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UTSA earns national award for effective and innovative practices

(July 24, 2017) – The University of Texas at San Antonio has received the 2017 APPA Effective & Innovative Practices Award for its submission The Development and Use of Portable Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs). Office of Facilities master electricians Matt May and Brent Tyroff began constructing portable VFDs in 2011 and have refined their designs over the years. Their persistent efforts to develop and improve the portable VFDs allows for near continual operation of electric motors while replacement equipment is purchased.

Electric motors are used in many applications at UTSA and at institutions of higher education throughout the country. Those powering large HVAC machinery, including supply and return fans, are considered critical to UTSA’s mission. VFDs adjust the speed of HVAC motors by varying the frequency of the AC current applied to the motor. Unfortunately, VFD’s sometimes fail, causing key HVAC system components to shut down, affecting classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities.

Seeing the need to restore critical HVAC systems immediately and recognizing the high cost of maintaining back-up units, Matt May and Brent Tyroff developed temporary variable-speed motor control units for use during VFD failures. Their latest VFD design resulted in a portable VFD built onto a 4-wheel platform truck allowing major HVAC motors to be restored to service within a few hours while saving the university thousands of dollars per VFD failure.

Matt and other members of the Facilities team accepted the award on July 21 at the 2017 APPA National Conference Awards Banquet in San Francisco, California.

Enos Jones, Matt May, and Luis Borrero (Center, left to right) accepting APPA E&IP Award

Portable VFD developed by UTSA Facilities

50 and 125 Horsepower VFD Units

APPA E&IP Award Press Release

APPA, previously known as the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, promotes leadership in educational facilities for professionals seeking to build their careers, transform their institutions, and elevate the value and recognition of facilities in education. APPA is the association of choice for more than 12,000 educational facilities professionals from 1,300 educational institutions in North America. APPA is recognized as an ANSI Accredited Standards Developer.