California State University, Fullerton

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Building 'Tune Ups' to Begin

Process Will Ensure Buildings Operate With Maximum Energy Efficiency

Dec. 12, 2012

Cal State Fullerton buildings are getting "tune-ups" to to ensure they operate with maximum energy efficiency, according to Willem van der Pol, director of facilities operations.

"Buildings are like cars in that periodically they need to be checked out and tuned up," said van der Pol. "Over time, settings and calibrations can change and that means they are not heating and cooling as efficiently they were designed to." 

Van der Pol explained that many of the buildings are not being used for the purposes for which they were originally designed.

"After remodels and reorganizations, some areas end up with more people and others with less. Lab spaces may end up as regular classrooms and we have added many computer labs all over campus over the years. 

"When we made the changes, we tweaked systems in the immediately affected areas," he explained. "The purpose of this project is to take a close look at how the entire building functions."

Called building commissioning, it is much more than preventative maintenance. The preventative maintenance function is limited to changing filters and belts, balancing individual equipment and greasing moving parts, van der Pol said. As part of the commissioning effort, building service engineers will be tweaking settings for heating/cooling and room pressure/air flow by adjusting the valve boxes and thermostats in the ducts of the building.  

"We want to make sure all the settings are within the design parameters, that the air balance in the building is correct, that every valve opens and closes exactly as required.  It's labor intensive but valuable to do," said van der Pol, "and should lead to a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency in each building."

The first buildings to go through the process will be Education Classroom, University Hall and Kinesiology and Health Science. The goal is to go through every building over a four- to five-year period, then make this process more routine and automated. 

"Ultimately, we want the campus to become LEED EBOM certified. This stands for Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance," he explained. "Even though some of our new facilities are designed to LEED silver or higher standards, this doesn’t mean that the operation meets LEED standards. Part of the building commissioning process is about starting a practice of continually operating and maintaining our facilities within the design parameters or better.

"This is another tool for us in efficiently using our buildings and energy," said van der Pol. "We have consistently decreased our annual usage of energy over the last seven-eight years. We want to continue to make our operations the most efficient that they can be."

The building commissioning is but the latest in the university's efforts to be more energy efficient and green. In addition to several campus buildings being LEED certified or built to LEED specifications, a lighting retrofitting project installing more efficient equipment throughout the campus is just about complete, solar panels have been installed on three campus buildings, and two years ago, a new central plant that generates nearly half of all power the campus uses was installed.

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

Tags:  Campus Updates