Fall 2015

What is the next big opportunity in operating a Healthcare Facility?

by Matt Landoe, CEM | Account Manager
ATS Inland NW

When it comes to the Healthcare industry in Eastern Washington, Facility Engineers are facing some big challenges:

• The amount of qualified Facility Engineers is dropping while building system complexity is increasing.
• At the same time, hospital maintenance staffs are expected to accomplish more with reduced maintenance budgets.
• As facilities continue to age, (especially with critical access hospitals) maintenance demands increase as systems fail.
• New performance mandates affect reimbursement rates.

Is there a magic cure all that addresses some of these problems in a meaningful way? I think so.

You may have noticed that just like hospitals, automobiles have become more complex and expensive to repair, but even so, less time is spent in the shop as automobiles help the technician diagnose problems through a system of “on board” diagnostics.

Just as automobiles have a number of computers and a communication network controlling inputs and outputs, almost all healthcare facilities in Eastern Washington have the same thing but on a much larger scale.

Back in 1996, the Society of Automotive engineers standardized a system of on board diagnostics for cars called “OBD II”. Through a standard plug in socket, just about anyone can communicate with their car to find out how critical performance indicators are responding, analyze the results, and take corrective action. The diagnostic codes and suggestions for correction are available to anyone who can Google on the internet.

What if you could perform similar analysis on a building’s energy system in real time? Would that be useful to you?

Well, apparently others thought so, and much of what has been done with automobiles is now being done on buildings but to a much broader degree.

With the help of organizations such as ASHRAE and government contractors Battelle Laboratories in Tri Cities, as well as many private companies, much research has been done to provide better diagnostic tools now and in the future and these tools are being implemented all around us.

The term that is used is called "Building Analytics Software". Building Analytics Software is a tool that’s time has come. Let’s find out why by first examining what it does and then consider why it may be important to you:

Analytics Software turns data produced by your Building Automation System into actionable results that can be used to improve comfort, save energy, protect expensive equipment, reduce maintenance items such as filters and lighting; predict and analyze equipment failure, and even save manage labor and maintenance dollars for the most effective use of these precious resources, similar to managing a hospital emergency, when there are too few doctors.

How is this done?

First, the system collects operational data. Most of this data is readily available through your existing Building Automation System. For example, most building control systems in Eastern Washington and in most Hospitals communicate through BACnet, Siemens or Johnson legacy protocols. All of these formats are easily scanned by most Building Analytics systems. Additional items such as labor costs can be brought in through existing files, internet information, weather data, etc.

Second, the data is managed for comparison or presentation in many ways such as through alarms, visual graphs, e-mails and text messages, “DVR” style videos, or other high level management tools. Simple time based analytical equations can many times replace expensive metering while still giving you consumption data that will help you make meaningful decisions. For example “if fan = on then meter 3.2 kW x time” or something similar.

Let’s say that you have a pesky building pressure problem that was reported during surgery in the OR room. How useful would it be to be able to go back and look at the BAS graphics in real time, or better yet, to go back in time until right when the complaint was made? Whether it is a cold complaint or a frozen steam coil, wouldn’t that information be useful?

Third, the data is automatically analyzed and presented in custom or template report forms that make the most sense to you. This information is used to identify issues, patterns, deviations, faults and opportunities for operational improvements and cost reduction. Some call this “Real Time” Commissioning. It is also referred to as “Fault Detection Diagnostics”. The analysis is accomplished by comparing baseline operation and future operation with multiple sets of “rules” that are easily implemented to watch equipment operation every minute – while you sleep – or do other more productive things. These rules are put in place without any programming of your existing control system, and they are either from a large library of proven existing rules, or new rules that you can implement at any time.

For example, economizer failures are one of the most wasteful equipment failures known in commercial buildings - and mechanical cooling and heating can compensate for these failures without any knowledge of the energy that is wasted. Having the proper rules in place prevents this waste.

Monitoring steam condensate usage in real time with “rules” can save enormous amounts of energy with their associated dollars compared with manually posting the loss at the end of the month or quarter.

What if you could take advantage of using cheaper energy sources at different times? Would that information be useful to know? You can apply rules to any variable whether process, equipment, or even people related.

Finally, with that data, decisions are made to take action in the most appropriate way, focusing on the action items that will make the greatest impact to your facility rather than wasting your time with issues that really have little effect or cost too much to implement for the results they produce.

For example, would you schedule labor to replace filters one filter at a time to get the most efficient use of each filter, or would you wait until the optimum time to change filters as a group using the optimum amount of labor, or is there a “best fit” that makes more total financial sense?

Another example, you have limited FTE capability. Your chiller is operating inefficiently. So is your boiler. Where should you initially focus your labor and when?

If you knew the monetary consequences of failing to address items, you can choose which items to focus on, and in some instances justify additional FTE’s.

Knowledge is power and proper analytics will produce valuable knowledge. Having the knowledge to turn data into action could be your next step to managing your facility more effectively.

Have a great September!

Matt Landoe, CEM | Account Manager
ATS Inland NW

[September 8, 2015]

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