By James M. Lee and David Craven
Recent technology advancements have brought a new day where quantifiable data is now available to give building owners concrete guidance in these financially sensitive areas.
The introduction of new automated building management paradigms and processes is revolutionizing building owners' abilities in strategic planning and facilitiessr management. At the forefront of these new tools is a concept called Networked Building Systems (NBS), which builds on a new generation of open building automation systems (BAS) and existing information technology
(IT) infrastructures to contribute directly to improving a facility's bottom line. NBS monitors, controls, and manages one building or a collection of buildings. It adds real-time data analysis to the functions of intelligent buildings, thus allowing building automation systems to perform at optimum levels.
The New Paradigm
Facilities management has come a long way since the 20th Century. From cnagement systems. Rather than approaching building automation systems and IT systems as discrete and isolated parts of a facility's overall toolbox, building owners can now think of them as working together, with building automation systems as part of the overall IT infrastructure.
In today's technology-dependent business world, almost every corporation boasts an IT infrastructure that handles communications, file sharing, and high-powered enterprise applications. It seems as though most corporate functions, from sales to human resources to manufacturing, have an automated system in place that interfaces with this IT infrastructure. However, there is one function that is often forgotten, although it may be eroding the corporate bottom line without anybody knowing it: building automation systems.
Possibly hundreds and even thousands of dollars a day are being lost because building automation systems have lagged behind the implementation curve. Until now, these systems have been put on the back burner by many building owners. However, with rising energy costs and dwindling energy supplies, it's time to think about utilizing the corporate IT infrastructure to interface with building automation systems to make facilities management a more cost-efficient function. A complete NBS solution may be the answer.
The Pieces are in Place
Essentially, three pieces of the technology puzzle have come together to make NBS available to building owners:
- Enterprise-wide management concepts, which have been implemented throughout corporations, are now being applied to facilities management systems. Once thought of in an isolated context, building automation systems can now interface with enterprise-wide IT infrastructures. Facility-related information is currently contained in discrete "Islands of Automation" and is typically not included in enterprise-wide IT systems. It generally stays resident in the facility and is not available to the enterprise. New applications are moving enterprise thinking into asset management, maintenance management, and fault detection and diagnostics. Value can be derived via the process of collecting data from building automation systems and delivering information to enterprise-wide recipients.
- Open building systems, based on communications protocols such as BACnet, enable building owners to purchase building automation systems, i.e., lighting, elevators, heating, alarms, etc., from any vendor and know that each system will interoperate. They also reduce the cost of interfacing disparate systems, because these protocols allow the communication portion of each control and monitoring device in a facility to use a standard set of rules or a common language.
- The expansion of the Internet allows facilities management to become even more powerful, providing an ideal conduit to promote more centralized control for operations, regulation, and compliance. Today, with almost all large facilities being wired for Internet communication, building automation systems are being designed to work directly with Internet-based systems. Until recently, communication between building systems typically required the use of telephone lines. Now, however, low-cost wide area network (WAN) communications systems are available, enabling the cost-effective movement of large amounts of information across multiple locations.
How NBS Works
Although these pieces have been in place and building automation systems are already in use today, NBS takes these concepts and technologies to the next level of facilities management. What makes NBS different from a building automation system? NBS goes beyond by offering a complete hardware and software solution with the capability to decode and comprehensively analyze a building automation system's operating and performance data. NBS does this by introducing innovative processes that include new algorithms and data mining techniques. The collected data is analyzed, and recommendations are proposed that will increase the operating efficiency and reduce the operating cost of a specific site or sites.
Continuous monitoring and surveillance by NBS analysts provide data on the efficiency of a facility's building automation systems and assures that performance is as close to optimal as possible. To accomplish this effectively, it is suggested that this phase be outsourced to professionals who act as advocates for the owner. They will monitor and analyze the continuing performance of the building automation system and recommend changes to the system that will directly affect the building's operational bottom line.
Why is NBS Unique?