4 Building Automation System Problems Most are Afraid to Admit

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A Building Automation System (BAS) has lulled many into a false sense of security. A commercial building controlled by a BAS could lay claim to being a “Smart Building.” All problems solved, right? Not so fast.

A BAS provides critical functionality to today’s commercial buildings. The current trends in data, analytics and optimization have led to greater levels of dissatisfaction with the current state of technology in buildings. Why else would PropTech become a thing. For those willing to admit it, their current BAS underwhelms and even disappoints.

The low state of enthusiasm reflects the inherent problem that building owners and operators have just begun to recognize. Reality has set in because the state-of-the-art technology embedded in their buildings suffers critically from obsolescence.

I hear your internal retort, “How could my BAS be obsolete!? My building isn’t even a year old!”

Most consider obsolescence conventionally, from the limited perspective of aging equipment. This type of technological obsolescence carries the least amount of risk and pales in comparison to the larger issue facing the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) market today. Certainly, one can budget and plan for technological obsolescence (at least in theory). Functional obsolescence, on the other hand, presents difficult options for decision makers.

Business Threats Posed by Functional Obsolescence

What is functional obsolescence? Simply stated, functional obsolescence occurs whenever the BAS cannot provide needed or desired functionality.

Requirements change. It is a sign of the times.Outdated requirements

The BAS commissioned in a building results from a design process that specifies the requirements of the centralized, control system. These specified requirements define how the BAS will monitor and control a building’s facility systems (e.g., mechanical, electrical, lighting, plumbing, HVAC, and water supply systems). Once commissioned properly and turned over to the building owner, the BAS functions as originally designed. Therein lies the problem because change happens.

Modification of an existing BAS requires major capital investment. The pain points are all too clear. How much does it cost just to roll a truck for BAS consultation? Do you really want to know the cost to augment the sensor infrastructure, or to upgrade the BAS software prior to the addition of new hardware? These and other common BAS upgrade scenarios produce real dilemmas and difficult choices.

Honest experiences by those on the ground reveal the following admissions of BAS problems due to functional obsolescence.

1. My BAS Does Not Collect Real-Time Utility Sub-Metering Data

Building owners and operators need more than the monthly utility bill because the quest for energy efficiency rages on. Buildings saddled with a functionally-obsolete BAS were not designed to go beyond the main utility meter.

Sub-metering has arisen as the new standard for building sustainability. Common asset-management initiatives recognize the need for sub-metering data . . . in real-time! If a BAS could be re-designed from the ground up, then building owners and operators would want real-time sub-metering data to track utility costs by floor, by tenant, by individual facility equipment (e.g., HVAC, lighting), etc. Granular utility sub-metering data provides the essential tools to monitor energy costs/performance, to identify consumption anomalies, to perform cost allocations between tenants, and to enable data-driven portfolio analysis.

The value of real-time utility sub-metering data is unquestioned. The exorbitant cost of upgrading a BAS to support real-time utility sub-metering causes many to pause their sub-metering initiative. This need not be.

The Internet of Things (IoT) provides the means for inexpensive retrofits that can capture real-time sub-metering data wirelessly, at a fraction of the cost of a BAS upgrade. Thus, installation of new wiring to reach remote sub-metering points would not be needed. IoT rescues your building from an obsolete BAS.

2. My BAS Does Not Provide Granular Operational Data for HVAC Assets

LED retrofits have become popular to achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings. This low-hanging fruit has been relatively easy to capture due to the predictable ROI models obtained through quantifiable replacement and operating costs. HVAC represents the next, great frontier for achieving energy savings in buildings.Chiller system

Visual inspection isn't enough. You need to get connected to your assets.

Unfortunately, HVAC monitoring and optimization boasts significantly higher complexity. HVAC energy-efficiency analysis requires granular operational data from critical HVAC assets such as chillerscooling towers and RTUs. A typical commissioned BAS will run the HVAC control loops, but will not provide the needed real-time data from those assets. Modifying a functionally-obsolete BAS to capture the needed data would be prohibitively expensive.

Wireless IoT retrofits will remedy the situation. IoT connects you to your key assets in a building by providing visibility where none existed previously. Inexpensive IoT retrofits can be deployed strategically to capture granular data from those critical HVAC assets in the building. Imagine having real-time operational data such as supply/return temperatures, fan speeds, vibration, flow rates, compressor run times, total energy consumption, etc. from your key building assets.

No one would refuse such valuable operational data. IoT will usher in a whole new world of facility management using real-time operational data that was previously unavailable.

3. My BAS Cannot Capture Modern Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Data to Provide Tenant Assurance

IAQ continues to grow in importance. Too many studies have demonstrated the clear correlation of high concentrations of CO2 to diminished cognitive performance. Does your BAS actively monitor CO2 levels in shared work spaces such as conference rooms? Will real-time CO2 monitoring data be feed back into the HVAC control loops to provide assurance of workplace conditions?

Every organization that cares about workforce management and productivity cares about IAQ. IAQ levels represent far more than a theoretical exercise that governs commissioned air flow rates.

If a building was commissioned prior to certifications such as WELL, then the new IAQ standards have made the originally-commissioned BAS obsolete. If building owners and operators care about meeting the new IAQ certifications, then new IAQ sensors should be utilized.

IoT provides the fastest, most economical method of augmenting your building’s infrastructure to enable real-time IAQ monitoring. Even the most advanced BAS will barely support modern IAQ measures such as Particulate Matter (PM) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Don’t let your functionally obsolete BAS hinder you in your journey to a healthy building.

4. My BAS Does Not Provide Me with Real-Time Cloud Visualization Services
Real-Time Cloud Visualizations

Can you monitor and visualize the operation of your BAS in the palm of your hand when offsite? This simple question will quickly reveal whether your BAS has fallen behind the times. Certainly, all of us have grown accustomed to having real-time data and services at our fingertips. Far beyond an expectation, today’s service economy assumes such a feature. For example, building engineers and other facility management personnel have a critical need for access to real-time alerts and visualizations when away from the premises. This seems obvious.

If you don’t have anytime, anywhere access to your BAS, then how much will it cost to modify your BAS to obtain such core functionality? A massively prohibitive expense to be sure.

Smart Building IoT cloud platforms will liberate your visualization services. You need not be held captive to your premises-only services. The cloud can liberate you from a decades-old business model that ties you to the status quo. Expect more from your BAS.

The cloud will unlock advanced analytics powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Actionable intelligence derived from IoT data will deliver game-changing analytics based on Machine Learning, Anomaly Detection, Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD), Predictive Maintenance, and more. Any and all of these AI disciplines can be used to deliver insights on the present and future performance of critical HVAC assets in a building. Every building owner, facility manager, building engineer, service provider, and tenant can benefit from the insights delivered by AI. Your future depends on it.

Conclusion

If your BAS does not provide you with the functionally you desire, then you have been saddled with a technologically or functionally obsolete BAS. The path forward includes difficult decisions in assessing the prohibitive expenses required for BAS upgrades and modifications. The total project time to implement such an upgrade plan makes the decision even harder.

More and more facility managers are looking at IoT to provide new functionality at a fraction of the cost. Wireless retrofits enable same-day, unobtrusive installations that will not disturb existing building occupants. Certainly, the easy button has just been made available to you.

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