The success of the BACnet protocol revolves around whether or not manufacturers truly produce building automation components that work together in any environment.
The surest way to determine this is through thorough testing of BACnet equipment. Thus, compliance testing and interoperability testing lie at the heart of the BACnet Manufacturers Association (BMA) activities.
The association formed the BACnet Test Laboratories (BTL) in 2000 to perform the testing necessary to create a BACnet product listing program that cites building automation interoperability, similar to the format used by the Underwriters Laboratories in the testing of products for public safety.
BMA awarded the first test lab contract to Cimetrics Inc. of Boston. Under this 12-month contract, Cimetrics will staff the lab; manage the development of testing procedures and tools; and test products for BACnet compliance. BMA officials monitor all of the lab's activities to ensure accuracy and fairness in testing. The testing is done on-site at Cimetrics in a dedicated area outfitted as a standalone laboratory.
The association is in the midst of an initial test qualification program that gives BTL's test labs experience with new test tools and procedures using real products. The trials also allow current BMA corporate members to have their products tested and listed before other companies in the building automation systems marketplace, says James Butler, BTL manager.
All test procedures have been developed by a working group of BMA members and are based upon the draft compliance-testing standard created by the BACnet committee (ASHRAE 135.IP). Tests performed depend on the product category and the BACnet functionality specified in the testing application submitted by the product manufacturer.
To-date, seven manufacturers have submitted a total of 28 individual BACnet products for testing. The results of the first round of testing from the initial test qualification program will be released simultaneously later this fall.
After a product has been tested successfully, BMA will list it in an official publication and on its website. Applicants must pay a listing fee of $2,000 per product for the first year and $1,000 per product each year thereafter.
Products that have been tested and listed may display the black-and-white BTL logo. Negotiations are under way between the BMA and the BACnet Interest Group Europe that will likely lead to a reciprocity agreement for product testing and listing.
"It's likely that consulting engineers and end-users will prefer to specify and purchase listed products where BACnet capability is required," explains Butler. "The BTL logo provides assurance of a high degree of compliance with the BACnet standard."
Detailed requirements for testing can be found on the BMA website (www.bacnetassociation.org).