Function Assessment Is First Step in Building Automation Upgrade Planning

  January 18, 2011

Today’s tip: Doing a function assessment for building automation upgrade planning.

Building automation systems, like all other building components, have a finite life. As they age, they become more difficult and expensive to keep operating. Components for replacement or expansion become harder to find. And manufacturers may cut off support to older systems, rendering them obsolete. When one factors in advances in system capabilities, facility managers face a challenging question: Is it better to expand an existing system or to replace it?

Perhaps the most important and yet the most often skipped step in the expand-or-replace evaluation process is the identification of the facility's automation needs. Too many systems are sold by the "wow" factor. Facility executives are given the demonstration that includes all of the bells and whistles of a new generation automation system, and they are sold.

Start with a function assessment. Building automation systems perform a wide range of functions, including energy management, HVAC system operation, security management, asset management and financial analysis. Examine how those functions are currently being carried out. Are the systems that are currently performing those functions able to seamlessly transfer data, or must data from one system be entered manually into another system? What level of control is being exercised over energy-using systems?

Identify additional functions that would benefit the facility. System designs and capabilities have seen tremendous improvements in just the past five years, with new functions being added and old ones being upgraded and enhanced.

Look at how the facility is currently being operated, what functions are being performed, and how a building automation system might be used to support or enhance those operations.

When identifying the automation needs for a facility, remember that facility needs, like the facilities themselves, are not static. Occupants change. Occupants' needs change. Even the way in which a facility purchases energy changes. Automation function assessments must take into consideration these future changes.


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