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Part 1: Keep Big Picture In Mind To Ease Challenges Of BAS Upgrades
By David Callan
April 2014 -
The building automation system is one of the most complex pieces of equipment to upgrade and replace, yet it may not be well understood by facility managers. This dichotomy can be a great source of tension and hesitation when considering a BAS upgrade, a high stakes capital project that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But a facility manager doesn't need to be an expert on the intricacies of BAS technology. In fact, to select the right BAS for a building, the facility manager has to keep the big picture in mind. When it comes to a BAS upgrade, there are seven beliefs of highly effective BAS buyers. These points are a kind of secret recipe that any facility manager can take advantage of.
1. People are more important than technology. Buy-in from the operating engineers is crucial to a successful upgrade. It's important to involve operating engineers in the selection, design, and installation of the new BAS. Ideally, bringing the engineer to visit buildings with the prospective BAS installed will allow them to demo it first hand, without the manufacturer or installation contractor present.
Keep in mind that a balance must be struck between the necessary sophistication and complexity of the BAS and the needs of the operator. Once all the design engineers and installers have gone home, the operator will be left to manage the system, to work out its inevitable quirks. The best performing systems are those where the BAS has been designed with the operators in mind.
2. BAS technology is evolving quickly, keeping pace with data network technology. Even the fastest BAS network infrastructure won't last for 25 years like a chiller. Instead, the cabling infrastructure of a BAS installed even five, and certainly 10 years ago, is likely already outdated. Software, firmware, hardware, and networking components all evolve over time, while products and lines of products become obsolete and can be unavailable for repair or replacement, as a new generation of BAS arrives every five to seven years. A building's capital plan should include gradual upgrades every few years to so that a full-blown, costly BAS overhaul isn't necessary every decade.
3. Not all network infrastructure is created equal. No one thinks about the network infrastructure when they look at a BAS. But that infrastructure is like a car's transmission: If it is not high quality and in good working order, it's not going to get you where you want to go. Buying the fastest/best backbone network infrastructure affordable today will provide the most flexibility for future incremental upgrades. For example, specifying CAT5E or CAT6 cable (today's highest speed Ethernet network) will allow the network speed to be increased down the road simply by changing the components on each end rather than having to change out all the cabling. Today's higher cable and network cost is incrementally small in relation to the costs of the labor and re-wiring that will be required to bring the BAS up to speed tomorrow.
Showcase: Building Controls
Part 2: Front-End Interface Is Building Block Of Successful BAS Upgrade
Part 3: Maintenance, Commissioning Keep BAS Going Strong
Part 4: Showcase Products: Building Controls