Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineers upgrade McMaster’s thermal systems with smart building technology

February 23, 2024

McMaster University facility

Photo courtesy ABB Canada.

The Mitchell Partnership (TMP), Rycom and Carmichael Engineering are helping Hamilton’s McMaster University better control and manage its thermal systems with smart building technologies.

The school has sought a flexible control platform to simplify building management and control of air quality, temperature and carbon emissions. The challenge is to both migrate legacy systems across the campus—some of which are still using technology from the 1960s—and digitally enable newly constructed buildings.

“To ensure interoperability, it was important to choose systems that can align with all environmental requirements and specificities,” explains Alvin Baldovino, McMaster’s director of engineering operations.

TMP has addressed the need for master system integration (MSI) at the McLean Centre for Collaborative Discovery, a new 10-storey, 190,000-sf expansion of McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, which is slated for completion this year.

Rycom, meanwhile, is evaluating the campus holistically for MSI, so as to find opportunities where smart building technologies can enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Cylon platform

Building automation field controllers have been added on-site. Photo courtesy ABB Canada.

Carmichael, which has provided mechanical and building automation services to McMaster for more than 25 years, is now using ABB Canada’s scalable Cylon heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) platform to improve efficiency. This effort has involved installing building automation field controllers on-site, using thermal management to support building modernization, connecting drives to the system and visualizing the campus’ various facilities, technologies and equipment through a new dashboard.

“These solutions are highly versatile and can suit all environments,” says Robert Forest, Carmichael’s manager of projects and digital controls. “If you use your imagination and engineering skills, they can be used well beyond their initial purpose.”

Five of the university’s facilities are now using or developing smart building systems as part of the transition. Besides the McLean Centre, they include the McMaster Museum of Art, where maintaining precise air quality, humidity and temperature levels is crucial for preserving artwork, so integrated sensors will trigger alarms based on any deviations from set environmental parameters; and several campus laboratories, one of which houses a high-resolution electron microscope requiring extremely tight tolerances for temperature and humidity.

So far, in addition to improving the university’s energy conservation and decarbonization efforts, the project has enabled more timely repairs and maintenance based on real-time building status data, thus enhancing safety for staff and students.

Building automation dashboard

A building automation dashboard visualizes campus facilities, equipment and technology. Image courtesy ABB Canada.


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