The Future of Building Automation
For over half a century, Dual Temp has been at the forefront of automated building control systems, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R). And it’s keeping things moving, bringing automation into every corner of a building’s capability.
Known for its professional service, Dual Temp’s longstanding industry reputation continues to earn the company repeat work for clients in sectors such as manufacturing, medical, and pharmaceutical.
“We do the entire project, from design through installation to start-up, and we are doing it in-house,” says company President Bradley Noel. “We perform all the plumbing, piping, duct working and controls. It’s easier to control this way, and it’s faster. We’re not waiting for answers outside of these walls – we just get it done and provide a great product for the general construction team or building owner.”
A mechanical engineer who has spent 14 years with the business, Noel and his team have forged relationships with the likes of technology giant Honeywell, and HVAC, fire and building security leader Johnson Controls.
Providing experienced and reliable facility maintenance for all commercial HVAC brands, Dual Temp isn’t a dealer for one particular control vendor but for multiple vendors, since some clients have preferred manufacturers. “We try to keep up with each one of those manufacturers, and be an authorized reseller for as many as we can,” says Sean Redfield, Director of Building Automation.
As a full-service mechanical contractor since 1970, Dual Temp has experienced many changes in technology over the decades.
To ensure the company provides customers with the latest controls and automation systems, it has relationships with vendors such as Broudy Precision, a well-known HVAC controls distributor.
“Broudy gives us a level of technical support,” comments Redfield, “and vendors allow us to have relationships with manufacturers as well. So our vendors are not shielding the manufacturer from Dual Temp; they actually support and encourage direct relationships.
When a technical need arises – or new set of controls comes out and Dual Temp needs to be trained – we have direct access to the manufacturer and our vendor, and that really gets us to where we need to go.”
To provide clients with controls, piping, plumbing, sheet metal, design build estimates, and plan and spec estimates, Noel has created a team of 140 employees committed to the industry. Recognizing that new hires need additional training that they might not have received in school or their previous jobs, the company spent months creating Dual Temp University, which launched in January.
To bring recruits up to speed about their profession and the company, Dual Temp met as a team with department heads, making checklists of topics they wanted taught. After eight months creating the course curriculum, Dual Temp University provides employees and team members at Dual Temp with valuable face-to-face training.
The instruction provided by department managers, exposes students to the ways of Dual Temp, including its culture.
“We teach them things we wish we were told when we started in the trade,” says Noel. “We go over things like, ‘what is a mechanical contractor?’ and talk about expectations of the trade.”
Among the many benefits of Dual Temp University – which meets eight times biweekly over the course of a semester – is that new employees are exposed to other trades to gain understanding and appreciation of their work.
“We expose our pipefitters to plumbing, ductwork and controls. And if you’re a plumber, you’re often not exposed to ductwork,” says Noel. “We make a point of cross-pollinating a plumber with ductwork, and vice versa. The same thing with building automation guys, so they understand what underground plumbing looks like.”
Noel recalls a sheet metal worker who, after making his way up to the level of project manager and 15 years at Dual Temp, had never seen underground plumbing in his life because he always came to the job after the underground work was completed.
With plenty of opportunities to ask questions and learn, students also review a set of blueprints and learn about various systems on real projects. They learn about Dual Temp’s history and evolution, and other soft skills that aren’t taught in school, like communication, respect, staying optimistic and enthusiastic; about productivity and punctuality, staying humble, ensuring there’s always a ‘Plan B’, and that materials are always in place so they can effectively switch-over if necessary.
And in the spirit of camaraderie, new employees learn about their colleagues, including their hobbies and what they do in their spare time.
Fine-tuning the program as it goes forward, Dual Temp will meet shortly to discuss the upcoming curriculum. One goal is to expand the itinerary from just an introductory type of class to include specific technical areas, such as technical training on ductwork installation, controls installation, and still more for existing, senior-level staff.
In the past few years, Dual Temp has seen growth among clients in pharmaceutical, medical, and manufacturing, particularly with customers who have multiple physical locations in Lehigh Valley and across the United States. Experts in building temperature controls and wireless communications systems like BACnet and ZigBee, Dual Temp’s professionals are playing a big role in building automation.
“We are taking the controls in each of those facilities and integrating them together into what we call an enterprise system,” says Redfield. “We’re not just looking at one facility. The building owner or facilities manager can look at multiple sites across the country, state, or around the world, and put them together into one easy-to-use portal and system interface to get to those sites. One facilities manager can be in all places at once just by looking for the front end of the control system and seeing what’s going on at the ground level.”
Today’s offices, industrial sites, schools and healthcare facilities are no longer about just heating and air conditioning, but sophisticated automated temperature controls involving the Internet of Things. Better known as IoT, it employs physical devices such as sensors connected over the Internet or other communications networks to exchange data – which has transformed how we live, work and play.
Modern buildings are truly automated, from heating and air conditioning to emergency power, lighting controls, fire alarm systems, and even the monitoring of energy receptacles in someone’s cubicle.
“A big move now is ultraviolet lights and bipolar ionization systems for air purification,” says Redfield. “All of that is being integrated into building management systems. As we bid on new projects and move forward with new work, wanting to integrate all these peripheral things into the building management system has never been more prevalent than today, so it’s pretty neat.”
Using technologies, including Building Information Modeling (BIM) to view systems in three-dimensions, Dual Temp is able to coordinate plumbing, pipefitting, ductwork and controls to ensure everything works.
Involved early in a project’s design build process, building owners and general contractors depend on Dual Temp to provide not only the mechanical design, but the building automation design, plumbing design, and more, taking on the responsibility of designing the entire project turnkey.
As a family-type business, Dual Temp and its dedicated employees are involved in charities including the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Allentown Symphony, the Allentown Art Museum, and others.
One year, the company volunteered to fix-up a foster home, making it brighter for the kids by painting the walls and repairing the grounds.
Internally, the company remains focused on developing its employees. The focus is on providing a career path from when they come in as a helper, or entry-level mechanic, or technician level 1, and work their way up to senior foreman, master foreman, or perhaps team leader; working their way from level I up to technician level 4.
“We really outline that and spell out how they can progress with a career here at Dual Temp,” says Noel.