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November 2, 2011 -
Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from James Piper, contributing editor: Use these four steps when deciding whether to upgrade or replace a building automation system.
After a facility manager has examined how well the current building automation system is meeting the needs of the facility, as well as what new options are available in the latest generation of building automation systems, it is time to evaluate whether to upgrade or replace the existing system. Here are four steps to help make that decision.
1. For the existing and the possible replacement systems, develop a list of all of the positive and negative aspects of each system. In addition to the features and limitations of the systems, consider other factors such as how easy the system is to operate, the level of training required for both operators and mechanics to use the system, how well the system is supported by the manufacturer, and how difficult it is to obtain service and spare parts.
2. Another important factor to consider is if there is a mechanism for upgrading the current system so that it is compatible with the latest generation system from that manufacturer. If an upgrade path is available, chances are that upgrading will be able to provide the level of functionality of a system replacement at a much lower cost.
3. All systems have a limit on their maximum size. As systems approach this size limit, they can experience significant decreases in performance. If the current system is approaching this limit, or if any planned expansion results in the system approaching this limit, that's an argument for system replacement. Maxing out a system severely limits future changes and growth as well as performance.
4. Finally, it's useful to consider the relationship with the vendor that supports the existing system. Vendor issues weigh heavily in the decision-making process, but be careful not to confuse the lack of vendor support with poor system performance.