In my role at BuildingIQ, I work with clients across a number of different industry segments. Lately, I’ve come across a growing number of facilities teams in the healthcare sector, encompassing both hospitals and medical office buildings, who are looking for help with optimizing their sites.
The typical hospital complex often started out as a small building with a single building management system and pneumatic thermostats throughout. Expansion has resulted in multiple building management systems and more pneumatic thermostats being deployed – often with more than one type of building system. The extensive use of pneumatic thermostats means that a facilities person has to manually calibrate each thermostat, usually multiple times per year. This is not only costly, but it also diverts facilities personnel from working on more strategic projects.
With the use of pneumatic thermostats, there is no visibility into a room through the BMS. If a patient complains the temperature of the room is uncomfortable, someone from facilities is usually dispatched to go to the location and investigate. Again, not only is this an expensive practice but also a diversion of the facilities resource coupled with potential dissatisfaction from the patient. We know for a fact that this type of situation has directly impacted patient satisfaction survey results which in turn hurts the hospital’s bottom line.
I recently met with a facilities director from a Big 10 university that has several healthcare buildings. He told me that he has had instances when they’ve replaced the same pneumatic thermostat 2 or 3 times per year because personnel and/or patients attempt to make adjustments —without calling someone in facilities— resulting in damage to the thermostat. This is a real patient issue, after all if you’re in a healthcare facility you’re not feeling well in the first place. It would have to be pretty uncomfortable for you to have to get up and manhandle a thermostat. The issue is multi-dimensional in that it hurts the brand, distracts the maintenance team, and annoys the patient and staff.
So, how can the above scenarios be avoided or rectified? One answer lies with Direct Digital Control (DDC). Unfortunately, DDC is prohibitively expensive and, because they are typically hard-wired, require invasive installation —breaking into walls to pull wires, creating dust (in a hospital!), etc.
There is a far better solution: wireless pneumatic thermostats (WPTs).
From a time perspective, installing WPTs is measured in weeks, while a DDC system is measured in months. A WPT is a direct, drop-in replacement for an existing pneumatic thermostat and thus installs in minutes with just a screwdriver. It requires no-new wires, no drywall cutting, and no access to the ceiling plenum. In some installations we have done with our partner Cypress Envirosystems, the facilities teams have been trained to do all the installation and commissioning. Doing so dramatically increases the cost advantage of WPTs over a DDC.
Once in place, the WPTs integrate into the existing BMS – effectively providing the eyes and ears to the system. Facilities teams gain direct visibility into the temperatures in patient rooms, operating rooms, nurse’s stations, and medical office space which they didn’t have before. Since WPTs are integrated in the BMS, energy and comfort optimization strategies can be put in place. These include optimal start stop, occupancy-based temperature setbacks, demand limiting, and more. And when coupled with our own Predictive Energy Optimization, common areas in a hospital can react to lower the cost of energy consumption in advance of hot weather – automatically.
With wireless pneumatic thermostats, hospital facilities teams have seen positive results that include improved patient comfort resulting in higher levels of satisfaction, increased energy savings, and operational savings – the result of not having to dispatch facilities personnel to different areas for hot/cold calls or to calibrate the pneumatic thermostats.
Every situation and every building is different. But, I have yet to see a pneumatically controlled building that can’t make the jump to the digital age with wireless pneumatic thermostats and BuildingIQ.
Dan Docel is Director of Sales for the MidWest region of the USA. Dan has a long career in the energy industry across SaaS commercial building controls based on EIoT, demand response, supply side, and smart grid solutions for industrial, institutional, commercial and government application. He has a deep passion for all things related to energy efficiency and sustainability.