The fix is in at MGM Grand Macau

  • February 14, 2011
  • Case Study
$3.1 million energy cost savings in 11 months
By Bill Lydon - Editor, February 2011
John Leslie, Director of Building & Energy Automation at MGM International Resorts described how he and his team saved millions of dollars in energy costs at the MGM Grand Macau during the Tridium Niagara Summit in May, 2010. Leslie is located in Las Vegas and describes himself as a “just a chiller guy” but it was obvious from this presentation that he is a solid thinking automation and controls professional.
The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino Macau is a $1.6 billion property about three years old located on prime water front land in Macau’s central Nam Van gaming district. Macau is a Portuguese island that now belongs to China, right off the coast of China. Travel to Macau requires flying to Hong Kong and taking a one hour ferry to the island. It is the only place in China where table game gambling is allowed. It is estimated that the revenue from Macau will be equal to all the gambling establishments in Nevada and California. Eighty percent of developer Steve Wynn’s revenue is reported to be from Macau. There are few international businesses under more competitive pressure today than hotels and casinos, and even fewer that are so reliant on air temperature and quality. Even short interruptions can destroy a brand image and excess energy costs simply destroy competitiveness in this unforgiving market. 
Leslie related how the energy project started with a phone call. “I got a call from a higher level (at MGM) and they were having some issues in Macau,” said Leslie.  “The CFO was concerned that their power bills were about $1.6 million per month. They recommended sending this old man down to Macau.” In February, 2009 Leslie took a team of people that worked with him in the past on fire safely, chiller optimization, and building automation to Macau. 
Replaced controls with EasyIO ( ) that use embedded Sedona Framework.
The team made changes and installed controls that saved $3.1 million in energy bills in the first 11 months. Leslie noted that these savings were achieved with partnerships with “some smart people.” The partners on their team included Tridium and Airmaster, a Tridium System Integrator out of Australia with a presence in Macau & Hong Kong.
Leslie described how the first thing he did was a walk through with the CFO who asked him, “What are these brown things?” “These brown things are chillers,” replied Leslie. “The local management didn’t understand that each of the ten chillers cost them around $800,000 a year.” At that time the outdoor air was 50 degrees and 8 of the chillers were running! The first thing he did was install Efftrack Chiller Monitoring Efficiency System ( by Efficiency Technologies, Inc. 
The chillers were made in China. Leslie said, “Unfortunately there were not any gauges or metering that worked on a plant that was only a year and a half old.”   Efftrack allowed him to understand what was going on with the chillers. Leslie noted, “In Macau these are all five star hotels.” “These are billion dollar properties.  Unfortunately we are building all these beautiful properties without the technical support they really need. We cannot hire engineers from Las Vegas to run these plants because of the immigration laws.” 
Leslie observed that poor handover practices from construction to operation and a lack of commissioning and sign off resulted in a building that was in trouble. He notes major issues and the steps taken on the road to recovery.
Major Issues Included:
  • The 18 month old building management system had 600 alarm faults and was basically bypassed.
  • The chiller plant control system was bypassed due to failures.
  • Inefficient chillers due to essentially no maintenance and operational issues.
  • Ineffective water treatment contributing to the chiller issues.
  • Poor primary and secondary water distribution and balance issues.
  • Ineffective maintenance practices.
  • 450 volt chillers operating at around 350 volts.
The Road to Recovery:
  • Ripped out the existing controls and replaced them with EasyIO ( ) field devices using the embedded Sedona Framework.
  • Re-commissioned the system.
  • Replace the original chiller plant control with Airmaster’s PlantPro™ based on a Niagara AX platform.
  • Installed Efftrack Chiller Monitoring Efficiency System.
  • Integration between Efftrack and PlantPro™ to provide best fit, best efficiency chiller control and sequencing.
  • Implement planned maintenance practices across the site.
  • Upgraded the water treatment.
  • Repair or rebuilt failed or failing systems.
  • Rebalanced primary and secondary chilled water systems.
  • Integrated Johnson BMS through BACnet into Tridium architecture.
  • Integrated Trane chiller panels through BACnet into Tridium architecture.
  • Access from end to end via corporate Intranet for ongoing support of the property.
  • Niagara was implemented at the management level and Sedona at the device level, providing a single tool environment.
Savings through December of 2009 were in excess of $3.1 million and power bills in the first quarter of 2010 were the lowest in the property’s history. There has also been a reduction in CO2 emissionsof over 35 tons.
Thoughts & Observations
There is explosive growth in Asia but a lack of skilled and experienced personnel to apply, install and run controls and automation.
Leslie’s 38 years of experience really showed in this situation. Leslie’s job was to get this building running efficiently and he took the bull by the horns, put together a team and straightened it out.
I don’t know the history on the original controls and building automation system (BAS) but it was clear that they were not functioning properly. This could be due to a number of reasons including original design concept, application engineering, programming, and installation.
Leslie is extremely satisfied with Tridium, Efficiency Technologies, Inc., EasyIO, and Airmaster, the local Tridium integrator.

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..