Facility Manager Cost Saving/Best Practice Quick Reads RSS Feed
June 18, 2015 -
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This quick read comes from James Piper, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management. There is little question about the benefits of a well-designed and installed building automation system. Systems can reduce energy use by 20 to 30 percent or more. They allow operators and managers to monitor operations anywhere. Because they constantly monitor system operation, they can help facility managers quickly identify problems as they develop and can be used to help diagnose complex operational problems. But systems can fall short of expectations for many reasons. One problem is skimping on staffing. When facility managers hear the word automation, they tend to think of a system that runs itself, carrying out a wide range of preprogrammed instructions. Set up the system, enter the 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.
Building automation systems do not run by themselves, 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. In many cases, these deficiencies may have existed for years but have 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 that a facility manager is trying to accomplish by installing the system.