July 3, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Vincent Iacovelli, Chief Engineer at the Hearst Tower on West 57th Street, has the awe-inspiring job of overseeing the engineers who maintain and operate the heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems at the legendary headquarters of Hearst Communications, Inc., the American mass media and business information conglomerate.
From his basement offices, he and nine other engineers, all members of Local 94, IUOE (International Union of Operating Engineers), monitor the highly technical computerized systems that keep the building running in its daily operations.
The building has 44 floors, 10 to 44 being offices. The lobby itself, with its striking diagonal waterfalls and escalators, is nine stories high, and boasts café seating and two art galleries. Hearst has owned the site since 1928. Completing a remodeling of the building in 2006, yet maintaining some of the landmarked aspects, Hearst has achieved the rare and coveted Gold and Platinum Standards of environmental sensitivity for its Tower, and the building was the first “green” high-rise office building to be completed in New York City.
The offices are maintained at a one-half degree set point (most buildings are designed to fluctuate at a 2.5 degree set point), and the engineers are instantly made aware of any variation, via Mobile Devices (iPads). Angus dispatch system is utilized for “House Calls” and Honeywell’s EBI is the BMS, or Building Management System, whereby through floorplans and other information, workers can see precisely where the variations are. Workers are equipped with iPads which relay the data. At ‘Mission Control,’ the basement room where Iacovelli sits, all the systems connect. The computers are connected to both the outside and inside worlds, separately, protecting the inner systems from hacking. Emergency power, in the case of an outage, is also controlled here, and there are emergency generators on the roof. The largest, color-coded screen is a dashboard, a “summary of the vital systems in the building,” says Iacovelli. “If it blinks red it’s an alarm,” he explains, and it’s “instantaneously reviewed.”
The ten engineers are employed 24 hours, in three shifts. The night shifts are mostly for maintenance, while the operating shifts are during the day. Iacovelli works during the day with one Assistant Chief Engineer and three other Engineers. He and the assistant manage any construction projects, issues and problems, and budgeted projects, for example, mechanical systems upgrades, from an operations standpoint. The others respond “moment by moment” to the “house calls,” issues such as temperature or plumbing complaints. Major repairs of the cooling systems are done by the systems’ makers.
Iacovelli has been in Local 94 for 26 years, and he’s seen the advance of technology, and the changes it has brought for his job. “Technology is ten times what it used to be,” he says. “Computers used to be run by DOS. Now, we control everything in the building on a mobile device. People now expect immediate responses,” he adds. With Angus and Honeywell BMS, even if something is not fixable immediately, “we can understand what it is immediately. The amount of data available from the heartbeat of the building is literally at your fingertips today.” He also says that energy consumption has been greatly affected by new technology. “We are all about saving energy,” he says. “Our main goal is to be energy wise. We built the building to Leed Gold Standards and achieved Leed Platinum for Operations twice since occupancy in 2006. With technology today we can see where the energy is going and develop a plan to redirect that energy, or, if it is optimal, make sure it remains there. Without having all the data and seeing it, it’s hard to reduce and maintain energy levels. We’ve come so far in metering, and have real-time energy consumption data.” The union also has technology training on its BMS system and the maintenance of the system. The Local has approximately 6,000 members. “So many people that are older didn’t have computer literacy, and have now been forced into the computer era. Today, although we still have hand tools, it’s the tool the workers work with. Everyone in Local 94 had to adjust and grow into it. “I tell my guys, if you didn’t learn something today, you’re doing it wrong. They all agree with me,” he adds.
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