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Analytics, Fault Detection Improve Building Automation Capabilities

January 13, 2012 - Building Automation

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor: Today, detailed analytics and fault detection systems are starting to offer the potential for improving the performance of building automation systems.

New technology starting to be deployed today offers the ability to predict when something is going wrong, before systems stop working altogether. "The BAS operator can't just keep his or her eye on the chiller and big air handling units anymore," says Robert G. Knight, senior associate with Environmental Systems Design. "Now, the facility manager's got fountain pumps and pool chemical controllers and kitchen grease precipitators, all revealing their every inner parameter to the network. So analytics are really becoming necessary to filter through that noise and help direct the operator's attention to the problem."

The diagnostics come in many capabilities and price ranges. One software application for HVAC systems uses fault-detection diagnostics (FDD). The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed FDD some years ago. The software evaluates equipment relationships, such as the chiller's connection to the air handler and the air handler's reliance on variable air volume devices, to diagnose a problem in performance. Using predictive analytics rules, the software analyzes and identifies faults or conditions where HVAC is not running optimally and alerts the BAS/EMS front end station.

"Some of this software really takes on not only DDCs but also systems normally considered outside BAS/EMS monitoring," says Jim Sinopoli, managing principal, Smart Buildings. "These systems are handling exterior shading, interior blinds and even seismic monitoring."

Analytics and fault detection and diagnostics capabilities are sometimes being offered within BAS/EMS applications themselves, and sometimes they are separate applications from companies that don't make BAS/EMS.

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.


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