HVAC Upgrades: Rising with the Modifications

Collin College is undertaking HVAC projects to promote enrollment growth and energy efficiency.

By Dan Hounsell, Editor-in-Chief


Things have changed at Collin College in recent years. Enrollment in the nine campus public community college system northwest of Dallas increased. 59,000 students worked on degrees and certificates in more than 100 disciplines.

The energy efficiency goals for facilities at the nine Collin College sites led to projects that replaced aging chillers and boilers.Collin College

Kenny Neal, director of operations at the college, knew that the changes in enrollment, increasing heating and cooling requirements, also meant changes to the college’s facilities and HVAC systems.

“I tracked the annual electricity bill for the campus (Frisco des Colleges) and found that electricity usage had increased,” says Neal. “In addition, some of the equipment began to age.”

As a result, in 2019, Neal and his team decided to invest in HVAC system upgrades, lighting, plumbing, and fire safety upgrades in five locations for a total of $ 14.9 million.

Focus on facilities

Collin College consists of nine campuses north of Dallas. The 10th campus is to be completed in mid-April 2021. The three largest locations for the system are in: Plano, with two facilities totaling 662,000 square feet; Frisco, which has 10 buildings with approximately 562,000 square feet; and McKinney with four facilities covering approximately 500,000 square feet. The oldest system in the system was built in 1985.

A facility team is assigned to each campus of the college.

“Depending on the area, these employees will include a facility manager and two supervisors – one on the HVAC side and one on the maintenance side,” says Neal. “Every manager has support staff from HVAC technicians and building maintenance technicians.”

The locations are geographically distributed so that each facility group works for itself.

“Each campus functions as a separate campus, and each campus facilities department has its own operating budget,” says Neal. “We don’t do any delayed maintenance work. We have what is known as a renewal replacement for devices that are reaching their lifecycle. Therefore, we have a budget to replace these devices if necessary. I oversee all facility managers. Whatever you need, you come to me. “

Scope of the projects

With the growing number of students and the need for greater energy efficiency, Neal and his team took a closer look at the age and condition of the existing HVAC equipment in several locations.

“The two 250-ton units in Frisco were the original units from 1994,” he says. “Two of the three fire tube boilers were also the originals. So energy efficiency was the driver. ”

Discussions about the scope and timing of the upgrade projects began in early 2018.

“After discussions about the budget and the amortization, the projects were agreed,” says Neal. “The construction documents were published in December 2019 and early 2020.”

The Frisco campus received the majority of the HVAC upgrades.

“On the HVAC side, it’s mostly the fan boxes, the air handling units, the motors, and new belts,” says Neal. “Some of them needed new sealants and insulation. On the Frisco campus, they replaced three fire tube boilers with four condensing boilers, which are much more efficient. “On campus, four chillers – two 500-ton units and two 250-ton units – have also been upgraded to four 500-tonne Trane units. “

“We already had a great relationship with Trane when deciding which manufacturer to choose,” he says. “Most of our sites have already used Trane, so the decision was made to use Trane.” The decision on which upgrade projects to undertake became a group decision.

“I had reviewed the list of potential projects and their paybacks, as well as the issues the other sites had resolved with the various projects, to submit to the college president, who had also contributed,” he says.

Meeting the challenges

As with most facility upgrade projects, Neal, his team, and the installers encountered problems. Unsurprisingly, workers, students, and staff were high on the list of hurdles while following COVID-19 precautions while avoiding disruptions to the college’s core mission – education.

“The biggest challenges were to carry out the work step by step and to plan the replacement of the devices in the operating facilities,” he says. “COVID hit at the right and wrong time. Sometimes it was difficult to get the shows and sometimes it was difficult to schedule work hours around class. We couldn’t do everything at night. Some things need to be done during the day. Replacing the boilers in Frisco was a challenge as we were still in operation. We had to do it in phases. Then cold weather hit at a bad time. It was a challenge, but they worked through it. “

Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Neal and his team had planning issues. The need to turn off equipment while facilities were manned has been a major challenge.

“When they were making the air handling equipment, it might take them three or four days to refresh that air handling equipment,” says Neal. “Trying to relocate classes affected by the AHU shutdown proved difficult because some classes were specific classes that could only be used in those specific rooms. We couldn’t just move these classes, especially when they were labs. And we really couldn’t do that kind of work at night. “

Planning the work to meet the needs of students and staff required a lot of communication and collaboration.

“We worked on it, but it was challenging because there were a lot of moving parts involved when the vice presidents of each campus were involved in rescheduling courses,” says Neal. “And then you have facilities and the contractor. For me that was the biggest challenge – to keep the inconvenience as low as possible. “

Delivery results

Despite the hurdles, the completed HVAC upgrades have produced results as intended.

“The boiler they replaced at Frisco is working better than expected,” says Neal. “We had some pretty cold nights and the boys reported that only two of them were running. This campus is over 500,000 square feet, so that’s a good thing. We haven’t had prolonged cold weather, but that’s pretty encouraging.

“We only ran one cooler because we didn’t have the load, so it’s difficult to gauge. We’ll have a better sense of it when it’s all over, and we’ll have more of a burden when the students come back. “

The HVAC upgrades will continue in 2021 as Collin College wants to keep its equipment up to date and as efficient as possible to meet the needs of a growing student population.

“For the year 2021 we have two sectional boilers on our Plano campus, and these are the original units with 5 million Btus each,” says Neal. “They have been rebuilt and are expected to be replaced in summer 2021. On the Frisco campus we have a culinary arts campus that is around 10,000 square meters. In 2008 it was converted from a natatorium to culinary arts. At that time, they put the area on DX units. Now we want to integrate this area into our cooling water system. The DX units are not that energy efficient. “