Commercial HVAC Equipment

Utilize the extraordinary power of your building automation system

Thursday, December 22 2016 3:34 PM
By Jon Goering

Building Automation Systems have existed for years, maintaining indoor temperatures, managing schedules and manipulating lighting.

Building Automation Systems have existed for years, maintaining indoor temperatures, managing schedules and manipulating lighting. They are good at what they do.

We entered a new era of technology in the last decade, and with that, BAS capabilities have increased exponentially. Now is a great time to revisit your system to see if you are utilizing its full capabilities and to examine if it’s outdated.

In this article we’ll examine those technological advances and discuss if the time is right for a BAS upgrade.

The Drivers

A variety of factors have played a key role in driving technological change in the building automation market, including smart phones.“Ten years ago, smart phones were a new idea. Today, everyone has a smart phone, and they expect to use it to do whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want,” says Gene Shedivy, a controls product leader with the Trane Company.

Many facility leaders have grown accustomed to carrying a smart phone or tablet with them, and they want their BAS to be user-friendly like their electronic devices. Additionally, facility leaders want to make changes to their BAS via their devices at anytime and from anywhere.

“A whole new science has emerged from the computer industry: how do we design around users and make the user experience better?” Shedivy says.

Other factors driving change include wireless technology, cloud computing, computer and software technology advances and open standard protocols such as BACnet, IP and ZigBee, he says.

“Twenty years ago, all BAS Controls were proprietary. Ten years ago, many BAS Controls had options for standard protocols like LonTalk and BACnet. Today, all new BAS controls are using standard protocols, dominated by BACnet.”

Big Data

BAS systems have always maintained building comfort, and in so doing collected huge amounts of data. Cloud-based solutions have become a trend, replacing systems hardwired in buildings, Shedivy says. Software programs analyze system data and make it accessible to building operators in a user interface that is easy to understand.

Such capabilities allow operators to manage their building’s systems in real time. If a building suddenly consumes more energy than normal or a VAV box is not operating properly, the BAS will notify the operator. The savings from these functions can be significant.

Upgrade vs. Replace

The question for building owners is whether to update an existing system or upgrade to a new one. Shedivy says it depends on several factors.

“In short, a plan of continuous upgrades helps prevent replacement,” he said. “For a really old BAS that has been long neglected, replacement may be the only viable option. Often, a better approach is one of update and migration. An update and migration plan can be spread across years to avoid large disruptions.”

Shedivy suggests to start with the head end and user interface and over time replace anything that has become obsolete.

“When you are in the constant update and migration mindset, you may never replace again. Just keep updating,” he says.

If an upgrade is necessary, consider ease of operation when choosing a system. Building operators are busier today than ever, and learning how to operate a new controls system can be daunting. Shedivy says BAS systems have varied in this category.

“They can be made very easy to operate. However, most systems are not. Sometimes it is because the technology is dated. Often it is because they were installed without a good plan for how to make them easy to operate.”

The question for building owners is whether to update an existing system or upgrade to a new one.

Staying Ahead

For current BAS systems, Shedivy says building owners should think about updates in terms of security, compatibility and productivity.

Hackers look for ways to break into your systems constantly, he says. Keep your BAS software and components updated, because manufacturers make continuous changes to stay ahead of potential cyber-attacks.

Compatibility also plays a key part, since technology changes constantly. Like internet browsers and smart phone operating systems, building automation systems should be upgraded regularly to avoid situations where your system won’t operate as it was designed, Shedivy says.

He adds that updated systems also allow users to be more productive, because those new features enable users to perform daily tasks more efficiently.

“Conversely, if you fight security and compatibility issues, you will experience reductions in productivity,” Shedivy says.

The Future

Today’s building automation systems share characteristics such as openness, mobility, optimization, data-richness and wireless. Shedivy says these capabilities also can be added to existing BAS.

As technologies advance, it’s probable that manufacturers will keep pace with those changes, and in some instances, may be agents of change.

As more aspects of our lives become connected to the internet and to each other – a term called the Internet of Things - it’s easy to forget that BAS has been at the forefront of the movement.

“For buildings, the BAS system has long been the hub of the Internet of Things,” Shedivy says. “By connecting your BAS to the internet, all of the components of the system are now available via the internet, which is what all the IoT hype is all about. It sounds like something new, but for BAS, it is something we have been doing for a long time.”


Technological advances have made BAS systems much more powerful while enhancing their operability. Facility leaders now can manage their buildings 24/7, 365, from anywhere.

The decision to upgrade to a new system or update an existing one depends on the age of the system and how well it has been maintained. In many cases, updates will keep a system in good working order. 

Does your facility have a building automation system? Does it operate properly? Is comfort an issue in your building? For more information, please email Jonathon Goering by clicking here or call 316-265-9655.

Knipp Services works with commercial and industrial building owners to identify solutions to reduce downtime and increase building efficiency. We provide services that enable building owners to have a high-performance building. “Making Buildings Better” sums up the mission statement of Knipp Services.

Topics: Building Automation Systems

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