Building Automation & 3 Ways to Stop Wasting Your Cash
By: Chris Saltz
Date: July 7, 2015
Are you the owner of a commercial or institutional facility? Or building one? Or in the design and/or construction industry? Are you mesmerized by the onslaught of new technology….are your vendors presenting the “latest technology” just months after you purchased their last great thing? You are not alone. The Fortune 500 loses 20 to 50 companies every single year (http://sni.ps/cYT); continuous success is never a forgone conclusion. You want to look at new technology, but before you make an investment in IT, a Building Automation System (BAS), Smart Building software, you’ll want to research a few things first:
1. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is not new, but the path is not yet clear. It’s the VHS-Beta debate all over again. With MicroSoft’s recent announcement that they will embed IoT management tools into Windows 10 (http://sni.ps/cYv), maybe a simple BAS software system will come with your next laptop. But the traditional BAS companies have made heavy investments in cloud-based BAS software, such as Johnson Controls’ Panoptix platform for managing various IoT functionality in the cloud (http://sni.ps/cYt). It is anyone’s guess what the future holds for commercial building monitoring and control; but there is plenty to choose from. The traditional players (Johnson, Siemens, Allerton, Distech, etc) are facing an alarming array of powerful new players (Google, MicroSoft, …) in a world they once owned with proprietary software and hardware tools. So before you decide to integrate everything in your building into one platform (lighting, HVAC, security, fire, etc), be sure you understand the risk of investing prior to a very different platform becoming available at a much lower cost in the very near future. One we may not have even heard of yet.
2. The #1 Concern of the IT leader is “Security” (CIO Magazine,http://sni.ps/cYn). In my 20+ years in the building automation business, I have heard the same thing over and over again. Whether related to wireless building products, the number of software license seats, or the ability for web access, the IT and Facility departments are rightfully concerned about security. Many organizations simply put the BAS on a separate, dedicated network, nearly doubling the costs of a good portion of a facility’s IT infrastructure. But does this really create a secure separation between facility IT and core business IT, or just the allusion? By building a separate network of wires, wireless routers, switches, and servers, you have really created a second IT department within the Facility Department…one that absolutely needs the same level of security (physical, software, AND behavioral) as the IT Department. So before you make the decision to double up the IT platforms in your facility or on your campus, consider simply tackling the security issue better; but just once.
3. In terms of “Life Cycle Cost” (lowest total cost to own and operate) there is still a great deal of low hanging fruit. And some of the lowest hanging fruit of all is better building controls (HVAC, lighting, etc). Lowest hanging because building controls are generally inexpensive to install compared to major mechanical or electrical retrofits (a light bulb or chiller “turned off” is absolutely 0 kw/ton; I challenge the lighting and chiller industries to beat that). But many facility owners are unaware that there is a great deal of no-risk, no-cost help out there. Or possibly they are unsure of the process. If you’re a Los Angeles DWP customer, for example, you can join your peers and contact the LA Better Buildings Challenge (a department of the LA Mayor’s office) for a free initial energy audit….over 52 million square feet of buildings already have (http://sni.ps/cY3). And there are many energy service companies (http://sni.ps/cYR) that will perform a no-risk, no-cost initial energy audit….providing great insight as to whether or not you are literally “sitting on gold” in your building.