard proved to be the optimum means to select the CAS firm to handle design, build, training, and warrantee for the Phase 1 work.

Adding internet-accessed CAS operation to the overall strategic and tactical plan helped ensure this project would become the conservation-driven project the school had hoped for. Placing the energy dashboard in a public space will be a tool to raise awareness of both the college’s commitment to the environment and the project’s performance.ES

Providence College, founded in 1917 in Providence, RI, is a national recognized liberal arts college with approximately 4,000 undergraduate students and above 900 graduate students. The college is located on 105 acres, with 44 buildings located at the highest point in the city of Providence. It has distinguished itself from other liberal arts schools with its “development of western civilization” program. An integral part of its commitment to the students, faculty, alumni, and the community is seen in the college’s focused campus infrastructure improvements on enhancing its academic, residential, and spiritual facilities according to the Providence College official website