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4  FM quick reads on building automation system

1. Building Automation Systems Offer Real Time Data


Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for the magazine: Thanks to advances in technology, building automation systems now offer real time data that can be of great value to facility managers.

In an economy built on speed and rapid response, real-time monitoring and Internet protocol (IP) capability are essential in a building automation system or energy management system (BAS/EMS). Alarms are faster and more detailed in today's systems. Knowing and being able to respond in seconds can correct potential problems before building occupants are aware anything's amiss.

"Using a Web-based protocol, the BAS/EMS lets the facility manager know what's happening in seconds, says Jack Althoff, owner of ProJeX, Inc. "System reports are generated so quickly and so often that they can actually be used as measuring tools for performance.

Precision real-time information is an important tool for facility managers looking to purchase energy at the lowest cost. "One motivator is being able to go to the energy market with solid usage data in real time so you can get better deals on energy, says Jim Sinopoli, managing principal, Smart Buildings.

The real-time capability of newer building automation systems and energy management systems improve building management in multiple ways. For instance, real-time capability is beneficial for companies wanting to take advantage of utility pricing. They provide better time-of-day use data, which can allow the facility manager to budget utility costs more accurately. New building automation systems and energy management systems offer another advantage that makes real-time capability even more valuable: They allow easier network expansions, crucial in many companies that are using enterprise-wide management systems.

"If the building has tenant meters, it's easier to separate loads," says Althoff.

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


2.  Building Management System Analytics and Diagnostics Can Aid Facility Staff, If Properly Programmed

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for the magazine: New building management and energy management system have analytics and diagnostics capabilities can save time for facility staff, but they need to be properly programmed.

In the past, facility managers often had operating staff who could tell or sense when a building system was faltering and knew instinctively what needed to be done to fix it. However, these seasoned facility engineers are now retiring.

"People entering facilities management don't have that real-world experience," says Jim Sinopoli, managing principal, Smart Buildings. "And there's more technology in today's buildings. BAS/EMS today needs more analytics software tools to support the new generation of facility engineers."

Those tools are often designed to make it easy to learn to use them. "The prevalence of easy-to-use Web-based interfaces, email alarm notifications, pre-made report forms and basic fault diagnostics can enable the typical overworked building manager to do more with less," says Robert G. Knight, senior associate with Environmental Systems Design. "That building manager no longer needs weeks of specialized off-site software training, or a degree in mechanical engineering, to keep a building running comfortably and efficiently."

Nevertheless, new building management and energy management systems are built on advanced software. To use that software optimally can be a challenge for traditional building operators. In response, Knight is encountering more customers who are adding in-house systems integration capabilities. That capability may come from the corporate IT department, from a systems integrator on the facility management team, or from the energy manager.

"The honest truth about all this powerful software," says Knight, "is that it still can't do the thinking for us. Somebody needs to write and tweak the fault diagnostic algorithms, model new energy management scenarios in the analytics software, refresh the content on the LEED kiosk, modify the management dashboard when the CIO wants a new metric."

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

3.  Retrocommissioning Building Automation Can Reduce Energy Costs

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Retrocommissioning can reduce energy costs significantly.

There are plenty of reasons that building automation systems benefit from retrocommissioning. One is that well-meaning operating staff can make changes to the system that have the unintended consequence of increasing energy consumption, Bert Gumeringer, director of facilities operations and security services at Texas Childrens Hospital in Houston.

"What happens is that our good maintenance people come in and they make adjustments based on 'tribal knowledge,' he says. "Some of those practices aren't in synch with good engineering practice." Retrocommissioning can rectify those mistakes.

One common problem, says Gumeringer, is that operating staff tend to put devices in the manual mode, rather than the automatic mode, so the building automation system is not running the equipment. Another issue is sensors that have been bypassed or sensors that haven't been calibrated properly.

A third problem is sensors that were disconnected. That may happen if a technician goes to do a preventive maintenance item and leaves a key sensing device disconnected. "Putting everything back together the way it's supposed to be really yields good results," Gumeringer says. If all of the sensors are in good working order, the building automation system gives the facility manager a window into the system.

He has found that retrocommissioning can bring a substantial payoff. His team has retrocommissioned several buildings that are more than 15 plus years old. "We're starting to see some very nice savings in the two to three to four hundred thousand dollar annual range by doing retrocommissioning," he says. Savings from retrocommissioning have enabled the hospital to keep energy costs essentially flat even as the amount of space was increased. "If we had not done that, our costs would have continued to trend upward," Gumeringer says.

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

4.  Three Reasons Can Justify New Building Automation Technology

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor: Three reasons may justify an investment in upgraded building automation or energy management systems.

The past few years have seen a substantial amount of innovation in building automation and energy management systems. In some cases, the innovations have come from suppliers of the automation systems; in other cases, the new applications have been developed by third party software developers.

Three economic forces are moving more buildings into modern building automation or energy management operations, says Jack Althoff, owner of ProjX, Inc.

First, tenant comfort can be significantly improved, because building management can monitor building components more thoroughly than older building automation or energy management applications could.

"With today's technology, you really can see everything you need to see at a high level to ensure your building's occupants are comfortable," says Althoff.

The second force is control of utility costs. Facility managers can react quickly to address usage anomalies. "So if tenants add a new lighting system that causes their usage to jump by 1,000 kilowatts, you know immediately," says Althoff. "You have time to see if you can do something to correct the matter or possibly adjust the contract with them for the additional usage."

The third motivator is manpower savings. Alarms and sensors keep building operators aware of what's happening via the building automation or energy management network, before staff are dispatched.

Soft diagnostics, built into today's controls, identify potential glitches before they become problems. Sometimes the diagnostics can correct the problem directly. But even when the controller cannot fix the problem, it can note early warning signs. "For example, the controls will note the water pressure is dropping before the basement is flooded," says Althoff.

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


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building automation system , controls , BAS , EMS



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