Lessons Learned – BioInnovation
Ongoing Commissioning and Maintaining Performance. After substantial completion and occupancy of three floors of the four-story structure, the design team and commissioning agent initiated an ongoing commissioning exercise, monitoring energy consumption, systems, and comfort performance, identifying a substantial number of items that had cropped up after initial commissioning. These included the usual mix of sensors that fail, reheat control valves that indicate they are closed when they are not, maintenance warnings that get silenced and then forgotten about as staff turns over. After unsatisfactory experiences with visiting maintenance service companies, the owner has invested in hiring and training a full-time on-site facilities maintenance staff person.
These efforts have allowed energy and comfort performance to be further tuned. The project is now part of a commitment of all design team members involved to long-term engagement and learning. The team continues to engage occupants and operators as the tenant mix changes, learning as they go.
People Use Ventilation Controls in Surprising Ways. The interaction between occupant behavior and building performance is complex and has led to some surprises for the design team. For example, the design team assumed that occupants would set the ventilation rate according to their safety requirements and the temperature to suit their comfort. But some occupants treat the ventilation control like the fan speed control in their car: if they are feeling warm, they turn up the fan. Giving occupants more control means that we are not just designers of buildings and mechanical systems, but of user interfaces.
On-Site Storm Water System Proves Effectiveness. When the site’s storm water strategies—including the first installation of pervious concrete in the state over the parking area—were first proposed, it was decided to drain the loading dock area in the conventional manner, hard-piping that area directly to the municipal storm drainage systems. Weeks before the building opened, an especially heavy rainfall resulted in the municipal system backing up, shooting water into and flooding the loading dock. The rest of the site, with its unconventional storm water systems, remained dry. A backflow preventer was subsequently installed on the one portion connected to the conventional system. New Orleans has recently adopted a new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance that requires all new commercial projects to handle a substantial portion of rain events on site, and NOBIC is provided as a reference for those who want proof that these systems can work even with our intense rains and heavy clay soils.