Established in 1888, St. Vincent Health System in central Arkansas had grown around a core of aged buildings and infrastructure. Many critical areas had obsolete HVAC equipment, and few technicians had sufficient knowledge and expertise to service first-generation proprietary control-system technology. Networkability across campuses — St. Vincent Health System consists of St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center and St. Vincent Doctors Hospital in Little Rock, St. Vincent Medical Center/North and St. Vincent Rehabilitation Hospital in Sherwood, St. Anthony's Medical Center in Morrilton, and numerous medical clinics throughout the state — was non-existent, and there was no central monitoring capability.

In 2002, systems integrator Middleton Inc. was brought in to assess the situation. Many issues were identified, the most pressing being the old pneumatic and proprietary systems, the lack of an interface between systems, the inability to expand upon the building-automation system (BAS), and the need for dependable, cost-sustainable technical support.

Middleton planned to replace individual antiquated systems with a fully automated and interconnected system. The new system would provide a modern-day level of data input, reduce overall operating costs, and lay the groundwork for future upgrades.

The Solution

Middleton chose an EC-Net Web-based, multiprotocol platform from Distech Controls. With a graphical user interface (GUI) powered by the Niagara Framework, EC-Net allows management of a BAS in real time over the Internet, with access and monitoring from a Web browser. Also, it enables the management and reconciliation of dispersed sites; allows seamless integration of protocols, such as Modbus for St. Vincent's boilers and LONWORKS and BACnet for St. Vincent's HVAC controls and variable-frequency drives; and paves the way for expansion of HVAC control and terminal equipment, regardless of protocol and manufacturer.

LONMARK-certified configurable controllers from Distech Controls were selected for control of variable-air-volume and other terminal equipment, while LONMARK-certified programmable controllers from Distech Controls were selected for full customization of control sequences.

Programmed using EC-Net wizards, the programmable controllers feature manual switches for hand/off/auto override of any mechanical function, ensuring dependable emergency backup and faster troubleshooting.

The plan addressed many more needs, some — such as instant notification of alarms via cell phone, text message, and e-mail — critical and some — such as a user-friendly graphical interface — that make the workplace safer and easier for technicians. Middleton completed the floor plans with documentation — such as controller datasheets and Visio drawings of the control system — embedded in EC-Net's graphics. The complete library of information is readily available to all users.

Customer Benefits

The central monitoring and control interface has improved maintenance significantly. Moreover, all of the new user-friendly technologies integrated into the BAS make identifying and correcting issues faster and easier.

“Our highest priority was to find both a manufacturer and a local systems integrator who could provide extremely quick emergency service and technical support,” Anthony Dorse, HVAC Department lead technician for St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, said. “They would have to provide reliable hardware and flexible software to meet our complex sequences-of-operation, monitoring, and alarming needs. Monitoring of our expanding HVAC and mechanical systems over multiple campuses was a must, and it had to be done with an intuitive and simple-to-understand GUI that all of our maintenance staff could feel confident with. Distech Controls and Middleton Inc. have met all of these challenges. They have trained our personnel both in house and with classes provided by … (Distech Controls regional distributor) Control Tech Supply. … Our maintenance staff want(s) to retrofit the rest of our existing systems as soon as possible.”

St. Vincent Health System estimates annual savings of more than $1 million since the retrofit.


Information courtesy of Distech Controls.
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