Manufacturer focus: Designing labs, research buildings


CSE: Provide details about a recent lab project in which your company’s controls were specified. What unusual problems did these controls solve?

Schneider Electric: Schneider Electric recently completed energy upgrades at 13 buildings at North Carolina State University (NCSU) through an energy saving performance contract. One of those buildings was a chemistry laboratory, Dabney Hall. One hundred eleven fume hoods were converted from constant volume to variable volume and linked to a central building automation system (BAS). NCSU expects the total energy savings to exceed the cost of the performance contract. With an annual utility bill of more than $30 million, every bit of energy savings helps. For example, the university expects improvements in Dabney Hall’s research labs to yield 20% in energy savings for the entire project.

CSE: What types of integrated systems have clients requested recently? Describe the control systems, and how they were integrated?

Schneider Electric: On current Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) projects, it has been clear that our clients need better integration with the hardware and software of the specialty door systems. Almost everything about these projects is restricted, but better sub-system integration is a key area to achieving safety, security, and reliability. The two major door systems in use at BSL-4 are submarine type doors with turning wheels and also doors with pressurized bladders that inflate and deflate. 

CSE: What renewable electrical system projects have you recently provided products for? Describe the electrical/power systems, renewable energy issues, etc. 

Schneider Electric: I had the privilege of being on the authoring committee when Labs21 put together its EPC criteria for labs. Both that standard and the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system put an increasing emphasis on providing greater and greater percentages of renewable energy to the lab building. The main lesson learned in this area is that first you aggressively save energy with conservation. This makes your job of providing greater percentages of the building's power through renewable energy more cost effective. 

CSE: Labs21 is working to make labs and research facilities more sustainable. What’s your experience with electrical/power projects that use Labs21 as a guide? 

Schneider Electric: Schneider Electric has been very active with Labs21 for more than 10 years as members, speakers, trainers, sponsors, and co-authors of papers and best practices. The current guidance from Labs21 on reducing "vampire" loads and accurately predicting plug loads for lab buildings has helped improve some of our current projects. 

CSE: What standby or back-up power systems are engineers and their clients requesting? Describe a recent project. 

Schneider Electric: The emphasis at Schneider Electric for back-up power systems for labs has been adding automation specifically for operating the emergency generators. This software suite can diagnose and predict future faults for maintenance before a shut-down occurs. The emergency generator is the one piece of equipment which is never allowed to fail.

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