Interoperability and Green Building
Not only does interoperability make it easier to integrate equipment and systems manufactured by different companies into a new building, it also allows multiple vendors to contribute to the design over the life of a building. Only the original vendor could provide service and system expansion for older proprietary systems. Interoperable systems, like BACnet, can integrate products made by many vendors. For example, if a vendor develops a new, energy-efficient BACnet product in the future, that product can be integrated into the existing BACnet system, keeping the field wide open for product development down the road.
However, it's important to note that interoperability and green building design does not start with selecting a protocol or stating that systems should interoperate, says Ron Poskevich, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Ridge Technologies. "The most important aspect of interoperability is the functions or control sequences that each system is capable of performing. As a result, we recommend that facility managers develop their control sequences and evaluate each control system manufacturer based upon an actual demonstration of these sequences."
To maximize performance in both energy efficiency and IAQ, BACnet control systems must be capable of pulling together the diverse systems in a building. These controls can drastically affect daily energy consumption and expenditures, as well as mechanical equipment and systems sustainability and life-cycle costs.
It all comes down to harmony between energy performance, comfort and sustainable factors, says Ben H. Dorsey III, vice president of marketing and communications for KMC Controls.
"The difference between a building that has harmony and a building that doesn't is most often tied to the design and installation of the control system," he says. "That's where qualifying your controls contract, energy services provider or system integrator really pays off. Organizations like BACnet International can provide information to assist facility professionals in qualifying providers."
State of the Industry
While the adoption rate of facility managers using controls to solve energy and sustainability issues has increased, the number actually taking advantage remains small, says Marc Petock, vice president of global marketing and communications for Tridium.
"This occurs even though the technology, the business case and proven return on investment exist," he says, adding that facility professionals need to be aware that today's technology, combined with energy and sustainability programs can reduce energy usage by as much as 50 percent over conventional buildings.
"Building management systems are underutilized," says Martin Feder, director of strategic marketing for Schneider Electric's building business. "Many people are not using them to the full advantage."
Or, in some cases, not at all, according to Dan Halvorson, North American controls director for McQuay International.
"Large buildings that have on-site facilities management generally do take advantage of installing equipment with communication controls; however in smaller buildings (less than 50,000 square feet), building controls often are value-engineered out, based on first-cost decisions," Halvorson says. "These decisions make the job of an FM who manages several small buildings more difficult from a sustainability perspective."
Historically, the move to use building automation as a key driver toward sustainability has been a reactive one, Feder says. But, as automation continues to become more sophisticated, and as energy costs continue to climb, he and other experts believe facility managers increasingly will become more proactive towards implementing BACnet controls for greater savings and efficiency.
"The industry will be willing to spend more time and money up-front to set up an energy management system that will pay back many times over the life of the building," Feder says. "It's being pushed in the direction to collect information and to use that information in better and smarter ways."