The World of Integration

When we first started eSPACE, I could not get another ChMS to sit down and have a conversation about integration…and yet we were inundated with requests from churches to be able to integrate to their HVAC systems as well as their ChMS. What is a boy to do?!?!

I am not one to give up easily…so here are some things we did:

  1. We developed an HVAC integration with the Niagara Framework to integrate with Building Automation Systems that had a JACE.
  2. We kept knocking on ChMS doors.
  3. We kept developing eSPACE into the BEST Facility Management Software solution for churches.
  4. We kept knocking on ChMS doors.
  5. We developed integrations with other HVAC control solutions such as WiFi Thermostats and XML converters (for BACnet, LON and Modbus).
  6. We kept knocking on ChMS doors.

Persistence finally paid off! 

Let me tell you what is going on to make your church more energy and operational efficient:

  1. eSPACE now integrates with 13 ChMS applications…check them out HERE!
  2. COOLSPACE offers integration with 4 Wireless thermostats, the Niagara Framework and many other Building Automation systems that communicate BACnet, LON and Modbus.
  3. We are in testing with a number of Access Control systems (more on that later).
  4. We integrate with a number of Digital Signage companies.
  5. We have a WordPress Plugin to integrate your WordPress site to digital signage.
  6. Our Dev team is exploring integrations with lighting controls, security cameras and other systems.

The world of integration is here to stay and we are thrilled to be the leader in this area to serve churches. Join the integration revolution and give us a shout!


New HVAC Integration with Network Thermostats

As we have discussed before, the number one cost “influencer” to your utility bills can be attributed to the cost of heating and cooling your facility. And the 2 factors that are the root cause of most inefficiencies are “controls” and “behaviors.”

Most of you know that eSPACE has developed an HVAC Integration feature called COOLSPACE that now will integrate with various Building Automation systems and WiFi thermostats. Not only that, but eSPACE can integrate with many of the leading Church Management Systems such as Ministry Platform, Shelby Systems, CCB, Fellowship One, Servant Keeper, ACS, Planning Center and more (Click HERE to learn more).

Well…we have just added another integration partner – Network Thermostats. While we will not be “selling” their thermostats (they have a very generous program when then sell to churches) we have developed an integration that will allow churches that have these thermostats to integrate with eSPACE or the other event schedulers mentioned above. That’s right…if you have Network Thermostats, or are considering obtaining them, then you can increase your energy and operation efficiency by integrating them to you event and facility scheduling software.

With COOLSPACE/eSPACE integration, you can easily schedule all the events in your facility and know that the HVAC systems will respond to each event as they occur. Not only can you realize energy savings with improved HVAC run-times, your facility staff is able to devote more time to other needs as the scheduling will be seamless and automatic.

If you are looking for ways to increase operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption, you need to check out all of our HVAC and ChMS Integrations.  You will be glad you did!


8 HVAC Trends for Facility Management

For most organizations, one of the most impactful aspects of their facility management and operations is their HVAC systems and the associated energy costs.  Given that, it is always a front of mind issue for facility managers, Business Administrators and other leaders. When you realize that 50-75% of an organizations utility bill is due to the HVAC system, it becomes a really important aspect to understand.

Early in my career, I had a mechanical engineer tell me that the only thing I needed to know about HVAC systems is that they “suck and blow.”  In essence, that is accurate…they suck air in through return vents and blow it back out through supply access points.  Seems pretty simple.  But technology, energy codes, environmental considerations and desire for efficiency has changed the landscape of the HVAC industry.

Below are trends that every facility owner, facility manager and organizational leader responsible for the stewarding of their facility should be aware of.

Building Code Changes – Depending on what state you are in, some of these code items are currently mandatory while in others, it is coming:

  • > Primary entrance doors to access rooms that are over 3,000 SF must have a vestibule (sanctuaries, gathering, large classrooms, etc.). Some people call this an “air/light lock”…but it is basically the requirement to have 2 sets of doors with the vestibule in between the sets of doors for any assembly space over 3,000 SF
  • > Demand control ventilation, using CO2 sensors that control and provide increase outdoor air for high occupancy spaces (i.e. worship, gathering large classrooms, etc). If you are building a new assembly space, you have to add CO2 sensors that will engage the fresh air intake portion of your system when CO2 leaves reach a certain level.

Open Protocol – The days of proprietary control systems is rapidly coming to a close thanks in part to the introduction and development of open protocol systems such as LON and BACnet:

LON – Local Operating Network – was one of the pioneers in this space, but its use is being overshadowed with the introduction and rapid adoption of BACnet

BACnet – Building Automation Control Network – has become the most popular open protocol and is widely supported by developers and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers)

Integration – You may wonder why “Open Protocol” is a trend on this list. The reason this is so critical is due to what is called the Internet of Things (IoT). One definition is:  “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” Things talking to things.  In the HVAC world, it is thermostats talking to controllers and JACE’s.  It is BACnet compatible systems talking to your Event Scheduling Software. The open protocol systems allow for more freedom in developing “things” that talk to each other.  More on this another time.

Wireless – This should be surprise given all the wireless applications we use in nearly every aspect of our lives.  However…in the world of HVAC, wireless is NOT synonymous with Wi-Fi. Let me explain.

  • Wi-Fi – is a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless LAN (WLAN) network. The Wi-Fi Alliance defines Wi-Fi as any “wireless local area network” (WLAN) product based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 standards. In short, it is what most of us use to connect to the internet when at work, home or a coffee shop.
  • ZigBee – Wireless language for device connectivity. ZigBee is an IEEE 802.15.4-based specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks with small, low-power digital radios. It Is NOT Wi-Fi.
  • BACnet systems offer wireless components that use the BACnet protocol

VRV/VRF –Variable Refrigerant Volume (Flow) – The simplest example of this technology is what most of us might refer to a “mini-split” system.  But this category of HVAC units is far more encompassing than that and it is gaining popularity and acceptance at an increasing rate. VRF is an HVAC technology invented in Japan by the Daikin company in 1982. Like ductless mini-splits VRFs use refrigerant as the cooling and heating medium. This refrigerant is conditioned by a single outdoor condensing unit, and is circulated within the building to multiple fan-coil units (FCUs). This technology is on the move and will do so for years to come.

HVAC vs. AVLA (Audio, Video, Lighting and Acoustics) – if you have a sound system, then you know that in many cases the AVLA system is the tail that wages many facility and budget decisions.  I am not being critical.  We have just come to expect a higher level of sound in our spaces than just that of a megaphone or and AM radio sounding system.  With this requirement comes several considerations in the ambient noise that can be caused by the HVAC systems.  As such, attention must be given to:

  1. Vibration of units on the roof or in close proximity
  2. Installation of isolation curbs to assist in the reduction of vibration
  3. Air velocity…which incorporates fan speeds, duct size, duct location, register locations and design/shape.
  4. Larger lined ducts
  5. How to address “haze”. If your church uses haze, then you know what I mean.  If you do not use haze, then just ignore this. The particulate size of the haze can impact the “duct sensors” in your return air vents thus making the system think there is smoke, triggering the fire alarm…OOPS!

Refrigerant is changing…AGAIN!!!Yep…that is right! Once we had R-22 Freon that was phased out (although you can still get it) and replaced with R-410A as it was better for the environment.  This is the current refrigerant…but only until 2025 when ASHRAE will introduce a new format referred to as a “2L Flammable Refrigerant” (Name TBD).  Do you ever feel like the HVAC industry has learned a lesson from the computer industry? They change to “operation system” every so often making the old systems obsolete. BROTHER!

Residential ThermostatsHow many of you have bought a Nest or other wireless stat for your home.  They are pretty cool and in some cases the will work in a small commercial setting.  But before you rush out to Lowes to get your wireless stat, here are some considerations:

  1. Multiple Stages of Heating and Cooling
  2. Size of the building
  3. Number of buildings
  4. Ability of occupants to adjust temperature
  5. Variations in weekly/annual usage
  6. Type and age of the HVAC equipment

*These are all factors that need to be considered and vetted before investing in these residential options.

These 8 trends represent areas of consideration that you, as the steward of your facilities, must become familiar with and determine the best application of them for your facility.

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4 Tips to Successful Facility Management

Are you engaged in the art and science of Facility Management?  You may not realize it, but if you are a homeowner, you are a facility manager.  So my guess is that the majority of those reading this post are technically involved in the role of a facility manager.  Some of us are engaged in the “profession” of Facility Management while others of us are responsible for the stewarding of facilities at a different level or capacity.  Given that, these 4 tips are relevant to each one of us.

As I have studied Facility Management and operations, I have seen a significant dichotomy between those whose facilities are functioning at peak levels and others that…well…not so much (and I will leave it at that!).  I have observed some very specific traits in both camps and I have found that they are almost always polar opposites of each other.  The well run facilities do “X” and those on the other end of the spectrum do NOT do “X”. In most cases there is a direct correlation of what is done…and the exact opposite.

There are 4 primary areas in which the top producers invest their time.  They take these seriously and make the time to engage in them.  They are intentional.  They are proactive.

Here are the 4 Tips to Successful Facility Management that we have observed:

LEARN – I have never met a successful Facility Manager that knew everything there was to know or was up to date on the most current means, methods or tools available…but they constantly were seeking to learn. With accessibility to the internet and our ability to “Google” just about anything, there are no excuses to not be constantly learning. Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas for you:FM-Pie-e1306962773693

  1. Facilities Management & Real Estate by Michel Theriault – This is a tremendous resource book and a must have for any facility manager.
  2. The Facility Management Handbook by David Cotts (and others) – Again, a great resource book.
  3. Church Facility Stewardship Manual by Tim Cool – Sorry to be self-promoting…but if you work in a church or other non-profit, you REALLY need to get this manual.
  4. FacilitesNet – This is a great online resource with blogs, articles and other great information.
  5. HPAC Engineering – This is not a typo…it is HPAC and not HVAC for this online tool.  Great input on your heating and cooling systems.
  6. Cleaning & Maintenance Management – We all have to clean our facilities…so why not learn what others are doing.

ENGAGE – None of us were meant to go it alone.  We need to engage with others to help us in our journey…and hopefully you will become the trusted advisor to the next generation of proactive facility professionals.  Here are some suggestions of where to engage:

  1. International Facility Managers Association – In my opinion, this in the best trade association for facility managers.  I have been a member for years and hands down, they produce the best resource materials and training.
  2. FacilitesNet – The organization behind the above online data also have an association.
  3. The Church Network – FastTrack – This one day event is geared toward church facilities managers.  Both you and your church administrator need to attend.
  4. Local Facility Managers Groups – I don’t have links to all of the local organizations, I assure you they are out there.  For instance, Minnesota has the “Minnesota Association of Church Facility Managers”  and I know of small groups in Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC that get together regularly to share and support each other. Do a little homework…or start your own group.

PLAN – What is the old adage…“People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”  This is so true!!! As I have written before, this is really what separates the effectiveness and efficiency of facilities.  Are they proactive or reactive?  Are they planning for the future or just dealing with the urgent? If you need a primer to help get you started, download this FREE e-Book.  You will want to get this!

TOOLS – While you can take a hammer to drive a lag-bolt, I think we would all agree there is a better “tool” for that job.  So, what tools are you using to manage your facilities?  How do you track and process work orders?  How do you increase efficiency within your team?  Are you using tools to help increase your energy efficiency?  How about space utilization and preventive maintenance planning?  Do you have a tool to project your Capital Reserve expenditures? Here are some tools to consider:

  1. Life Cycle Calculator – This free tool is incredibly helpful in projecting your future costs.
  2. Best Practices Checklist – This is a preliminary “checklist” of items that should be on every church’s “radar” as a minimum baseline for maintaining their facilities.
  3. Work Order Management software – Be intentional with your work order processing, PM, Equipment tracking, Vendor Management and Inventory Management.
  4. Event and Room Scheduling software – Our facilities were intended to be used…but that use must be planned and properly coordinated.  You need to avoid the “Chinese fire-drill” that is far too common.
  5. HVAC Integration with Event Scheduler – Most churches we work with have 2 facility commonalities: 1) They have HVAC systems 2) They have spaces/rooms they need to manage for events and meetings. Why would you not integrate those 2 activities to increase efficiency and save money on utility bills?

That is a lot of information, I know. What will you do with it?  Information with out implementation is unproductive.  I encourage you to be INTENTIONAL and start right now to be the best facility professional your organization has ever had.  You can do it!

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5 Bags of Silver and ROI

Last week we looked at how to consider what is in our hand in lieu of making excuses. This continues to challenge me personally and I hope it does you as well. To me, this kind of paradigm shift is at the heart of stewardship…regardless if it is financial stewardship or Facility Stewardship. It requires intentionality to steward what has been entrusted to you..and to do it well. There is no room in any form of stewardship for excuses.  Stewardship is not passive nor can a stewardship mantra be devised but a plan of action never implemented.

I am going to add one more nuance to stewardship that may seem crass (then again, would you expect anything less from me) but I believe there are legitimate Biblical and moral cases to be made around this statement:

“Intentional Stewardship produces a Return On Investment”

At first glance/reading of that, you may think I am trying to commoditize the concept of stewardship or make it “worldly.”  Humor me for a moment.  Read the below passage from Matthew 25…it will only take 30 seconds:

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

That scripture is likely the most used passage when addressing “talents” or stewardship. I am sure you saw it…but the man expected a return on his investment.  I left off the verse where the man reprimands the servant that buried the one bag of silver…because my focus is on what IS expected…not the opposite.

A “return” is the yield from something that has been invested into.

To invest” is to allocate a resource (such as time, money, effort) in the expectation of some benefit in the future.

Stewardship is all about allocating resources…so why would we not expect a return on that investment.  Here are some “Stewardship” types and the expected or anticipated return.

Stewardship Types

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kind of Return on Investment are you getting from your Facility Stewardship plan?

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What's in Your Hand – The Opposite of Excuses

 

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I have been blessed to work with hundreds of churches during my career.  I love serving the church. I do not subscribe to the nay-sayers that keep telling us that the church is dead or dying. However, I have seen (and continue to see) lots of excuses for inaction in churches.  I realize that this is not systemic to just churches…but rather churches are made of flawed humans, and as humans we tend to make excuses. Here are some of the common things:

We can’t do X,Y and Z because…

Our church is not large enough

We don’t have enough budget

We don’t have the “right” trainingroundtuit

Our people are not ready (oh, really)

We don’t have the right staff

We don’t want to rock the boat

We will get around to it (here is your personal Round Tuit)

 

Let me give you a Biblical example of a prime “excuse maker”. In John 5, there’s a story about a man who I believe represents a lot of people who refuse to change and make excuses to justify it.

During a Jewish feast in Jerusalem, Jesus visited the Bethesda pool where sick people gathered, hoping to get healed. One of the people waiting to get healed was a man who had been crippled for 38 years. When Jesus saw him, He asked if he wanted to be healed.

To me, the man’s answer tells us why he hadn’t been healed in 38 years. He said, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.” Bottom line, the man was avoiding responsibility.

His second problem was that he blamed others (made excuses). The man said, “While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

How did Jesus respond? Jesus didn’t feel sorry for him. Instead, Jesus said, rather sternly, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” For change to occur in your life, you can’t be a prisoner of your circumstances and you cannot make excuses. You just have to decide to take action…to take responsibility…to find a way.

So…if you are a facility manager or the primary steward of the ministry facilities God has entrusted to you, what CAN you do? Maybe you don’t have enough budget…what CAN you do with the budget you have to be a better steward? Maybe you don’t have the right training…what CAN you do…maybe take some free online courses? You may not have the right “staff”…what CAN you do with volunteers?

Let’s look at one more scripture about Moses:

“What is that in your hand?” “A staff” he replied.
Exodus 4:2 NIV

God will start with what is in your “hand” even when it seems menial and insignificant. “What is in your hand, Moses?”  This was God’s response to Moses’ ample excuses about why he was not qualified to lead Israel out of slavery to Egypt

Make a list of the things that you know should be done (maybe the ones you have been giving excuses for inactivity)…then examine what is in your hand… then take action.  You will be far more productive.

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Anyone Interested in Saving Time, Energy and Money

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For most churches, their greatest consumer of energy is associated with the heating and cooling of their facilities.  In fact, for most churches, 50-75% of their utility consumption is due to HVAC usage.  To further magnify this matter, space utilization can be sporadic and unpredictable in a ministry setting thus making the scheduling of the HVAC systems even more challenging.

Now, just imagine that there is a “user-friendly” room and event scheduling solution that was 100% web based and was easy to use and cost effective. In addition, what if this software solution had the capacity of interfacing with your HVAC system(s) allowing you to engage and disengage the systems based on actual usage.  Imagine not having to enter data in your room scheduling software and again in your Building Automation System (BAS) or running from thermostat to thermostat to set temperatures every day. Even better yet, imagine reducing your utility costs by 20% or more as well as saving on the wear and tear of equipment that runs when not needed…Imagine No More

Cool Solutions Group/eSPACE has developed COOL SPACE to bring these concepts to reality.  COOL SPACE provides an interface between eSPACE Event Scheduler and your HVAC systems.

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Hear are just some of the benefits of this application:

> Schedules your HVAC systems from a web based event/room scheduling software

> Provides a user-friendly, browser based user interface to allow for remote access

> Does not require changing major HVAC equipment

> Can be installed to any HVAC system that uses a JACE or that plans to transition to a JACE

> Can save energy costs and increase staff efficiency

Given the economy the past few years, we have found more organizations being intentional about reducing operational costs…and energy is a major factor.  In light of that we have seen an exponential increase in inquiries and installations of COOL SPACE just in the past 2-3 months. But don’t take our word for it…here what others are saying:

We have been using eSPACE with COOL SPACE for three years, and our church saw a 30% reduction in utility expense immediately after installation.  The interface is easy to manage, easy to teach to our staff, and we can make adjustments from anywhere.  COOL SPACE has now paid for itself several times over in return on investment as we’ve saved on electric bills and maintenance.  No more lock-boxes on thermostats, and no more forgetting to “turn the air up on the way out” after a service or event. Hank Garner, Executive Pastor, The First Family | First Baptist Church, Columbia, TN

Our church has been a client of eSPACE Event Scheduling and COOL SPACE for around 3 years. Using this cloud based software has allowed us to save around 25% on utilities and use those funds toward ministry and missions of the church to help grow the Kingdom. Very easy to use product and great customer service! Jeff McClanahan,  CPA, Living Hope Baptist Church, Bowling Green KY

Contact us today for more information…don’t forget to get your copy of the FACILITY STEWARDSHIP MANUAL!

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A JACE Can Increase Efficiency (and save money)

What is a JACE you ask?

If you are intimately involved with your facilities HVAC system controls, you probably already know what a JACE is and whether or not your system includes this device or one very similar (as there are various names by different suppliers for this component)

To get started, let’s look at some terminology related to the building automation industry to set the table:

Niagara AX/4 – The Niagara Framework is a universal software infrastructure that allows organizations to easily build custom, Web-enabled applications for accessing, automating and controlling “smart” devices in real-time over the Internet.

BACnet (Building Automation and Control networks) – A Data Communication Protocol for Building Automation and Control Networks. A data communication protocol is a set of rules governing the exchange of data over a computer network. The rules take the form of a written specification that spells out what is required to conform to the protocol.

JACE  (Java Application Control Engine) – In order to integrate diverse systems, a physical connection to a device’s network is required. A JACE is a mechanism/device that provides connectivity to systems (HVAC, electrical…even security in some instances) within a building via the Niagara framework. By connecting common network protocols such as LonWorks, BACnet, and Modbus, along with many proprietary networks a unified system without seams emerges.

Enough technical terms.  Here is the long and short of the above.

The building automation industry…including HVAC, electrical, IT, security, etc… has developed several means, methods and protocols to increase the efficiency of building operations…thus saving money and time. The Niagara Framework is by far the most popular of the frameworks that we have encountered…and as such, BACnet protocol has become the most commonly used protocol…which in turn utilizes the JACE (think of it as the control module or “language” translator) as its access point to send the correct commands the various automation systems.

In the church world, the above is most commonly used in HVAC systems…but it is not limited to that.  HOWEVER…we need to note that utilizing the above with systems such as electrical and security are more complex and require significant hardware and equipment upgrades at the facility level.

So what does this mean to you?

One of the challenges many churches have is getting their HVAC system (and others) to operate based on room and space utilization. If you do not have a JACE or other BAS (Building Automation System) to control your HVAC schedule, you are relegated to running around your facility turning units on and off at prescribed times…or merely turning them on in the AM and turning them off at night..which is highly INEFFICIENT. Others may have programmable stats…which is a good first step, but still rely on a ton of human interaction and are usually limited to one schedule per day meaning the units may turn on in the AM, but may stay on all day, even if the space is not in use.

If you do have a BAS, you will be able to set schedules within the system to determine when the system needs to come on and off based on your room utilization.  The challenge we have seen with this approach is that if you also use a room/event scheduling software, you have to double enter all your events.  In most cases, you enter your event in the room/event scheduling software…get it approved…then print out the list of daily or weekly events…give that stack of paper to a facility manager or other team member…and they sit for “X” amount of time (usually hours) and  re-enter ALL that data again into the BAS.  WOW…sure sounds tedious. What complicates this process is when an event is added or deleted in the room/event scheduler…but not communicated to the BAS.  The possibility of incident, such as that, increases due to the reliance on human interaction.

That is where the JACE and COOL SPACE comes in.

If you have a JACE on site…and you want to interface your room/event scheduler to your HVAC systems, we have developed a pretty simple way to do that with our eSPACE and COOL SPACE applications.  We have developer a JACE “driver” (small piece of software that is installed in a JACE) that communicates with our eSPACE Event Scheduler allowing the Event Scheduler to communicate with your HVAC systems. YEAH!

> Time and energy savings just increased.

> Efficiency increases.

> Facility occupants, facility staff and business administrator’s joy just increased.

If you have a JACE…or want to consider obtaining a JACE…drop an e-mail to info@coolsolutionsgroup.com or call us at 1-888-448-5664.