Whether you’re running a large boiler plant or a mid-sized office building, you need a way to keep track of and control its various systems. Traditionally, facilities managers have turned to building management systems (BMS), also sometimes called building automation systems (BAS), to manage their facilities’ heating and cooling plants, air handling units, lighting control, and other core elements. BMSs are designed to control the main energy-consuming systems in a facility as well as fire and safety equipment.
This article covers the components of a building management system and discusses some of the benefits and drawbacks of these types of systems.
What are the components of a building management system?
Most older buildings must be retrofitted to incorporate building management systems. Today, however, it’s rare for a new building to be built without an integrated BMS, where all the capabilities are incorporated into the building from day one, and the components are controlled by a master control system.
The primary function of building management systems is most often to control the HVAC, heating, and ventilation systems, but there are other functions as well. The main components of a building management system and their basic functionalities are as follows:
- Boiler controls—maintain a constant temperature and switch boilers on/off at certain times.
- HVAC—maintain a specified air state with regard to temperature and humidity; control fans and dampers; control air handling units and fan coil units.
- Lighting control—turn lights on/off according to a specified schedule.
- Electric power control—control and monitor core electrical and mechanical equipment.
- Heating—schedule the system on and off; maintain a set temperature point.
- Ventilation—adjust based on occupancy controls.
- Security and observation—access control; surveillance and intrusion detection.
- Fire alarm system—smoke control system; active alarm locations.
- Elevators—elevator video display; status system.
- Plumbing and water monitoring—detect hydraulic flows; open/close valves automatically; monitor/observe temperature deviations.
Many building management systems have additional capabilities and features; some can even be designed specifically for the facility itself. Typically these types of systems use a combination of hardware and software to monitor and manage, including a central server or servers, monitoring stations (for systems administrators), and remote sensors, as well as software that allows you to interact with the system.
Benefits & Drawbacks Of A Building Management System
If you’re considering whether or not to invest in a BMS, or looking for an alternate solution for your building, here are some things to think about.
Among the benefits of a BMS are:
- It protects your most costly equipment by allowing you to keep close tabs on it and ensure it functions properly.
- It simplifies the management of your facility, making it easy to access and control any area of your building’s operations.
- It helps your building operate more cost-efficiently through automatic scheduling and occupancy controls.
Some potential drawbacks are:
- Building management systems are expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the outset in addition to high recurring fees to keep it operational.
- The limitations in the data it provides won’t help you achieve maximum energy savings and operational efficiency.
- It may be missing some of the smaller equipment that also offers opportunities for savings.
- BMSs are disparate, siloed systems that don’t work collaboratively.
A Better Option: Advanced Building Management With The Internet Of Things
Today there’s a better way to manage your building than with a building management system: an advanced data gathering, monitoring, and control system made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT solutions like Iota’s smart building sensors and analytics platform make it possible to collect detailed data on just about every aspect of your building—big or small—giving you a level of visibility you simply can’t get with BMS.
For example, rather than just maintaining temperature, IoT sensors can be placed on your HVAC equipment to detect anomalies in its operation (excessive vibration, for instance), alerting you to problems before a costly failure occurs. By monitoring real-time energy use, you have more actionable data to pinpoint power-hungry, inefficient lights and equipment;change your usage patterns to avoid high demand charges; and make deliberate improvements to reduce your energy consumption.
Tactics like this could help you reduce your energy use by up to 30 percent.
If you’re interested in learning about a different approach to building management—one that unifies the building management components and makes your management strategy more effective—talk to us at Iota. Our solutions will benefit you whether you currently have an active BMS system or not. Get in touch today.