Operator Training, Adequate Staffing Levels Help Reach Full Potential Of BAS

By James Piper, P.E.  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Proper BAS Installation, Operation Are Keys To Reaching System's PotentialPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: To Maximize BAS Benefits, Focus On Overcoming Resistance To Change, Bad HabitsPt. 4: Retrocommissioning Keeps BAS Working At Peak Efficiency

2. Provide adequate training. As building controls and automation systems have grown in their capabilities, they have become more complex. More complexity means more control capabilities, improved comfort, and reduced energy use. But it also means that those who work with the system must have more in-depth training.

It is not enough for operators to know how to access information; they must understand what information means and if it reflects a properly or improperly operating system or component. Similarly, it is not enough for operators to know how to change the status of a control point or to reset a temperature; they must understand why they are doing it and what impact it will have on operations and energy use in that and other systems. Without that understanding, the BAS may be reduced to a remote monitoring system.

Operator training is only one aspect of system training that is required. Those who must maintain the automation system and the equipment it controls must also be trained in not only the how but also the why. Without that understanding, they can make changes to components that will result in a degradation in the operation of an entire energy-using system. They can modify the operation of a single sensor or control point that prevents the building system from operating the way it was intended. Even worse, to quickly solve a maintenance problem, they can override a system function simply because it is the easiest solution, not realizing what impact their actions will have on operations. And these overrides can remain in place indefinitely, masking the real problem.

3. Don’t skimp on staffing. When facility managers hear the word automation, they may think of a system that runs itself, carrying out a wide range of preprogrammed instructions. Set up the system, enter operating parameters and schedules, and the system will indefinitely run with little or no human interaction. This thinking leads to the conclusion that staffing the system is not an important factor.

A BAS does not run by itself, out of sight and out of mind. Knowledgeable operators are needed to run the system, schedule equipment operation, modify temperature setpoints, and, most importantly, identify equipment and components that are not operating correctly. Maintenance personnel will be needed to correct deficiencies identified by system operators, deficiencies within the system itself and the components and systems it is operating. And the number of deficiencies that will need action catches most facility managers by surprise. These deficiencies may have existed for years but gone undetected. They will have to be corrected, though, if the full potential of the automation system is to be realized.

Skimping on staffing is a false economy. Without an adequate number of operators and maintenance personnel, corners will be cut. Deficiencies will go undetected or ignored. System effectiveness will be reduced. In other words, skimping on staffing will undo everything a facility manager is trying to accomplish by installing the system.

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  posted on 1/17/2014   Article Use Policy

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