Break Bad Habits To Improve Building Automation System Performance

  June 22, 2015

This quick read comes from James Piper, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management. Building control systems have long been promoted as the end-all, be-all for building occupant comfort and energy conservation. But when facility managers compare their building’s performance to that of other facilities, they often find that their facility's energy use does not match up to expectations, or that the number of complaints from occupants is higher than what managers consider to be an acceptable level. To get the building automation system to perform at its peak, it is often necessary to break bad habits.

One of the biggest obstacles to having building automation systems live up to their potential is the problem of breaking bad habits from the past. The single largest bad habit to break 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. The problem is that, 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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