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Transition to Sustainable Operations - an Untapped Opportunity for Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Mike Kowalick and Ric Cochrane

Transition to Sustainable Operations - an Untapped Opportunity for Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Posted: December 12, 2019 | Tradewinds, Project Management

The University of Washington School of Medicine completed the sixth building on its growing South Lake Union campus in 2018. As an eight-story, 165,000-square-foot, mixed-use clinical, research and commercial office facility, it supports many critical environments with an efficient — though complex — set of systems. All told, the University of Washington School of Medicine’s world-class biomedical research complex includes six buildings featuring lab space, administrative offices and mixed-use space and totaling nearly 530,000 square feet.

A unique challenge for this facility was its classification as a 24/7 critical environment due to its occupants, uses and the types of research performed. The facility design required greater floor strength, higher ceilings for mechanical equipment, and increased demands for electricity and water than an ordinary office building. The building also required vibration resistance due to the sensitive instruments in the lab space. As with many sophisticated new facilities, ensuring that the building meets its functional design goals requires building operators to understand its unique features, and have a well-defined procedural framework for monitoring and maintaining building systems.

The University of Washington School of Medicine sought a partner that could streamline its facilities management needs — allowing staff to focus on their core competency: research and medicine. Absorbing the new facility into regular operations presented challenges, including the development of a maintenance plan aligned with existing practices, migration of operations and maintenance processes into the work order management system, and the creation of an operating budget and long-term capital plan.

In the past, facility managers could easily pick up where construction left off. However, this is not happening smoothly in today’s world of increasingly complex building systems. Design and construction teams cannot adequately factor in occupant behavior. Building transition issues are a symptom for a much larger industry need and, as a result, buildings do not operate as intended. McKinstry helps customers like UW School of Medicine create a foundation for successful facility operations by developing a more structured, higher value-added facility transition process.

The Transition to Sustainable Operations (TSO) team at McKinstry leverages the company’s position as a national leader in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining high-performing buildings to deliver a re-engineered project closeout — focused on preparing the owner for successful, sustainable building operations. By embedding transitional services into both pre-construction and the final phases of the construction process, McKinstry assumes the building owner’s responsibility of preparing the facility for occupancy.

Transition to Sustainable Operations (TSO)

TSO reduces downtime and operating expenses in the first year of occupancy, and helps facility teams minimize risk and operating cost for the life of the building. By approaching project close-out from the operator’s perspective, and aligning with the commissioning scope, TSO fills gaps in the turnover process and aligns construction output with operation team needs.

To ensure continuity of this knowledge and the operations that result from a smooth transition, McKinstry provides the systems and additional staff required to operate the facility during that critical first year. For this project, McKinstry’s TSO team helped the University of Washington School of Medicine stabilize and standardize facility management throughout all aspects of operation.

The following scope was developed for this project:

  • O&M Manuals, Commissioning /Test & Balance Reports and Submittals: Relevant construction documentation incorporated within work order management system.
  • Expected Life, Replacement Costs and Warranty Information: All asset data, along with estimated life, replacement costs, and warranty information, incorporated into the work order management system. Annual Maintenance Plan with Budget: Frequency and hours-required information compiled for each building asset — organized in a planning tool to prioritize preventive maintenance and align with available resources and FTEs.
  • Equipment Lifecycle Planning: Thirty-year capital plan created for replacing aging equipment with inflation-adjusted annual capital budget forecasts. Plan delivered in a dynamic capital planning tool.
  • System and Energy Performance Optimization: Monitoring-based commissioning (aligned with design intent) delivered with monthly recommendations to maintain comfort, extend equipment life and reduce energy consumption.

McKinstry’s TSO services team helped transition the facility from construction to operations, with a focus on creating standards and procedures for how to best manage this critical facility for University of Washington School of Medicine. The team’s emphasis on taking a lifecycle analysis approach, studying the total cost of ownership over the life of the building, reduces the cost of operations over time by monitoring energy spend, productivity and risk/reliability of the facility during the first year of occupancy.

First Year Benefits of TSO

While TSO’s greatest impacts are realized over the life of the building, measurable benefits occur in the first year of operations. The result for University of Washington School of Medicine was a seamless transition from the construction phase to a highly stabilized, ongoing operations phase. The design team provided the full body of its knowledge to building operators during the first year of occupancy. This helped to ensure operation of the building the way in which its designers intended, a critical problem in the industry, thereby reducing risk, lowering energy consumption and improving thermal comfort and air quality.

With University of Washington School of Medicine, McKinstry:

  • Identified more than $90,000 of operational energy savings improvements, including a faulty air handler controller that overventilated the building by 25 percent above baseline.
  • Identified more than $25,000 in warranty services, and ensured there were no critical equipment failures or interruptions to regular operations in the first year.
  • The team improved month-over-month operations by offering a half dozen recommended changes to the system to ensure the facility operated as designed. This resulted in successfully maintaining comfort levels between 68–74°F during more than 95 percent of occupied hours.
  • Migrated all relevant documentation into work order management system, which allows maintenance technicians to review work history and troubleshooting guides for every piece of equipment in the facility.
  • Developed a 30-year capital plan with expected equipment life and replacement costs.
  • Created a corresponding preventive maintenance plan aligned with existing practices, ensuring operators can more efficiently resolve issues and maintain equipment to the satisfaction of the facility’s occupants.

The efficient preventative maintenance provided by McKinstry’s TSO team aligned with the existing University of Washington School of Medicine facilities team practices, and eliminated the deferred maintenance backlog. What’s more, with more than 50 percent of the total cost of building ownership spent on operations, these benefits also grow over the life of the building.

All buildings, no matter how efficient or high-tech, require a period of time for operators and systems to adjust for actual building operations. Getting the first year of a building’s operations right is key to saving energy for the life of the building.

The industry needs to ensure smooth transitions from design and construction to the first year of operations to meet human and energy factors. TSO is the key to getting that first year right, and this transition period presents an enormous untapped opportunity for buildings and energy efficiency.

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