A building automation system (BAS) can provide many benefits to building owners and landlords, including higher energy efficiency, lower operating and maintenance costs, better indoor air quality, and greater occupant comfort and productivity. However, there are several essential factors that building owners need to consider when implementing BAS in their properties.
Before we discuss critical considerations let’s briefly review its functions and components.
What is a BAS?
BAS involves integrating various components within a building’s structure, such as heating, lighting, ventilation, air conditioning, security alarms, elevators and other parts. The primary goal of this type of infrastructure is to improve system efficiency, reduce costs and increase safety. Generally, a BAS can be implemented either during initial construction or through a retrofitting process for an existing structure. It offers an excellent way to have centralized control over a building’s systems and is effective at discovering problems in advance as well as continually optimizing performance to reduce costs and energy waste. Most processes are handled without any direct input from building managers, allowing them to address other issues, but building managers can make adjustments as needed.
What is the function of a BAS?
The primary function of a BAS is to provide control of heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and other critical building systems. However, it also monitors individual components to alert building managers about detected problems because it has access to a full range of building data. For example, BAS tracks temperature data which is critical for proper climate control and occupant comfort. It can use pressure and chemical sensors to uncover air quality issues in mechanical aspects of the building. A building’s security system relays data to the BAS to indicate potential intruders.
What are the components of BAS?
BAS is a structural system and generally consists of five components: sensors, controllers, output devices, communication protocols and a terminal or user interface. Below is a list describing BAS components how they interact and relate to one another.
1. Sensors: These devices track temperature, humidity, the number of people in a room, the lighting level, and other values. The sensors transmit this information to centralized controllers.
2. Controllers: Act as the “brain” of the BAS. They collect data from sensors and then send commands to operating systems like HVAC units, the building’s lighting systems, security alarms and other connected parts.
3. Output devices: Once the controller sends out a command, actuators and relays go into action to follow the requirements. For example, they can reduce or increase the heating in a particular part of the building, dim lights in unused offices, or turn on the air conditioning before people come to work.
4. Communication protocols: The BAS uses a specific language that’s understood by the system’s individual components to modify settings or execute commands. BACnet and Modus are the most commonly used options in communication protocols.
5. Terminal interface: Building and facility managers interact with the BAS through a terminal or user interface. It presents information in a way that a user can monitor the condition of the building and choose to override settings manually.
BAS considerations for building owners
While the goal of bringing together disparate parts into an integrated centralized building system seems simple, what goes on behind the scenes is often more complicated, and building owners need to consider some important factors when deciding to implement BAS.
Legacy buildings are often equipped with systems that provide limited information to the building manager which make it difficult to optimize for energy savings or lowering costs. While a fully upgraded system can require a substantial amount of investment, owners can reduce this cost by using a retrofitted system.
Selecting a BAS interface
The terminal or user interface is one of the most critical components of the BAS system because facility managers use it as a means of accessing relevant data to identify problems and inefficiencies. A poorly designed user interface may not provide the appropriate analysis or data tools building managers need to discern where and which modifications to make.
Building owners should look for a modern visual data overlay that provides insights in a user-friendly form on a daily basis and can present the data in various ways including a comparative analysis of comfort vs. energy savings. This kind of system enables managers to make changes quickly based on real-time analytics. A good user interface allows building managers to make decisions that reduce energy and costs as needed but also maintain occupant comfort.
Minimize vendor lock-in
It’s common for a single company to provide an integrated system in a building, and adding new features entails sticking with the existing ecosystem. However, proprietary upgrades do not always offer all the features required by a building manager and may lack the flexibility in what can be done. While a retrofit or overlaid system can overcome this challenge, it is still critical that facilities and building managers, owners and other stakeholders work together to identify both short and long-term goals for the BAS. Knowing which systems will be upgraded in the future and where the most costs can be reduced are two important considerations.
Building owners need to make their systems as future-proof as possible. One of the primary challenges in BAS is making sure that it does not become obsolete. The rate at which technology is changing these days it’s easy for systems to become obsolete within a decade after installation. Building managers need to keep up to date on the relevant technology changes in the industry and develop a strategy which revisits the building needs over time. In other words, a set it and forget it mindset should be replaced by review and revise. Priority should be given to revisiting and discussing what is happening in the BAS and proptech industry at large so that the BAS can remain up to date.