Interacting with University staff

Taking over this huge challenge was more than interfacing with different types and makes of equipment. As an institution of learning, the University comprises not only students and their lecturers but other dedicated professionals some with intimate knowledge from the University’s own engineering faculty. In addition is a full complement of campus maintenance staff with whom the SFI team had to integrate under the guiding hand of the Director of Property Services, to whom Paul provides regular HVAC status reports.

In addition to discussions on system fundamentals, this interaction extends to technology issues, future trends of energy efficiency and identifying better products.

“Initially” said Paul, “we were viewed as outsiders but as soon as we were able to show service level improvements, any hostility quickly turned to cooperation and today have an excellent working relationship with the University’s permanent staff”.

“When we started it wasn’t unusual for eight days to elapse between reporting a problem and its repair which fostered a perception of poor HVAC maintenance amongst professionals and students alike. This has been reduced to less than three days now, often less” said Paul.

By having a complete audit and history of the HVAC system, analysis can be properly undertaken and planned and preventative maintenance work can be effectively scheduled and undertaken with the least inconvenience to the professional staff and the students. Unplanned breakdowns, especially in some of the speciality laboratories, can destroy years of research work in seconds, which illustrates that HVAC maintenance is not just maintaining a comfortable environment.

“Our work at Stellenbosch is not just logging and monitoring – we get involved in minor modifications and rehabilitation work too especially plant rooms which are often forgotten areas which sometime attract unwanted visitors! The large JC Smuts Building plant room is a case in point where years of neglect had created a situation where no one wanted to work there, yet contained all the essential equipment to make the HVAC system work. Our team initiated a clean-up of the area, removing scrap and redundant components, addressed health and safety issues to ensure that all equipment and the facility complied with H&S legislation.

“The end result is a pleasant working environment where equipment can be easily identified and monitoring or maintenance work can be carried out in safe and hygienic conditions. This leads to faster more productive work and is reflected in an overall improvement in the University’s HVAC maintenance regime” he concluded.