When Upgrading Building Automation, Review Capabilities of Existing Systems

  April 12, 2011

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Before upgrading an existing building automation system, be sure to review the capabilities of the existing automation and HVAC systems.

When facility managers are considering upgrades to existing building automation systems, they are likely to be wowed by the capabilities available. But those capabilities will be useful only if they are implemented.

One of the most important factors to consider when reviewing the capabilities of the new system is that most existing systems are not used to their full potential. Some functions included in the original system may not have been needed when it was first installed. Management may have decided that some functions required too much effort or the collection of too much data to be of value. Still other functions may have been used initially, but dropped due to the lack of sufficient manpower or simply because they were too difficult to use.

Before making a decision to invest in a new system to gain additional system capabilities, make certain that they are not already available with the current system. If they are available, then the facility manager should evaluate whether anything about the new system makes it more likely that those capabilities will be used.

A review of existing capabilities must extend beyond the system itself to the building systems and components they will be interfacing with. Having the ability to control the operation of all building HVAC equipment is a feature needed if managing facility energy use is one of the primary goals of the system. If the HVAC systems themselves do not have the controls of the type and level of sophistication needed, then those HVAC systems will need to be upgraded or the energy savings impact of the new system will not reach its full potential. It may well be worthwhile to upgrade the existing HVAC system, but the option should be carefully evaluated before a decision is made to move ahead with a new building automation system.


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