Upgrading building-automation systems (BAS) offers institutional and commercial facilities a host of potential benefits related to energy efficiency, streamlined operations, and sustainability. The challenge for maintenance and engineering managers related to the installation, maintenance, and operation of the technology, including BACnet-based systems, is ensuring the specification properly accounts for post-installation issues.
In many cases, the existing BAS came as part of a new construction project, so managers essentially inherit the system with the building, without the benefit of a coordinated master plan that addresses the realities of post-installation operations and future facility requirements.
By looking at key considerations related to the impact of a BAS on maintenance — including operational support, system integration, commissioning, training, energy, and sustainability — managers can develop a roadmap that ensures BAS upgrades deliver benefits to both their departments and their organizations.
Whether a BAS master plan covers three, five, or ten years, it provides a guide and helps justify the need for BAS enhancements related to new construction and existing system upgrades and expansion. The plan enables managers to implement BAS-related strategies that address open procurement, system flexibility, future proofing and sustainable design.
Specifically, the plan provides an overview of ways a new or upgraded BAS can streamline maintenance and engineering activities that enable front-line technicians to operate facilities with maximum productivity. The master plan should focus on:
This focus might involve something as straightforward as an equipment-and-points, cross-check inspection as technicians perform scheduled maintenance activities. While a typical maintenance schedule might dictate some activities, the BAS might offer an opportunity to schedule tasks based on system performance. For example, using BAS data, technicians could change filters based on static differential pressure across the filter section of an air-handler. Without the BAS, technicians change filters only when the schedule calls for it, which, in this case, could lead to energy waste.
A phased, planned approach to developing a master plan begins with reviewing and documenting the extent and general capabilities of the existing BAS, as well as anticipated improvements. The plan should consider interoperability issues, technology-infrastructure requirements, and contract and maintenance needs, and it should provide general guidance on budgeting and, as appropriate, calculating return on investment.
Knowing the extent and capabilities of the existing BAS is essential for ensuring the best use of the existing system, as well as recognizing potential modifications and improvements as part of an upgrade.
This process of analyzing the capabilities of a BAS involves documenting: general descriptions of the systems and equipment the BAS controls and the way it controls them; types of control systems, such as pneumatic, direct digital controls (DDC), and local controllers; major systems and equipment not on the existing BAS, such as building-level meters for electricity, steam, condensate, domestic water, and chilled water; the potential addition of other equipment, including boilers and chillers; potential BAS retrofits and replacements; and the possible migration or integration options with open-protocol versus proprietary systems.
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