Facilities Development and Operations Priorities
The following are key priorities for maintaining, upgrading, and operating the campus physical plant. Each priority is focused on the overarching goal of providing the highest level of facility quality and service possible, within increasingly constrained budget parameters. Staff within our three departments—Physical Plant Management (PPM), Facilities Planning, Design and Construction (FPDC), and Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)—work hand in hand to support this goal. With limited resources, facilities staff must remain keenly focused on these specific priorities to ensure success.
Priority One: Improve Central Plant and Utility Infrastructure Reliability and Efficiency
The campus central plant provides heating and cooling to all of the major facilities across the campus. CSUN also has sophisticated electrical power, domestic water, fire water, and telecommunication networks. Current initiatives focus on balancing hydronic (heating and cooling water) systems and electrical service loads across the campus. This will improve plant efficiency, as well as ensure capacity to meet future campus growth. Specific projects and initiatives underway include:
- A campus central plant efficiency engineering study will recommend specific system efficiency measures. The study will analyze optimization of service loads to meet varying facility demands, and necessary physical improvements required to improve system monitoring and controls.
- An electrical power infrastructure and lighting study will recommend changes to the campus loop systems required to optimize efficiency and redundancy, as well as ensure capacity for planned facilities over the next 20+ years.
- The campus boiler system replacement project will replace the two boilers that currently serve the entire campus heating loop with a series of 8 boilers split between the primary and satellite central plants. The project will significantly increase the system’s ability to ramp up and down to meet varying demands, thereby improving energy efficiency and increasing equipment service life.
- Existing boilers within individual buildings are being replaced with heat exchangers. These conversions allow domestic water to be heated by the campus heating hot water loop, increasing the efficiency of central plant and saving energy.
Priority Two: Extend Campus Energy Management System (EMS) Capability
CSUN has a campus-wide direct digital control energy management system that controls mechanical systems, lighting, and other functions for approximately 4 million gross square feet of building area. The EMS is centrally monitored from the central plant, and allows building service engineers to control set-points, monitor system performance, and troubleshoot problems within individual facilities and the overall system. Our current initiatives include:
- Improve capabilities of the EMS by installing additional DDC valves, meters, and monitoring points. By introducing a greater level of monitoring and control capability, campus energy efficiency can be significantly improved.
- Expand the system’s lighting control capacity, which will allow a greater degree of central control and eliminate inefficient local user overrides in locations where occupancy sensors don’t currently exist.
Priority Three: Reduce Deferred Maintenance Backlog, with Primary Focus on Energy Efficiency Improvements
The campus has a multi-million dollar backlog of deferred maintenance needs. CSUN’s recent deferred maintenance program has focused on major mechanical projects that replace outdated systems, while increasing equipment/energy efficiency. Examples include:
- In 2010, the laboratory exhaust systems for Citrus and Magnolia Halls were replaced with a more energy efficient system that also improved safety measures at the laboratory fume hoods.
- A mechanical system renewal is currently underway at Redwood Hall. The project will replace the nearly 50 year-old air handlers serving the buildings gymnasium space with an innovative “fan-wall” system. This will increase system reliability, serviceability and energy efficiency. In addition, it will improve air quality for building occupants through the introduction of CO2 monitoring.
- A multi-year project started in 2010 will systematically replace existing mechanical boiler systems within more than a dozen student housing buildings with high-efficiency, low emission systems.
Priority Four: Maximize Campus Alternative Energy Resources
15% of CSUN’s total power consumption is provided through campus-owned alternative energy installations, including a 1MW hydrogen fuel cell plant and 800kw of photovoltaic panels in three locations. We are currently conducting a thorough analysis of these systems and developing long-term maintenance and renewal plans, with the goal of increasing reliability and ensuring our alternative energy program remains cost-effective.
Priority Five: Maintain a Strategic Approach to Capital Improvement Investments That Maximize Value, While Minimizing Financial Risk
With the difficult budget conditions facing the CSU unlikely to change in the forthcoming years, leveraging available fund sources and reducing long-term risk is of paramount concern. Traditionally, CSUN has aggressively pursued a variety of state fund sources, grant funds, utility incentives and rebates to support its facility improvement priorities. Our program has been very successful and has allowed us to address much of the “low-hanging fruit”— those projects with attractive energy savings payback. With fewer short payback opportunities, we must take a conservative approach in analyzing new initiatives and projects, so the campus is not exposed to financial risks associated with upfront investments or long-term financing on projects that may not achieve expected savings goals. We view capital renewal as a key component in wise decision making; in addition to improving energy efficiency, replacement of equipment that has exceeded its useful lifespan reduces annual campus programmed and deferred maintenance costs.
In analyzing potential projects, we work very closely with our utility providers to identify incentive and rebate programs. We also monitor and project long-term utility rates for all of our systems, and consider impacts on future labor and operating costs. This information supports project cost assessments and risk analyses.
A critical component of our success has been synergy between PPM and FPDC in developing and implementing facility management priorities. This has allowed CSUN to not only excel in its stewardship of the campus, but also become a recognized leader in energy efficiency and sustainability. With heightened awareness and interest in all aspects of sustainability within higher education, we are constantly challenged to maintain focus on campus priorities. We are regularly approached by parties—both on and off campus—with ideas and/or proposals for specific energy efficiency and sustainability projects. While these projects may have significant merit, we must remain disciplined in focusing resources on strategic campus priorities.
CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability has been an outstanding partner in this regard. The Institute has taken a leadership role in those projects that provide educational value, such as various demonstration projects, academic studies, surveys, and behavior modification initiatives related to energy and transportation. We have been able to partner with the institute on several projects that directly support our goals. Recent examples include the GIS tree and facility databases, both of which were developed by the Institute using student labor at a significant savings over outside consultant resources.
We frequently utilize outside consultants and contractors for engineering studies, design documents and construction, including many of projects described above. When these services are required, we develop and issue specific RFQ’s or RFP’s based on our priorities. We don’t entertain unsolicited consultant proposals for two reasons: 1) Calif. Public Contract Code requires a competitive selection process for the majority of cases, and 2) we develop scopes of work for consultants and contractors that meet our specific needs. Typically, we require CSU prequalified, licensed architects or engineers, who understand our systems and can complete detailed design documents suitable for public works bidding.
Section 10709 of the public contract code also allows the CSU to enter into energy conservation alteration project agreements when the cost of the alterations is less than the marginal cost of energy purchase absent the alterations. These contracts must be awarded through competitive means. Feasibility calculations for these projects require assumptions for multiple variables, including long-term utility price trends, programmed equipment maintenance, long-term viability of business partners, etc. They may also require a significant initial commitment of University funds, which further increases institutional risk. We have successfully implemented energy projects over the past decade, but see increasingly longer pay-back periods for projects under current consideration.