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With BAS Upgrades, Pay Attention to Infrastructure, Openness


Not all network infrastructure is created equal. No one thinks about the network infrastructure when they look at a BAS. But that infrastructure is like a car's transmission: If it is not high quality and in good working order, it's not going to get you where you want to go. Buying the fastest/best backbone network infrastructure affordable today will provide the most flexibility for future incremental upgrades. For example, specifying CAT5E or CAT6 cable (today's highest speed Ethernet network) will allow the network speed to be increased down the road simply by changing the components on each end rather than having to change out all the cabling. Today's higher cable and network cost is incrementally small in relation to the costs of the labor and re-wiring that will be required to bring the BAS up to speed tomorrow.

There are varying degrees of openness. Most of today’s BAS systems are called "open," but this term is very misunderstood. In an "open system," the BAS device and network share a common communications protocol, like BACnet or LonWorks, with other building automation systems. Most BAS, though, especially those made by large equipment manufacturers, have proprietary software on the front end or come packaged in a proprietary bundled delivery system. This means that a limited number of technicians and contractors can modify or upgrade the BAS, making it more difficult to switch both systems and servicing vendors.

Additionally, the product lines that the big companies are going to be the most competitive on will be those that solidify their position in the building long term. While these systems will be functional, what’s saved upfront by bundling the software and equipment at the time of the upgrade may be lost in future options. Typically, the larger brand name BAS will also have different tiers of systems. They will often license out a lower version or previous generation of their systems to smaller contractors for less.

Being an educated consumer means knowing what your building's needs are, as it may be better to go with systems that are less or more open, depending on the personnel working with your BAS or previous experience with certain vendors and manufacturers.

This quick read comes from David Callan of McGuire Engineers.

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