Written by Carla Davis, University Sustainability
The need for energy and operation of essential systems never stops, and NC State’s campus is no exception.
With a fraction of its staff, Energy Systems continues to provide round-the-clock utility and facilities operations to hundreds of campus buildings while also monitoring for emergencies and reducing energy use in unoccupied buildings.
“Our main focus is to sustain reliable service,” says Claire Stevens, an engineer for the central utility plants on campus.
The utility plants are part of the university’s district energy system that generates and distributes energy throughout campus. Though many campus buildings are unoccupied and using less energy, Energy Systems maintains critical building systems to ensure support for essential activities. This protects and preserves the buildings, as well as what’s inside.
“There are some researchers with their life’s work in a lab freezer on campus. We also have research greenhouses still operating, and life safety systems that we support,” says Tate Boulware, a power systems engineer.
Building walk-throughs allow maintenance employees to monitor for issues such as a burst water pipe or a malfunctioning HVAC system before it causes costly damage.
“If we get an alert from a building’s mechanical system that a room is suddenly 50 degrees, we need to find out why,” says David Bliss, an automation engineer with Building Maintenance and Operations.
Stewardship of resources remains crucial. In unoccupied buildings, energy conservation measures are underway. Nonessential lighting and electronics have been powered down, and heating and cooling systems are in energy-saving mode.
“Our goal is to save energy and also keep the buildings healthy while they are idling,” says Shanna Harwell, interim director of Energy Management.