Facility Managers Must Truly Understand BACnet To Maximize Its Benefits
July 2014 - Building Automation
Understanding the BACnet protocol and the range of systems it supports is a crucial step every facility manager should take. "While BACnet provides great integration capabilities, it is important for facility executives to familiarize themselves with their system and understand what it can and cannot do," says American Auto-Matrix's Moore. "They need to understand these products are not a commodity but rather items designed to interface with one another, giving the user more freedom to choose the system they feel that works for them."
It's also critical for facility managers to develop and implement a maintenance program that ensures the system continues to work. "As people interact with the building and use the system, they start making changes," says Trane's Shedivy. "The maintenance is less about fixing specific parts and pieces and more about ensuring the software is still set up the way it was intended for optimal performance. It's a good practice to conduct software maintenance quarterly, and analytics can help automate this."
Adds BACnet International's McMillan, "It is clear that analytics will drive data-driven maintenance and predictive diagnostics that will ensure equipment spends a larger percentage of its operating time at peak performance."
Ultimately, successful use of analytics comes down to facility managers understanding how to use these products as valuable tools to turn massive amounts of data into actionable intelligence.
"Being able to accurately pull, analyze, and execute on this data ensures that building managers can run it against algorithms to compare current operations to an optimal range for a system or a piece of equipment, ultimately resulting in high-performance operations and energy savings," says Schneider Electric's Williamson.
What's more, as McMillan points out, BACnet allows for large-scale validation that changes implemented actually generate the intended outcomes. "This virtuous feedback loop increases user confidence in the power of analytics," he says. "It will accelerate their adoption and utilization."
Why Commissioning Is Essential
Commissioning a BACnet system is an important step not only to ensure systems are operating as designed, but also for ensuring relevant and accurate future analytics across the BACnet-based systems. Experts note that facility teams should not assume that these complex, high-performance systems will "just work" after installation.
"Often, those responsible for the installation of a system are not responsible for subsequent operation," says Ben Dorsey, senior vice president of marketing for KMC Controls. "Additionally, while the control system itself can be very stable, the systems being controlled can 'wander' out of specification or have their operations overridden manually. Further, no control system can compensate for poor maintenance of its connected building systems, especially mechanical ones."
Commissioning provides information that can help maintain optimal performance. "The results of these tests should be used to establish a baseline of performance," says Gene Shedivy, controls product leader at Trane. "A building manager cannot really know if building systems are working optimally without a baseline for comparison."
According to Roy Kolasa, open systems solutions manager at Honeywell, commissioning isn't just a one-time event. Ongoing commissioning — continuously monitoring and tuning control strategies while analyzing and reporting operational and energy-use data — further ensures that design goals are met and system operation is optimized. Facility managers can use analytics to assess the impact of ongoing commissioning in real time. "It is also helpful to track changes in building operation and use, as well as manual overrides that may degrade system performance," Kolasa says.
Equipment wear and environmental changes drive the need for ongoing commissioning to keep equipment and systems operating at peak performance. "BACnet provides access to system data and control points necessary to enable automated continuous commissioning across multi-vendor solutions," says Andy McMillan, president and managing director of BACnet International.