By connecting to an array of building systems, BACnet enables facility managers to tap a diverse range of building information, from energy usage to occupancy patterns and more.
The power of BACnet systems and the importance of the information that these systems help convey offer new opportunities for facility managers. This can occur when BACnet connects the BAS into the enterprise network.
"Full integration of the building automation system with the enterprise system is the Holy Grail," says Marc Petock, vice president of global marketing and communications for Tridium. "It offers true business value — efficiency, performance and cost reduction."
BACnet is well-established as a means of integrating diverse building systems. A quick search of published articles will reveal numerous examples, says Steve Tom, director of technical information at Automated Logic Corp.
"The recent ASHRAE headquarters renovation integrated equipment made by multiple, often competing, manufacturers into a LEED Platinum facility," Tom says. "The Mississauga City Centre project integrated multiple vendors' HVAC, lighting, fire and security controls in multiple buildings and was certified as a 'Go Green' system. And Rowan University in New Jersey has successfully used BACnet to unify buildings across its campus and to get competitive bidding on all new work."
Linking the BAS with the larger IT enterprise takes the goals of building system integration — such as easy system interaction, information gathering and the goal of total operating efficiency — beyond the facilities department into the full scope of the organization.
This arrangement is different from a collection of integrated building systems available via the Web at a central location. The enterprise system collects data, integrates it and applies programs and processes that optimize the benefit to the enterprise and shares the data with other enterprise-wide applications.
To further that end, in 2008, ASHRAE adopted ASHRAE 135-2008 Annex N. According to Tom Zaban, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Reliable Controls, Annex N defines BACnet/WS, which is the Web services interface to the protocol that allows users to bring the BACnet information into an enterprise system using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and XML, extensible markup language.
"It bridges the information from BACnet to easily bring to any type of data communications or modeling across the Internet," says Zaban. "The purpose of this is to integrate the facility data with other business management applications. Annex N defines the structures and the rules to do that, yet as a whole, this level of industry is still in its infancy."
"An enterprise system spans both location and information access barriers that have existed previously," says Chris Hollinger, senior product manager of integrated systems for Siemens Industry Inc.'s Building Technologies Division. "More information is available to more types of users than ever before. The challenge and opportunity is to leverage the availability of this information to the decision makers, both traditional users, such as facility managers, and non-traditional users, such as finance and IT professionals."
Peter Wilson, director and product specialist for Schneider Electric buildings business partners division, defines the enterprise in two ways.
"I see two different definitions of enterprise systems. The first is one where building systems and information systems integrate to provide single-seat access to information from all systems," he says. "The second is a large system encompassing multiple locations across a county, country or worldwide."
Hollinger says that implementing a standard protocol solution, such as BACnet, is a logical approach when integrating the enterprise system with the BAS. "These solutions will have the best flexibility for facility additions and expansions, as well as upgrade and migration options," he says.
When BACnet and control systems were in the early stages of implementation, it was somewhat uncommon to have building management systems on the local network. The increased use of local area networks and wide-area networks and the integration of the Internet into the enterprise network have driven improvements to network technology.
"If a building owner is using controls, it is quite common, or even expected, that the controls can interoperate to some degree," says Larry Haakenstad, Alerton's director of sales. "In the past, integration with the enterprise was a lofty goal, but with a platform like BACnet, rules for interoperability are much more accessible. Recently, more building owners require that the building controls operate on their network where they can control access and safeguard their network security."
IP networking technology now facilitates the transmission of data across vast distances so they can converge at a single point of monitoring and control or be distributed to the desired locations within the enterprise.
"Enterprise systems collect data from multiple, diverse systems and provide information to both operations staff and business managers," says Brian Dutt, vice president of sales and marketing at Delta Controls. "A good example of an enterprise system is seen on large projects where a requirement for long-term maintenance service performance is specified. In this situation, for the management firm to avoid performance penalties, they must ensure that specific measures are maintained, while at the same time minimizing operating costs."
Dutt says the most efficient way to do this is to have a centralized enterprise management system that reports across multiple building systems, gathers alarm information and dispatches appropriate service personnel.
"Without an enterprise-level system in place, it would be very difficult for the management organization to maintain performance while minimizing costs," he says
Roy Kolasa, open systems integration manager for Honeywell Building Solutions, offers this example: "On a university campus, the student identification card doubles as a meal card and an access card. It also links the student to a specific housing unit and facilities," he says. "The student presents the card to enter a building, and once access is granted, the HVAC system switches to occupied mode and begins heating the facility. The student database also is integrated in such a way that a change in student status is passed to all access panels via the HR database. An invalid or stolen card triggers video and alarms to automatically notify authorities."
Another example: "Enterprise integration is becoming the cornerstone to energy optimization," says Rocky Moore, OEM sales and marketing manager for American Auto-Matrix. "In order for one to understand the level of energy buildings are consuming, one must be able to see the entire picture. This means understanding not only electricity consumption, but every other resource being utilized within the building."
As Moore points out, BACnet allows integration to become more cost effective as it virtually eliminates the need for custom drivers and gateways between devices that speak the protocol.
"As we continue to make our buildings smarter so they can be more efficient, the demand for cost-effective solutions also rises. BACnet is a part of that solution, saving time, energy and money through common protocol integration," Moore says.
If this kind of building information is appropriately linked to enterprise applications and service partners, it can "dramatically" increase the productivity of the facilities management staff, says BACnet International President Andy McMillan and president of Teletrol, a Philips company.
"Building information can be used to more accurately forecast energy and maintenance costs. It can also be used to identify 'best and worst' practices so that the best can be implemented more broadly," McMillan says. "It also can lower service costs as it makes it much more practical to build-in accountability to service processes."
This information gathered across the enterprise can be used for numerous functions. These include building utilization reports for utilities and functions; tying into an accounting system to provide after-hours billing for a multitenant office building; generating work orders when equipment is in need of repair or maintenance; automated demand response from utility companies; and even weather information, such as forecasts, for the advanced operation of the facility.
"The enterprise operates in real time," says Terry Hoffmann, director of BAS marketing at Johnson Controls. "We cannot afford to operate facilities any differently."
An enterprise approach to BAS presents new ways for facility managers to add value to the organization. But that new approach starts with a focus on fundamentals. One good example is making sure that the BACnet provider is qualified. That means a variety of things, says Ben Dorsey, vice president of marketing for KMC Controls. In addition to checking references and asking about training, replacement equipment and service contracts, Dorsey advises asking about such matters as the use of BACnet services and the existence of proprietary elements in the BACnet system, the difficulty of making changes to the installed system, and what happens after a power outage.
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