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With BAS Upgrades, People Are More Important than Technology


When it comes to upgrading the building automation systems (BAS), people are more important than technology. At the front end, buy-in from the operating engineers is crucial to a successful upgrade. It’s important to involve operating engineers in the selection, design, and installation of the new BAS. Ideally, bringing the engineer to visit buildings with the prospective BAS installed will allow them to demo it first hand, without the manufacturer or installation contractor present.

Keep in mind that a balance must be struck between the necessary sophistication and complexity of the BAS and the needs of the operator. Once all the design engineers and installers have gone home, the operator will be left to manage the system, to work out its inevitable quirks. The best performing systems are those where the BAS has been designed with the operators in mind.

Once installed, the system must be maintained. BAS rely on sensors to operate. Once they sense something, they respond to the variable, either temperature, humidity, flow rate, status, pressure, or another digital measurement. Therefore, the system only operates efficiently when its sensors are calibrated. The problem is that no one calibrates their sensors. Even when vendors promise calibration on a maintenance contract, it is rarely done. While it is possible for the operating engineer to calibrate them, this skill must be learned and added to the operator’s current maintenance regimen. It’s critical to be diligent in making sure that all items on the service contract, including calibrated sensors, are executed properly on an annual basis. If not, the incremental cost to upgrade down the road could be much higher because things aren’t working or haven’t been maintained.

Remember that a BAS is a computer program with electronic operators doing what a human would otherwise do manually. Therefore, the BAS will only be as good as the equipment it’s controlling and the people controlling it. Being a highly effective BAS buyer means understanding this principal and knowing the building and its operators well enough to meet all their needs and operational goals, beginning with the RFP process through installation and future maintenance.

This quick read comes from David Callan of McGuire Engineers.

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