developing a plan outlining desired key features, functionality, integration and security elements.
Organize a project team based on a principle of
inclusiveness — in order to develop a realistic, reasonable, and comprehensive assessment of needs while
ensuring your planning doesn’t get derailed, be sure
to invite the key C-suite representative, IT, security,
finance, corporate communications, legal, sustainabil-ity, and as many end users as possible to join the core
facilities and engineering team.
Like any master planning process, and similar to
the approach taken to master plan facilities, it’s critical
for the group to clearly and unequivocally develop
project guidelines outlining the team structure, the
process to be utilized in setting priorities, making
decisions, settling disputes, communicating within the
group, and communicating results.
Baseline questions once the foundation is set
It’s easy to be a bit overwhelmed by the options and
capabilities offered in building automation systems –
an engineer’s version of the kid in the candy shop. So,
spend some time thinking about a few key questions:
• Will the system serve a stand-alone building, or a
group of buildings?
• Which building systems should be part of the BAS,
and how should they be prioritized?
• What about potential future expansion? How easily
can sensors be added to the system?
• How user friendly is the system, and can upgrades
and additions be accomplished by in-house staff?
• Can future technologies and capabilities be tied into
whatever system is developed?
• What would be the optimal configuration of the BAS
from an operations viewpoint?
• Would developing a propriety system, or buying a
“plug and play” system make the most sense?
• What is the order-of-magnitude budget for the initial system and future upgrades?
• What level of training is required?
• What building intelligence does the facilities group
need, and how will data reports be configured?
• What should be budgeted for supporting equipment,
such as computers?
• Carefully consider the platform options — from
there, all future information (and headaches, if not
chosen widely and well) will flow. Will the BAS
reside in the cloud? Who will host your platform —
and what’s their reputation? Their business stability?
BIM and BMS — a marriage made in heaven?
Buildings and renovations are almost standardly
designed today using Building Information Modeling,
or BIM. One benefit of BIM is the generation and
memorialization of rich data, well beyond the pre-
viously limited data contained in plans generated by
more traditional methods. Beyond layout and material
specifications, BIM provides clear views into utility,
structural and M/E/P runs, and can be a receptacle of
specifications, cost data, materials, and equipment war-
ranties, just to mention a few options.
Integrating this information into a BAS system, and
linking the data, opens up exciting possibilities on a
number of fronts, including efficiency, standardization
of furniture/fixtures/equipment, institutional knowledge, staff deployment, and facilities planning.
For facilities professionals to efficiently maximize
the potential of linking BIM and BAS, the development
of sound uniform standards is key. Streamlining protocols, enabling interoperability of products, and removing the obstacles to selecting equipment operating on
the same platforms and utilizing the same protocols
will provide other benefits as well. Lower prices should
result from increased competition, as facilities professionals are not “locked in” to the vendor they originally
selected when implementing BAS. Uniform standards
should also enhance security, a growing concern in a
world that has daily announcements of system breaches.
Data, data everywhere, and not a use in sight
Data is only as good as its effective utilization. In the
process of developing a BAS plan, be realistic about
what your organization needs for data, how you will
use it, and what your staff can realistically absorb, analyze, and act upon.
How the data is presented can be as important as
the data gathered. During the system development
project, carefully develop or select the dashboards,
templates, data access, and reporting tools that will be
both useful and utilized. Sometimes how data is presented can be as powerful as the data itself.
Growing concerns about cybersecurity
At the advent of BAS capabilities, the focus was mainly
on what a building automation system could do for your
organization, not what it could potentially do to your
organization. Many facilities professionals didn’t feel
overly concerned that hostile actors would be motivated
to hack into their lighting controls or heating system.
But while your building’s lighting controls may not
be of particular interest to bad apples out there, the fact
that your BAS may be linked to other data-rich components of your company’s IT infrastructure could be
alluring. It’s been estimated that less than 20 percent of
BAS are rated as substantial and resistant to intrusion.
Your BAS can serve as an easy entry point into your
corporate network. And, once the hacker has gained
entry, in a linked and connected system it’s generally
a relatively easy pivot for the hackers to access highly