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Because BACnet is a complex protocol, facility managers sometimes do miss opportunities presented by these systems. It's important to recognize that various BACnet systems offer different capabilities.
For example, BACnet can help facility managers do creative things with dashboard interfaces that highlight building performance, perhaps by tying the system into other energy-consuming equipment beyond traditional HVAC equipment.
"Many facility executives and operators fail to truly take control of their buildings," Tully says. "Powerful BACnet operator interfaces are widely available and offer comprehensive control and monitoring of complex systems. Simple-to-use, browser-based operator interfaces and reporting packages are available that finally put the facility executive back into control of the facility and its operating costs."
BACnet frees facility managers from being bound to a single manufacturer's solution. Instead, they can develop individualized solutions that best address a facility's needs for temperature, lighting and access control, as well as life safety. These systems need not come from a single-source supplier. Solutions can even encompass such aspects as elevator systems.
"When each individual building system solution is BACnet, it can be integrated into an interoperable, intelligent system," Tully says.
It's up to facility managers to determine the proper mix and balance of vendors. "Understand that the more controls vendors that are involved in a project, the more responsibility the customer and the customer's representation must take to ensure vendors are delivering specifically the products and configurations as requested," says Chris Hollinger, senior product manager, Siemens Building Technologies Division. "System and project planning, as well as interoperability, is proportionally more complex with more vendors involved. Communication and detailed planning become all the more vital."
Facility managers shouldn't be afraid to assess multiple product options to find the right solution for the facility in question, Moore says. "A user who has a BACnet system should not be afraid to shop around," he says. "BACnet manufacturers believe in BACnet because they believe in their products. If users are unhappy with their service or a specific product, they have the freedom to choose something else."
Wireless Standard Further Boosts BACnet
As wireless communications becomes the norm vs. the exception in all facets of business, it's no surprise that an official standard in this arena is now available for BACnet — the ZigBee Building Automation Standard.
The new standard evolved from a partnership between BACnet and the ZigBee Alliance, a non-profit association that strives to develop standards designed for a "smarter, more sustainable world." ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 135-2010 BACnet Addendum Q, released in 2009, made ZigBee an approved datalink option in BACnet.
"The release of the ZigBee Building Automation Standard by the ZigBee Alliance completed the picture," says Jay Hendrix, product manager, Siemens Building Technologies Division. "This now represents the only true wireless standard for BACnet. Because BACnet/IP is a widely used option in the standard, it is possible to run over a Wi-Fi MAC/PHY-like 802.11 a/b/g/n, but that is not officially called out in the BACnet standard." ZigBee has the advantage of using a mesh technology, which provides redundant paths of communication, Hendrix says.
Hendrix predicts that the use of wireless for building automation within facilities will only continue to increase over time.
"Today, wireless permeates our lives in so many ways," he says. "From smartphones to wireless Internet access in your office, home or local coffee house, we depend on it. The technology will only get better and less expensive going forward. It will become the preferred method for buildings in the future. Less wiring also means less strain on our environment and natural resources.
"For facility executives, wireless provides many benefits, including the opportunity to make system retrofits more affordable; increasing occupant comfort thanks to the fact that wireless sensors can be easily relocated for optimum control; lower life cycle costs; and suitability for use in sensitive environments, such as hospitals, where controls can be installed without intrusion or disruption," says Hendrix.