Building Automation System Unification: Your Portal into Energy Efficiency

    July 24, 2019

    Business Development, Controls at Fairbanks Energy Services

    Many of sites we visit have more than one vendor’s building automation system and, more often than not, these systems aren’t connected. This can happen as a result of public bid projects that have not been properly specified to match the existing systems or simply due to turnover within an organization’s facilities department. Unfortunately, at the end of these controls projects building owners can be left with several different portals, log-ins and user views. Not only is this clumsy for day to day operations, but it ultimately reduces building efficiency. Luckily there is an integration path forward, typically through the use of open protocol based software. Here are three facts about why unifying building automation systems will benefit your facility and make your job as a director of engineering or operations easier.

     

    #1 Energy efficiency 

    As our name states, we are in the business of energy efficiency. The only way that energy use can be conserved is if it is monitored and then controlled. Building automation systems, when installed and serviced properly, should operate on their own in an efficient manner by utilizing night setback, enabling air flow reduction and staging equipment on and off to match the building’s load. However, multiple building automation systems that haven’t been merged together or integrated properly can have the reverse effect. 

    As the old saying goes, “too many chefs in the kitchen can spoil the soup.” The same can be said about having too many controls systems on the same campus.  By working with an integration specialist, several different systems can be brought together so they can be worked on through, as referred to in the industry, a “single pane of glass.” When an integration solution is deployed, its function is to enable multiple systems in a building to work together in harmony so that equipment can run as efficiently as possible.

     

    #2 Solutions for all systems

    For several reasons, multiple building management systems can end up on the same campus: department turnover, bidding out multiple projects to various vendors, differing needs for automation without complete integration to other systems, controls manufacturers who sell by territory, etc. With most plan spec work there is a 1-year warranty provided for new projects. At the end of the warranty period, these systems will remain active but the owner of the building may not have a service contract with the installing contractor. HVAC controls service contracts and proper initial training are essential to operating a comfortable and efficient building through the use of building automation systems.

    Since controls contractors are usually only granted the software needed to program their own systems, a proprietary system left to run a facility is sometimes inaccessible.  In many cases, there are options to integrate legacy proprietary systems by using open protocol solutions to communicate between them. Now, as the DOE or facility manager, you have greater choice in how and who will manage your automation system. Freedom from being locked into a certain vendor creates market competition and can assure a quick response time when issues arise.

     

    #3 Increased overall building value

    One of the greatest byproducts to a healthy, effective building automation system is the value it adds to a facility. It is cost prohibitive to add square footage to a building to make it worth more. Instead, by lowering overall operational costs, your building can increase in value. When a prospective buyer or lender is looking to determine a building’s market value, they almost always request documentation about operating costs. Because HVAC equipment is responsible for 40% of a building’s overall energy usage on average, it’s usually the best place to look for efficiency measures and corresponding financial savings.

    Since many facilities are operating with building management systems that are not property updated, we regularly discover opportunity to increase a building’s value through better controls without sacrificing occupant comfort or requiring a huge capital spend. At Fairbanks Energy, our mission is to reduce energy consumption in our client’s facilities by retrofitting as much existing equipment as possible with new, unifying controls strategies.

     

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