Special Report: Larson Justice Center in Indio, California

Posted on July 29, 2012

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This special report will be one in a series of special reports that covers the state and condition of California Court real estate holdings being held by the AOC in trust on behalf of the trial courts. Although we already have a few courthouses in mind, If you have a courthouse that you believe that we should cover, we’re all ears and we want to hear from you. This series will be spread out over the course of a few months. We do this to highlight the problems surrounding state of our courts for the benefit of all Californians.

Larson Justice Center in Indio, California (Riverside County)

Larson Justice Center represents a significant milestone for the Judicial Council, the AOC and former Chief Justice King George as it was the very first courthouse to be transferred to the AOC.

It also is a representative poster child of all that is wrong with the AOC trying to manage a real estate portfolio about as large as Donald Trump without any meaningful oversight. If this building was owned by the donald, you would have heard those now familiar words “You’re fired!” many times over.

Before we get into the detailed problems, let’s cover one aspect of oversight, courtesy of the executive office of the State Fire Marshal / CalFire. Unlike ones local city fire department that inspects almost every business every year to ensure that the structure and its contents meets state fire code,  Calfire is charged with inspecting state buildings. However, since a run-in with Justice Miriam Vogel at the 2nd district court of appeals in the Ronald Reagan state building in Los Angeles, Calfire has had their hands tied, relegated to rubber stamping anything the AOC puts in front of them. In this respect, the people in the courts were better protected when they were under county control.

One day long ago, Calfire was doing an inspection on the Ronald Reagan state building and ventured into 2DCA’s area, where they walked into Justice Miriam Vogel’s area to inspect and were shooed away by a justice that believed that an executive branch agency, the state fire marshal has no right to inspect judicial branch property under the separation of powers doctrine.(!)  This wasn’t a legal case, this was flame-throwing because the state fire marshal was doing their job and wandered into Vogel’s area.

We bring this up because Larson Justice Center should have its occupancy permit revoked under state fire code. But because it is under the control of the AOC and not the State Fire Marshal, that is probably not going to happen. If the building was maintained by any other state agency that was not the judicial branch, it would be shut down until the agency proved to the State Fire Marshal / CalFire that the currently inoperable fire control system actually worked reliably.

Inoperable fire control system?

In the basement of Larson Justice Center lies a fire control panel that is embedded into a wall. That panel is lit up like a christmas tree with blinking fault lights. The reason? None of the fire smoke dampers work due to improper testing procedures by an AOC contractor that rapidly cycled the system “about a thousand times”, thereby scrambling the controllers. Fire smoke dampers evacuate smoke from a building in the event of a fire, so that building occupants can egress out of the building without being overcome by smoke. Currently, if there is a fire, toxic smoke will be circulated throughout the whole building because these dampers are inoperable. This panel has been this way for some time now. The AOC never bothered to notify the court (well, maybe they have by now in light of our hint the other day..) that the system was inoperable.

This fire control system interacts with the building management system and both of these systems, and most of their components were replaced around 2007, when the chilled water tank, part of a carefully engineered system, did not transfer with the building so the whole system needed to be reconfigured to work without the chilled water tank.

In 2007 the building management system was replaced in its entirety, along with many inoperable smoke actuators. Previous to this electronic system, Larson utilized a pneumatic system which are deemed totally unreliable today because they rely on little hoses and pressurized air to open valves and actuators. Hoses wear out and air leaks from these types of systems and typically renders these high maintenance systems useless. That is, unless you are diligent about replacing hoses on a routine basis. Remember however that to replace one leaky hose that costs 50 cents required authorization from Sacramento so often it was the little stuff that either did not get done or came in with a whopping price tag.

In response to a declared emergency by none other than Chief Justice George himself, the Facilities Management Unit, the AOC’s technology guy and their in-house energy czar were tasked with immediately replacing this system when interior temperatures climbed as high as 120 degrees inside parts of the building and courtrooms were hitting 90+ degrees. Without the chilled water tank, the thermal envelope of the building outpaced the output of chillers that had never worked so hard in their functional life.

It took months to reconfigure the system and replace all of the pneumatic controllers, valves and actuators with electronic ones. When it was done however, the AOC had cut energy usage so much that they were able to obtain a sweet rebate. So sweet was the rebate that Dennis Leung and Michael Paul held an “ice cream social” at the offices of the Office of Court Construction & Management in San Francisco.

During the time of the stellar energy performance, the building management system was maintained by AirMetrx of Walnut, California as a subcontractor to ABM. The building was comfortable and working well – until the warranty expired and “Team Jacobs” was tasked with taking over the system and providing maintenance on a system they absolutely knew nothing about. Even though the system was bought with training to operate it by the AOC , the AOC not only paid ABM people to learn the system but they paid for the training itself. Inside of six months, every ABM person who attended those couple of weeks of training had used that training to move on to greener pastures. About a year later, the AOC would pay to send all new ABM people to Dallas Texas, all expenses paid to learn these systems again. Again, inside of a few months, most all of these people utilized their new skills to find greener pastures.

ABM, Jacobs and the AOC management complained, hemmed and hawed so much to the manufacturer, TAC/Schneider about AirMetrx’s unwillingness to work for free after the warranty expired that TAC/Schneider electric purchased a local controls contractor and canceled AirMetrix franchise agreement for those control systems. The new entity would approach both the county of Riverside and the AOC and hold themselves out as the de-facto vendor and maintenance specialists within the exclusive territory of Riverside County.

Today, Riverside county has given up on the new entity and is purportedly looking to replace all of their control systems with those of another manufacturer due to the issues with the manufacturer – purchased vendor. Yet the AOC has continued to pour their trust into this vendor (Isn’t that right Mr. Perkins…) to the tune of 300,000.00+ when a maintenance agreement from Airmetrx would have been about half of that cost. Additionally, poorly trained individuals that had no knowledge of the system and were low-tech maintenance people would override the controllers and place them in manual bypass mode, completely defeating the reason for owning a building management system. If you work in this building, go down in the basement and ask the maintenance gentleman to allow you to look at the on-screen fault logs. Those little red circles with x’s through them represent a part of the system that has been manually bypassed or totally disabled.

Today, both the boiler and the chiller plant are going full-bore 24/7/365 and Larson Justice center utilizes far and away more energy per square foot than any other building in the AOC’s inventory.

It doesn’t have to be this way and a competent controls contractor will need about a month to return the system to its functional state. In energy usage alone, without looking at the bills, we’re estimating that energy usage and power/gas bill has quadrupled due to both the boiler being on and the chillers being on around the clock. Even when the building is not occupied at night and on weekends and holidays. Parts of the building are described as being “sub-zero with high cold airflow onto workers in certain areas of the building” while other parts of the building are being….. heated! Obviously part of this is an uncomfortable employees exaggerated perception but the bottom line is that each year enough energy is wasted that the AOC could afford to hire several people in addition to having a comprehensive maintenance contract that would cover this building and its systems.

When we talk of the AOC way, this is the AOC way. 

For you building engineering buffs, here are some detailed, specific problems with this building. For the rest of you who are not building engineers, this is going to read like greek. Sorry.

Preliminary List of Issues

Chiller Plant

  1. When overriding Valves 9 and 10 two CW pumps came on without a call to run.
  2. It seems that the lead lag sequence controlling the chillers is not working properly. Chiller one has a large numbers of hours on it.
  3. The chiller room AHU is overridden in the off position. The override needs to be released.
  4. The exhaust is overridden on. The override needs to be released.
  5. Chiller 1 needs to be reset and or fixed.

Cooling Towers

  1. Cooling Tower 2 has failed due to the VFD being reprogrammed when in comm mode. It is looking for HMI interface.  Needs re-programming
  2. Both cooling towers are coming on together when there is a call for one chiller. It should be one chiller one tower.
  3. Cooling Tower 2 is in alarm.

Secondary Pumps

  1. The set point for the secondary pump is all over the place (6 to 15 dp) within minutes.

Boilers

  1. The outside air lockout is set at 90 drg. This let the boiler run during occupied state until the OSA (JCW: outside air) temp was above 90 drg.
  2. It seems that the lead lag of the pumps is not working properly.  Pump 5 has 11,344 hours on it and pump 5A has 32,767 hours.
  3. The reset schedule is 55 OSA, 160 drg set point and 90 drg OSA, 120 drg set point. The boiler is not maintaining temperature set point. (JCW: Note that this is a potential explosion hazard if the pressure relief valves malfunction)

Chiller 3 and 3A

  1. ok.

AHU-6

  1. ok.

AHU-7

  1. ok.

Master  (jcw- this is where everything is left on all the time)

  1. Master schedule is set for 24 hours per day, seven days a week.  
  2. No holiday schedule set-up.

Floor LL

  1. The floor static pressure is set at 2.25 inch of static. This is causing the VAV to control to the lower end of design. Should be set back to 1.25 inch. The floor is over cooling due to a binding problem in LON Maker / TAC.
  2. Zones 2 and 6 are overridden (Forced by operator).
  3. The discharge air temperature from the AHU unit is reset based on terminal load. This does not appear to be working or reprogrammed not to reset above 60drg. By not resetting the floor will over cool or over heat.

Floor 1st

  1. The floor is over cooling due to a binding problem in LON Maker / TAC or reprogramming.
  2. Zones 46, 5, 3, 2 and 9 are overridden (Forced by operator).
  3. The discharge air temperature from the AHU unit is reset based on terminal load. This does not appear to be working or reprogrammed not to reset above 60drg. By not resetting the floor will over cool or over heat.
  4. The static pressure set point is 2.25.  It was 1.25 after commissioning. (JCW: High static air pressure blows out duct work)

Floor 2nd

  1. The floor is over cooling due to a binding problem in LON Maker / TAC or reprogramming.
  2. Zones 63,48,46,49,45,40,39,37,38,52,73,41,22,18,15,12,11,5,6,4,1,2 and 3 are overridden (Forced by operator).
  3. The discharge air temperature from the AHU unit is reset based on terminal load. This does not appear to be working or reprogrammed not to reset above 60drg. By not resetting the floor will over cool or over heat.

Floor 3rd

  1. The floor is over cooling due to a binding problem in LON Maker / TAC or reprogramming.
  2. Zones 60, 56, 55, 52, 49, 48, 46, 44, 41, 42, 36, 20, 18, 15, 11, 10, 12, 1, 2, 3, 5,  and 8 are overridden (Forced by operator).
  3. The discharge air temperature from the AHU unit is reset based on terminal load. This does not appear to be working or reprogrammed not to reset above 60drg. By not resetting the floor will over cool or over heat.

AHU-1

  1. The static pressure alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  2. The VFD ramp up time and ramp down time is 10 sec.
  3. The start points of the VFD’s have been changed from 30 HZ to 40 or 50HZ, thus over pressurizing the duct work.
  4. Return air temp at 6:12pm 69 drg. and at 11:38am it was 68 drg.
  5. The reset schedule for discharge air temperature max is 60drg. At commissioning it was set to 65drg.
  6. The return air damper seems to have failed. The feedback was overridden.

AHU-2

  1. The static pressure alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  2. The return fan alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  3. The VFD ramp up time and ramp down time is 10 sec.
  4. The start points of the VFD’s have been changed from 30 HZ to 40 or 50HZ, thus over pressurizing the duct work.
  5. Return air temp at 6:12pm 68 drg.. and at 11:38am it was 66drg
  6. The reset schedule for discharge air temperature max is 60drg. At commissioning it was set to 65drg.

AHU-3

  1. The static pressure alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  2. The VFD ramp up time and ramp down time is 10 sec.
  3. The start points of the VFD’s have been changed from 30 HZ to 40 or 50HZ, thus over pressurizing the duct work.
  4. The static pressure set point is 2.25.  It was 1.25 after commissioning.
  5. The exhaust damper seems to have failed. The feedback was overridden.
  6. Return air temp at 6:12pm 62 drg. and at 11:38am it was 62 drg
  7. The reset schedule for discharge air temperature max is 60drg. At commissioning it was set to 65drg.

AHU-4

  1. The static pressure alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  2. The return fan alarm was disabled manually. This prevented the alarm from activating when a failure occurs.
  3. The VFD ramp up time and ramp down time is 10 sec.
  4. The start points of the VFD’s have been changed from 30 HZ to 40 or 50HZ, thus over pressurizing the duct work. AHU 4 went to 4 inches of static on start up.
  5. The static pressure set point is 1.6.  It was 1.25 after commissioning.
  6. Discharge temperature alarm the chilled water valve position is 0 and it is not closed.
  7. Return air temp at 6:12pm 66 drg. and at 11:38am it was 53drg
  8. The reset schedule for discharge air temperature max is 60drg. At commissioning it was set to 65drg.

AHU-5

  1. The current relay on EF1 is not reporting correctly. It is always on even when the system is off.

The building is out of control based on the return air temps.

Smoke Control System

  1. There was an error in the LNS network.  All the sub modules were not communicating .
  2. Fire zones 1, 5 and L46 are not closing. This needs to be investigated to find the cause. There are multiple dampers on each zone.
  3. Fire zone L6 is not opening. This needs to be investigated to find the cause.  There are multiple dampers on each zone.

LNS Data Base

  1. RTR 9 is off line on page subsystem 1.
  2. 401 B 2nd2 and 2nd2A are off line on page 401B 2nd2.  These are the two controllers that communicate with 15 VAV’s on the 2nd floor.
  3. The LNS data base seems to be corrupted and needs to be re-commissioned. When it is re- commissioned, it will provide more information on the system. If it fails to re-commission, it could take days to rebuild.

Related information: 10 News fact sheet about AOC’s method of maintaining buildings. 

Nobody, except for the contractors and the AOC agrees this methodology works for anyone. In circumspect perhaps the AOC is intentionally maintaining buildings poorly so they dramatically drive up the costs of operating them. Do little to nothing for a few years and your operational costs go through the roof and you can stick out your hand for substantially more money. CFP payments explain only a bit of the issue. The other larger part of the issue is the mismanagement of multi-million dollar projects and permitting them to fall into a state of disrepair because you never planned for those ongoing costs.