To Maximize BAS Benefits, Focus On Overcoming Resistance To Change, Bad Habits

By James Piper, P.E.  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Proper BAS Installation, Operation Are Keys To Reaching System's PotentialPt. 2: Operator Training, Adequate Staffing Levels Help Reach Full Potential Of BASPt. 3: This PagePt. 4: Retrocommissioning Keeps BAS Working At Peak Efficiency

4. Overcome resistance to change. Facility departments are very conservative organizations. When something works, the facility staff tends to stick with it even if it is not the best practice available. Change is often frowned upon. While some new technologies are embraced, there is an inverse relationship between how quickly they are accepted and their complexity. Hand-held devices, meters, and other small-scale technology items gain acceptance rather quickly. Facility-wide, computer-based control systems do not.

To some extent, this conservative approach is understandable. The focus of operating and maintenance personnel is and must be on keeping things operating. The most frequently stressed benefits promised by building automation — improved effectiveness and reduced energy costs — are secondary to the operating staff. The challenge is overcoming this resistance.

One effective method is to set up a demonstration program. The program can involve an entire building, or a single system within a building. Select a building or system where there have been an above-average number of problems, such as occupant complaints, maintenance calls, or nuisance system failures. Set up control system operations on the building or system that personnel have been reluctant to implement. Establish performance criteria that will be evaluated, such as the number of customer complaints, maintenance calls, or energy use. Monitor operations for a set period of time, and go over the results with operators and maintenance personnel.

The number of problems in the building or system likely will significantly increase during the early days of the demonstration, as many of these deficiencies have existed undetected for some time. But as the program progresses, the frequency of problems will fall. Energy savings, provided that there are sufficient submeters, will be demonstrated. Complaints will decline. Demonstrating these improvements over time will help to win over skeptics.

5. Break bad habits. One of the biggest obstacles to having a BAS live up to its potential is the problem of breaking bad habits. The single largest bad habit is seeking the quick solution. Maintenance personnel always have been under pressure to resolve issues quickly. As a result, quick, “temporary” fixes are put in place. Controls are jumpered out. Actuators are disconnected or wired in a set position. Valves are opened to a set position. While these actions may temporarily satisfy the complaint, they do not fix the underlying problem. And temporary is rarely temporary. Temporary fixes can remain in place for so long that nobody remembers that they were supposed to be temporary. Later on, when another problem develops, a new temporary fix is put in place. Soon the system is essentially running in manual mode with little or no control or oversight from the building’s control system. Energy is wasted. New problems develop that are even harder to diagnose.

System operators and maintenance personnel have to change their behaviors. Yes, it is sometimes necessary to put in place temporary fixes, but the key word there is temporary. If the system is to live up to its potential, problems must be investigated and fully diagnosed, and the proper, permanent repair put into place.

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  posted on 1/17/2014   Article Use Policy

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