We are not going to keep up with the future if we don't change the way we specify, procure and deliver Building Management Systems
50 years ago, building control systems consisted of relays, thermostats, time clocks and pneumatics. It made sense for mechanical engineers to scope and specify the control system as a subsection of the mechanical specification.
The cost of gas, water and electricity, NABERS ratings and clients expectations are driving technology in buildings, but how difficult is it to just get the base control system (valves, controllers, sensors, power supplies) installed in the current construction industry. How are we supposed to now also install an Integrated Platform?
I have spent the past 4 years trying to find ways to get high quality Building Management Systems installed in major new construction projects, and it's near to impossible. Too many of the key stakeholders do not have a long term investment in the building. This isn't a criticism. Would you spend money you didn't need to if you started with a 0% margin and only had ownership for 2 years.
I have come to the conclusion that the construction industry and building end users priorities are totally unaligned and this is not going to change. You can brief, scope, specify and manage as much as you like, but proper BMS commissioning and tuning is not going to happen. Preceding trades are going to run late, power will come late, the Integrated Communication Network will not be ready and the practical completion date will not move. Something needs to change.
- BMS systems need to be specified by BMS/technology specialist consultants.
- The BMS contractor needs to be engaged alongside mechanical and electrical.
- There isn't going to be time for commissioning, tuning and awesomeness. Those days are over, so stop trying to force it, we need to change the BMS delivery model.
Points 1 and 2 are already starting to change, here is a thought on point 3. Its not tested and not perfect, but we need to start somewhere.
Change the requirements for practical completion.
- All instrumentation installed and point to point tested
- All controllers installed, online and programed
- All field sub networks installed, devices online and points built into the database
- All 3rd party systems integrated and points built into the database
- All HVAC graphics functionally complete
- All metering devices online and recording data at 15 minute intervals.
Draw a line in the sand, practical completion achieved.
Now, without the pressure of being influenced by other contractors priorities and helping to meet their contractual obligations, lets get stuck into to the stuff that actually makes a difference.
- Final commissioning, tuning control loops, staring at the screen for hours, days or weeks, studying how each system is working and more importantly how it is affecting other systems.
- Build the nice to have graphics, quick searches and optional tools that make tuning easy and fun.
- Modify or reprogram those control strategies that seemed like a good idea, that worked last time, but just aren't working in this particular application.
- Collaborate with for example the chiller supplier to better understand the details and squeeze that extra 0.05 star out.
- Build up Energy Management Systems that do something more than just open up a dashboard of each individual meter, build virtual meters, kWr and COP calculations.
- Work on the building analytics algorithms.
- Work on those never done before Integrated Platform interfaces to new technologies; these are exciting times!
This is quite an extreme change, but we need to try something otherwise we are going to get left behind.