The prospect of energy savings has been the traditional selling point to justify a Facility Management System (FMS). There are several key functions of an FMS that make this a valid justification. Traditionally, an FMS will reduce energy consumption by managing HVAC equipment more efficiently, while still maintaining the creature comforts we’re all accustomed to. This is accomplished by introducing various energy-saving strategies like “Optimum Start-Stop” and “Night Temperature Setback.” Many systems will also control lighting to insure that lights are on only when necessary. Some FMSs will even allow compliance with IAQ standards like ASHRAE 62-2001 by monitoring the CO2 in a space and controlling outdoor air intake to provide acceptable air quality.
As good as these systems are, many lack several advanced functions that are extremely valuable to commercial building operators. Superior FMS providers have the capability to remotely monitor and modify a building’s control parameters. Possible benefits attached to such 24/7/365 monitoring capabilities include remote diagnostics and system troubleshooting, automated real-time notification of critical system events, and even dispatching of appropriate service technicians. Employing an FMS with remote access capabilities allows building operators to make time schedule or set-point changes any place, any time.
By leveraging Web and server technologies, advanced FMSs provide scheduling functions that can be automatically propagated throughout every location of a large facility automatically, saving time and money. This can be beneficial to any facility occasionally needing to modify occupancy hours or adjust temperature set-points at multiple locations. Additionally, selecting an FMS that limits or prevents non-authorized users from adjusting “Set-Point” levels allows the building owner to maintain better control over temperature, lighting schedules, and occupancy schedules. This, in turn, helps building owners manage energy costs and building usage more effectively.
Although these benefits are important to building owners and managers, the return on investment (ROI) for any system must still be explored. In most applications, a good FMS should provide an ROI of less than two years, based on the energy savings.
As an example of this technology at work, examine a typical 5,000-square-foot retail store that’s part of a nationwide chain. As part of the retail industry, each store may require periodic schedule changes to implement new sales strategies, special holiday operating hours, or other special activities – in addition to temperature and lighting control. A large-scale FMS can easily broadcast new operating hours to every store in the chain, as well as standardize lighting schemes and temperatures. A large chain such as this may also wish to take advantage of remote alarming capabilities to constantly monitor every store for equipment failure, as well as problem troubleshooting. Service companies can also be dispatched automatically to address problems – all without the interference of local store personnel. In some areas, the chain may even qualify for energy rebates offered by local utility companies.
As we can see, the real values in today’s FMSs are not simply the stand-alone temperature and lighting controls systems from years ago. The added benefits of large-scale schedule changing, remote monitoring, remote troubleshooting, automatic service dispatch, and energy rebates are what make up the true value of today’s Facility Management Systems.
Mike Young is marketing analyst for Computer Process Controls (www.cpcus.com) at Sidney, OH-based Emerson Climate Technologies (www.emersonclimateretail.com).