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Building Management Systems BMS (also known as Building Automation Systems BAS),  long valued for  delivering  the “smarts” for  “intelligent buildings,” have grown significantly in importance in recent years, largely for their ability to deliver competitive advantage.  In many cases the share of systems technologies for new construction projects can take up as much as 40 percent of the entire electrical package.  Most importantly, the landscape of commercial real estate has been permanently altered by the impact of network integration on the technologies governing virtually every aspect of building performance.

Building Management System schematic showing the diversity of systems on a single smart building network, with a Webserver running programmable logic controllers (PLCs) managing central plant controls and Variable Volume air (VAV) handlers on one secondary bus and on another, three different systems: lighting controls, a BACnet device and a LonTalk device.

Over the last two decades, proprietary building management technologies have given way to open source, starting with ASHRAE’s own BACnet system, and on to low cost, power over Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) systems. Increasingly, this means that diverse lighting and temperature controls, fire and security systems (including video surveillance) are being made to work together seamlessly over a flexible, unified network without complex or expensive programming. More importantly, they now deliver performance information and resources to users on systems that are able to monitor themselves to optimize value. Benefits of intelligent BMS to owners and tenants include the following:

  • Better control of internal comfort conditions

  • Individual room control capabilities

  • Increased staff productivity

  • Effective targeting and monitoring of energy consumption

  • Improved plant reliability and life

  • Effective all-season response to the environment

  • Saved time and money on maintenance

  • Increased competitiveness and market value

  • Improved tenant security via integration of access control and surveillance

  • Improved security and life safety in government & criminal justice facilities

As a consequence, Building Management Systems have migrated with remarkable quickness “down-market,” and have become a significant factor in competitive mid-market real estate environments, where commercial viability is subject to growing competitive pressure.  Intelligent buildings deliver competitive advantages with systems that offer significant cost control to tenants as well as owners, putting properties into high demand and not just in higher-end markets for corporate facilities.

But what does it actually mean for a building to be “smart” or “intelligent?”  At its most basic, intelligent building management systems keep building climates within specified ranges and provide lighting to rooms based on an occupancy schedule (if not with sensor-driven switches with physical occupancy response).  An intelligent BMS monitors performance and device failures across its network, providing malfunction alarms to facilities managers, and reducing building energy and maintenance costs compared to a non-controlled building. Intelligent systems also increasingly support enterprise security both as a function of improved building surveillance and access control, but also via integration of fire alarm and mass notification systems with the subsequent impact of these on perceived market value.

In addition, BMS systems capture performance data while providing a simple user interface that enables facilities managers to essentially tune the building to meet organizational priorities on a micro-level using any Web-enabled device. Optimization brings energy savings, occupant comfort, safety and security, as well as productivity; but at its core, an intelligent building delivers a highly responsive aggregate of value to both owners and the tenants with real impact on tenancy, profitability and customer satisfaction.

According to the Metropolitan Energy Policy Coalition (MEPC), a BMS can save $0.20 to $0.40 per sq. ft. in energy costs.  For a 200,000 sq. ft. building, this can mean up to $80,000 in annual savings.*  Depending on what operating costs are subject to system control, a smart system can impact roughly 40 percent of a building’s energy utilization; if lighting is included, this number jumps to 70 percent. Given the scale of the opportunity for savings, there seems to be no question that intelligent Building Management Systems are here to stay.

*BMS savings statistics from the MEPC are quoted from the May 30th article on Intelligent Buildings by Karnatz, Knight, and Szcodronski in the September 2014 edition of http://www.automation.com

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