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April 17, 2003

Building engineers’ assignments changed

Facilities Management will explain its new system of re-assigning Pittsburgh campus building engineers to the Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee.

Faculty Assembly passed a resolution April 1 requesting an explanation of why building engineers now are assigned on a rotating basis, instead of having a dedicated engineer assigned to a specific building. Assembly members charged that the new assignment structure created a safety issue that could threaten research in buildings with labs that required specialized research equipment. (See April 3 University Times.)

Ana Guzman, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, told the University Times this week that she planned to make a report at the next PUP meeting, which is not yet scheduled. The PUP committee then is expected to report to Faculty Assembly on May 6, she said.

“The reassignment of the building engineers is something that we have been planning for a while now, but we finally felt we were ready to implement it in response to the changing nature of the duties of the building engineers group,” Guzman said.

Pitt has 21 operating engineers to cover its 62 campus buildings. In addition, there are eight roving engineers who cover the campus at off-hours and on weekends, a chief engineer and an engineering foreman who makes out the daily assignments.

Operating engineers respond to daily “comfort complaints,” such as adjusting room temperatures, and any malfunctions in building systems. They also are responsible for systems’ preventive maintenance and testing, such as changing filters, cleaning units and adjusting chemical content in chilled water systems.

Until recently, the operating engineers were stationed at specific buildings, leaving a majority of buildings untended and causing workload disparities, Guzman said. “When [some of] these buildings were built, the building systems had to be started and in many cases operated and adjusted manually and this required the presence of individuals at the building at all times.”

However, with the installation of centralized and state-of-the-art equipment for building systems controls, and a computerized maintenance management system that includes a database of characteristics and maintenance needs of every piece of equipment on campus, dedicated personnel are no longer required, Guzman said. “With the help of this computerized system, we are now able to develop the daily assignments for the building engineers to implement systems maintenance in an organized and systematic manner in all buildings,” she said.

Building occupants should not expect any fall-off of service, Guzman maintained. “On the contrary, we expect that people will soon see a noticeable improvement in the way the building systems operate because there will be a lot more attention to preventive maintenance instead of waiting for things to malfunction and then fixing them. Also, we expect that there will be a much more noticeable higher overall level of service campus-wide,” she added.

—Peter Hart

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