Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How UIC saves money, energy and makes the work place more comfortable

UIC is wrapping up the work on upgrading the heating and cooling systems in the Education Performing Arts and Social Work (EPASW) Building. The old system had Air Handling Units (AHUs) that were outdated and regularly broke down, resulting in compromised performance and an inability to maintain comfortable temperatures. There was difficulty in maintaining and regulating various temperatures because of non-functional thermostats and bad controls. There was no chiller to provide additional cooling when the theatre is in use. Pneumatic controls were also outdated and unreliable and caused overheating in many spaces. In the 1980s in the first wave of energy conservation, the semi-variable air dampers were installed in some rooms to modulate air flow. Later, when problems occurred, the dampers were simply removed and not repaired. All of these inefficiencies meant high power consumption and high maintenance costs. The building system was made up of five AHUs, perimeter heat from the campus central plant, and reheat coils to reheat air in the ducts when necessary.

This project took out the 5 old AHUs, installed state-of-the-art, more efficient units. They shut-off the reheat system and will try to operate the building without them. So far this past winter there were no complaints due to the removal of the reheat coils. The new efficient AHUs will better maintain and regulate the required temperature and will provide more comfortable space conditions for the occupants. A new energy-efficient chiller was added for the Theatre which will provide more reliable service throughout the year. Replacement thermostats and dampers will provide better temperature control in all rooms. The new web-based building automation system (BAS) will facilitate online control of the system, providing more efficient operation, service and savings benefits. New controls on the perimeter radiation system will allow the building engineer to monitor and control the temperature of the perimeter heating units.

Automation will improve comfort. New wireless thermostats with integral motion sensors were installed to replace the old ones. They were used to control the branch dampers. The thermostats will be set to work within a reasonable range under the occupants’ control. They will work on stand-by mode when no motion is detected in the room (unoccupied mode). When someone is present they will be activated to the temperature set by the occupant. The new BAS system will monitor and control occupancy, airflow, and temperature. Building occupants will be able to access the BAS system on-line and see how the building is performing and the temperatures in the rooms with thermostats.

The new equipment is approximately 8% more energy efficient than the old equipment. Also, the BAS will allow the fans to run at lower speeds at least 30% of the time which is estimated to increase the total energy savings to 15%.

All of the design work for this project was done by UIC’s own Office of Capital Program (OCP) staff. This, too, resulted in significant savings for the project. Thank you to OCP for saving the campus money, energy, and reducing our carbon footprint!

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