The art of building management

When The Glasgow School of Art decided to refurbish its world famous Mackintosh Building, it knew that the introduction of a competent and efficient building management system (BMS) would be vital to the facility’s ongoing success, both as a functional seat of education and a historic place of interest.

The Mackintosh Building at The Glasgow School of Art is an icon of late 19th and early 20th century architecture. Its status is confirmed by Pevsner in ‘Pioneers of Modern Design’, through specialist and public interest in Mackintosh, and through Category A listing. As Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s largest and most critically acclaimed commission, the construction of the building took place in two phases: 1896 and 1909. 

Over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries, The Glasgow School of Art has accepted the challenge and responsibility of owning one of the city’s most iconic buildings, ensuring that it continues to be used for its original purpose: motivating and inspiring future generations of artists, designers and architects, while at the same time welcoming visitors that are expected to swell in number from 20,000 per annum to in excess of 33,000.

Careful restoration

In recent need of renovation, The Glasgow School of Art set about carefully defining the project objectives: to conserve and protect the building fabric; restore original features; better manage visitor access to a working art school; and improve the care, exhibition and access to archives and collections.

By far the biggest challenge for all of the contracted companies invited to participate in the project was to bring the historic building technically up-to-date while protecting the fabric and the building’s visual impact. In protecting the structure visually, new plant and equipment must be installed discreetly. Among those spearheading the task was consulting/building services engineers Harley Haddow of Edinburgh, which worked as part of the design team with project architects, Glasgow-based Page Park and ZM Architects.

“One of the aims was to undo some of the alterations and additions that have been carried out within the building over the years,” says Mark Napier, technical director at Harley Haddow. “However, within the building the architect created new spaces such as a furniture gallery and shop, three archive and collection stores, a research centre, as well as enhance the public tour route.”

Areas such as galleries and archive stores require environmentally controlled conditions, a factor that isn’t always easy to achieve in listed buildings where fabric improvements such as double glazing and wall insulation are not always possible.

“We utilised existing vertical air shafts from the individual art studios for natural stack ventilation. These were open to atmosphere and causing excessive heat loss during the winter,” says Mr Napier. “To combat this we implemented motorised ventilation dampers that help control the environmental conditions and eliminate unnecessary heat loss from the building.”

New technology

Modern technology in a historic building needs to be discreet and as such, remote and automatic control via a modern BMS system sits well within this ethos.

Although The Glasgow School of Art already had an existing BMS to control a number of other buildings on site, the importance of this particular project dictated a thorough evaluation of the marketplace to determine the most suitable system. The only proviso was that if a different BMS was selected, it had to run on the same PC due to limited space in the estates management office.

Building control and intelligence specialists, Priva Building Intelligence Ltd, and DSK Controls (a Priva approved Partner Company) were invited to present in front of representatives from The Glasgow School of Art and Harley Haddow – making the case for using a Priva BMS solution centred round a HX8E Compri controller and TC Vision front end software. According to Martin Savage at DSK Controls, “We were confident that our proposed solution would exceed the client’s requirements. Using an Ethernet bus connection the system could be deployed on the same PC as the existing BMS, thus not requiring additional hardware or floor space.”

The Priva BMS also offers backward compatibility, integration with other manufacturers’ systems, as well as a platform for future-proof building control.

Interoperability is a key concern as in most building refurbishment projects there is a coming together of building services plus a diverse range of communication systems.

For instance, BACnet over RS485 or IP is supported by most HVAC control systems, while metering, chillers and inverters commonly utilise Modbus. M-bus is used typically in the metering of utilities, while two of the protocols employed in lighting are EIB/KNX and DALI. In the management and interpretation of data, XML is used for the exchange of data between web-based applications and devices; LonWorks typically serves HVAC, lighting and process devices on a network; OPC server and OPC client enables PC to PC applications; and TCP/IP is used to transmit data across communications networks, such as an organisation’s IT network or the internet. 

“Few buildings deploy all of these protocols, but when specifying a new BMS it is important they offer optimum interoperability in order to integrate with existing plant and equipment,” says DSK Controls’ Mr Savage. “Historic buildings in particular reap the benefits of retaining usable installed equipment as it means no new drilling or fixing is required.”

Cost savings

The BMS must also provide a valid solution for the future. Priva controllers support any temperature sensor, do not require screened cabling and are equipped to communicate with a range of protocols. Being of modular construction, additional input and output cards can be easily added to accommodate any new plant control or monitoring points. These features lead to future savings in both capital cost and installation time.

The Priva BMS at The Glasgow School of Art controls low temperature hot water (LTHW), variable temperature (VT), constant temperature (CT), domestic hot water (DHW) and medium temperature hot water (MTHW) circuits. It also controls fan convectors, radiant panels (local control), natural ventilation dampers, three air handling units (AHUs) and extraction fans.

Automated control and monitoring of the many and varied system installations by the Priva BMS allows site engineers at Mackintosh to concentrate on the planned maintenance of plant while ensuring the correct protection to the fabric of the historic building. Furthermore, monitoring of existing and new plant enables real time maintenance in place of calendar-based maintenance, providing the site with a more efficient and cost effective regime. Any deterioration or plant failures will be reported and resolved without undue disturbance to the buildings’ occupants.   

Environmental responsibility is uppermost in the mind of The Glasgow School of Art with closer monitoring of gas, electricity and water usage. Opportunities for further energy savings will also come from this enhanced monitoring, together with performance optimisation of plant and equipment.

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