Smart laboratory

Randy Ortgiesen

Randy Ortgiesen

During the labwide building managers meeting last week, I couldn’t help but appreciate once again all that these super-dedicated employees do to help execute our mission. You all know this, or should, so thank your building manager today, and I’ll move on to the subject of this article, which was also prompted by the same meeting.

As I observed some of the briefings that used the laboratory’s Geographic Information System (GIS), I was reminded how far we have come in realizing what we only dreamed of 15 years ago: a “SMART laboratory” to help facility engineers and building managers improve operations in their buildings and utility systems.

SMART laboratory: The ability to use data in the most effective and efficient manner to identify, control and manage various laboratory operations and functions.
From the FESS SMART Lab Working Group, June 7, 2000

The GIS is a platform that allows spatial or geographical data to be retained, accessed, manipulated, assessed, analyzed, integrated to and managed. Fermilab uses an aerial photograph of the site with multiple layers of varying location-based data elements, including facilities, utilities, land planning, roads and building assets. The Roads and Grounds Ecology Group, the Fermilab Fire Department and the Utility Locate Program have all embraced and integrated GIS data and practices into their workflows.

As an example, using the labwide Web-based GIS viewer, one can access individual building information from the Fermilab Infrastructure Database such as size, age, landlord, equipment list and completed engineering projects. From the same GIS location, one can also access the Fermilab Computerized Maintenance Management System to obtain a maintenance work order status and history on the respective conventional equipment. One can also view and query the utilities and assets that serve the facility and its occupants.

Much of the critical equipment in facilities such as the Central Utility Building and Wilson Hall are monitored through a building controls and monitoring system called Metasys. FESS uses this system to email and page engineers, mechanics and electricians so they can respond quickly when critical equipment begins to operate outside of established parameters. Data on equipment operations is recorded, tracked and trended for operational efficiency. Real-time graphics facilitate equipment operation and troubleshooting.

The site’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system allows Fermilab to monitor capacity and consumption of the electrical system at the feeder level. There is even metering at the building level for about 30 locations. Eventually we would like to implement some building-level metering for both the electrical and mechanical utility systems. Metering helps identify trends in consumption, which in turn can influence usage behavior and aid in quicker identification of leaks in the systems, both of which can help conserve precious resources and direct more funding to the science and future programs.

Fermilab has made great progress over the last 15 years to advance the SMART lab dream. We have many more initiatives planned to integrate GIS practices into our other systems, workflows and day-to-day operations, which will continue to serve and enhance the unique capabilities that Fermilab has to offer in support of the global science mission.

Randy Ortgiesen is the head of the Office of Campus Strategy and Readiness.