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How To Know The Right Level of Automation

July 2014 - Building Automation


BAS can be pretty complex or more streamlined and often facility managers are told to select the systems that are appropriate to them so they don't end up paying for bells and whistles they don't need. What is the best way to know what the right level of automation is for a facility/campus?

The most important step in determining the complexity of the system is identifying the building automation needs of the facility. It also is the step most frequently skipped. Too often, it is simply assumed that each BAS is equally capable of automating all functions in the facility. Furthermore, it is assumed that all facilities will benefit equally from automation. But building automation systems are not one size fits all. There are a wide-range of functions that can be performed by the systems, and some systems are more capable in certain areas than others. The first cost of the system is directly related to size of the system and number of control points.

Failing to identify the facility needs first will increase the chances that the BAS will be overly expensive or will fail to live up to expectations. The project team should start by listing the reasons why the system is being installed. What building equipment is connected to the system? What functions does the system perform?

Typically, the maintenance personnel are a primary user of the data generated by the system. Equipment operating histories, system trends, error logs, and maintenance costs — all of these can be used by maintenance personnel in diagnosing equipment problems in the facility. What are the diagnostic capabilities of the system? Is information easy to compile?

Building operations personnel will be the front-line users of the system — entering data, retrieving data, running reports, changing system operating schedules and parameters, initiating control actions, and responding to system alarms and errors. One of the most important considerations then is the system interface. How effective is the interface? Is it easy to learn and use? Are commands intuitive? How difficult is it to access information?


Answers by Raed Salem, director of MEP Engineering, Larson & Darby Group.





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