Recommissioning campus buildings reduces carbon impact

Facilities Services and the Sustainability Office have been working together to analyze energy usage in buildings across the Corvallis campus with the goal of using data analysis and optimized building control and mechanical systems to reduce wasted energy. Since the effort began in the summer of 2022, OSU has saved an estimated $140,000 in energy costs and moved closer to the goal of carbon neutral operations by 2025.

The process implemented by Facilities Services and the Sustainability Office is called retrocommissioning or recommissioning, which includes analyzing and improving the existing mechanical and building control systems to better meet occupant needs and increase energy efficiency. While OSU follows requirements for sustainable development for new construction on campus, even modern buildings may experience significant updates, changes and equipment failure over time, which can lead to energy waste.

Building Controls Analyst Ross Ruecker has been collaborating with Sustainability Officer Brandon Trelstad on analyzing energy usage and HVAC systems across campus and identifying buildings for recommissioning. The first facility that Ruecker tackled was the Coast Range Building, which holds lab space used for research projects. During the recommissioning process, he discovered that the HVAC system was cycling rapidly between heating and cooling to maintain the building’s temperature. Ruecker reprogrammed the HVAC system to increase efficiency, stabilize the building’s temperature and ultimately extend the HVAC equipment’s lifespan. The Coast Range Building saved $16,000 in energy costs over the first nine months after the programming changes and equipment repairs were completed.

Linus Pauling Science Center has undergone a similar recommissioning process over the past several months. Built in 2011, LPSC was designed and constructed to meet exacting sustainability standards and earned LEED Silver certification. However, the HVAC system was struggling to keep up with heating and cooling demands.

When Ruecker began digging into the issue at LPSC, he discovered that the ventilation system was operating at maximum capacity unnecessarily. The problem turned out to be failed equipment and programming mistakes in the original building control system. With support from OSU’s electrical, maintenance and building controls shops, the failing equipment was repaired and replaced. Next, Ruecker adjusted the building control system to balance airflow throughout the whole building. The ventilation systems now operate at just 60% of capacity and occupant comfort has been greatly improved.  LPSC saved $25,000 in energy costs over the first four months, post-recommissioning.

Analyzing energy use and recommissioning older buildings is one of many ways that OSU is working to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency on campus. The recommissioning work alone has reduced the university’s carbon footprint by 880 tons since mid-2022.

Another energy-saving initiative is the transition to centralized, chilled water loop HVAC systems, like the recently completed North District Utility Plant, which feeds into Cordley, Nash and Burt Halls along with the Agricultural & Life Sciences Building. A similar project, the Kelley District Utility Plant, is underway and will supply the Kelley Engineering Center and the Jen-Hsun & Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex (scheduled to open in 2025). Chilled water loop systems aren’t limited to air conditioning. The KDUP system will harvest heat generated by the supercomputer and other equipment housed in the Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, heating the complex and other buildings nearby. As the university makes progress toward a carbon-neutral operational model, finding ways to capture and utilize all available energy more efficiently will be critical to success.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email