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10 Years of Event Automation at University of Kansas

Yesterday, I had the privilege to interview Wayne Pearse, Director of Building Services for Memorial Unions at the University of Kansas. More than 10 years ago, Wayne asked a question that led to the development of a software solution called EMS Scheduler, which later became Events2HVAC. He asked if his new Johnson Controls Metasys® system could be integrated with his Dean Evans EMS® event management software. No one knew the answer at the time, but Streamside Solutions was called in to develop a solution.

A few months ago, Wayne Pearse replaced EMS Scheduler in the KU student unions with the more robust, current version of Events2HVAC. So I took an opportunity to talk to Wayne about his experience with both versions of the software – and he offered some insight into the future of facilities management too.

Tonya: Why did you decide to implement Events2HVAC?

Wayne: We worked with Brian [Brian Russell, CEO Streamside Solutions] on the original concept about 10 years ago, when we decided to switch from Honeywell to Johnson Controls. Consequently, we realized after 10 years that we needed to upgrade our Johnson Controls system to a more modern architecture, which drove the requirement for Brian to upgrade his product. We were once again a beta site for the new Johnson system.

Tonya: Does Events2HVAC offer you any advantages over the old EMS Scheduler?

Wayne: It works so well, that we can’t tell the difference – and that’s the point of it. It takes the human element out of it. And I can say the new system is working just as well as the other one did. So that’s a compliment, though it might not sound like one. I haven’t had an issue to raise with anybody, so it must be working wonderfully. It’s like, “Go worry about other things, but don’t worry about this.”

What I love is the Johnson Controls tech comes in and starts working at the workstation and goes, “What’s all this stuff?” I explain it to them and they go, “Really? Well, what do you have to do?” “I don’t have to do anything; it just does it on its own.” “You’re kidding!” It’s just great.

Tonya: That’s funny that you can still surprise them. They haven’t really fully gotten on board.

Wayne: Just so you know, the suits from Strong Hall, which is the administrative wing of the University of Kansas, came by to see me. I’m retiring in 6 weeks, and they wanted me to do a little program for the professors on how to conserve energy.

I told Strong Hall, I said, “Well are you aware of what we are doing with our interface between event management and energy management?” “Well, no.” So I printed off about an inch thick worth of stuff that we’ve developed over the years, and I said “You might want to take this back and read it. We save $30,000 a year with this thing, approximately, in electricity – probably more now.” The guy’s jaw dropped and he goes, “Well how come the whole campus isn’t doing this?” “I don’t know. I can’t get anyone to come over and talk to me about it.”

The last time I talked with someone at facilities, they said “Well it kinda sounds like a toy program.” I said “No. Call it what you want, but you can sure save a lot of energy. As far as the campus goes, what are you talking, a million a year?”

Tonya: Do you know how many rooms are currently controlled by Events2HVAC in the unions at KU?

Wayne: Oh, about 27. Some of them are dual role because we run standard Metasys start/stop times until 5:00, and then that system [Events2HVAC] takes over after 5:00 to bring them on if there is an event scheduled.

Tonya: What obstacles did you face in implementing Events2HVAC, and how did you overcome them?

Wayne: The obstacles were not related to your equipment. The obstacles were related to Johnson Controls. When they downloaded data to put in the new system, they downloaded data that was over two years old. Of course we had made a lot of changes to the Metasys system in two years – tons of changes. So that had nothing to do with the schedule system. In fact, it was so new that when they did make those changes, it didn’t take, and we had to wait for a patch to come in for a couple of weeks.

We had to run everything manual for about two weeks, which was wonderful, in a way, because I had a shop full of technicians who weren’t there when we first put the system in. So they’ve always been used to not having to play with start/stop schedules. So when that happened, all of a sudden, a technician had to sit down at a workstation again, with a schedule. Keep in mind we run 10 million people a year through the union. For two weeks, they had to sit down every morning and punch in the start/stop for every event. Boy, did that develop an appreciation for the system!

That’s why I really don’t understand, and I know Brian feels the same way, why doesn’t the world get it? You know, you save so much in labor. It works without thinking about it. So you save energy, and you save a ton of labor. It saddens me that people don’t see it for what it is.

Tonya: Some people do, but it takes a long time to get buy-in. So the last question I have for you is, do you have any suggestions for additional features or ways Events2HVAC could be extended?

Wayne: Not really at the moment. But I tell you what I will do, let me ponder that question and I’ll send you an email response. Because there has to be more that it can be applied to. Obviously it can apply to lighting controls, though I am seeing some opportunities from another direction, where umbrella software drives about a hundred different programs including HR, energy management, closed-circuit TV, keyless access, parts ordering, parts receiving, and on and on and on. That’s about to hit, and what that’s going to do is cause anybody that is still proprietary to become non-proprietary, or they’re going to have a hard time staying open for business.

I don’t know how fast that will get traction, probably a long time. But I did go to a conference recently and witnessed that system, and it was amazing. You know, facial recognition is about to happen on a daily basis for the common company and at work. Part of this umbrella system was, I walk up to my office, to the outside door, and it unlocks it for me because it recognizes me. It turns on my air handler as long as I’m in the office. When it sees me leave, it turns my blower off.

That’s on the assumption my office has its own blower, and we all know that’s not the case. Common engineering today is VAVs off a unit serving many, many areas. So that will never happen, and we will still need event scheduling operating the VAVs. But again, all this stuff is starting to come together now, and I think it’s still a few years away. But they claim the Pentagon and airports have had to drive so hard on facial recognition that it could, within two years, eliminate keyless access.

It’s time for Wayne to go to pasture when you start hearing stuff like that.

Tonya: Thank you for your time, Wayne. Take care and enjoy your retirement.


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