Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Building automation systems allow FMs to manage multiple operational systems from one centralized platform.
By Regina Ludes
It used to be that having one centralized platform to monitor and control the operations of multiple facilities was a pipe dream. But the explosion of building automation systems (BAS) installations in recent years indicates that facilities operations are finally entering the 21st century.
But just because there’s an increased interest in BAS doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for your facility. There are numerous factors to consider, such as the technology currently in place, the type of data you want to monitor and how you want to measure it. However, experts agree that a BAS solution can make your facility work smarter and give you more control over the building environment. In addition to reducing energy consumption and costs, BAS can help you create a healthier and more comfortable environment for occupants and visitors.
According to market research firm P&S Intelligence, the BAS Market was valued at $77.1 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to $207.5 billion by 2030. Several factors are driving the boom. First, the technology already exists and has proven its performance in the marketplace, explained Marc Petock, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Lynxspring. As technology has evolved, facilities managers have become more knowledgeable about BAS and they understand that the benefits far outweigh the challenges, such as costs and installation. Further, building owners are more aware of the environmental impact of their facilities and are seeking solutions to make them more energy efficient and provide healthier air quality for their occupants.
“BAS is no longer a nice-to-have,” Petock said. “Facilities managers now realize that this is a must-have.”
How BAS Works
The BAS consists of various hardware, software, applications, sensors and data analytics. From a single dashboard, a user can monitor different systems at one time. Sensors measure data related to things such as temperature, security, water leakage and air quality. Then, the data convenes into a centralized system where it is converted into report form that FMs can access. The BAS uses data analytics to show how each location is performing, and the dashboard can be customized based on the FM’s information needs.
“Without BAS, many of these operations would need to be done manually,” said Mike Smith, Sales Director at FSG. “But instead, you can get more information consistently and accurately.”
However, that can lead to the potential of information overload, in turn overwhelming those attempting to interpret it. FMs will need to either customize the system dashboard or filter out the reports that BAS produces that contain nonessential information.
Making BAS Work for You
“BAS enables FMs to have more control over their facilities and have only one tool to sift through different datasets,” Smith said. A single-store FM, for example, may only need to monitor two or three pieces of information while another FM who oversees 100 stores will require different data, such as comparing energy usage between different locations.
While the primary benefits of BAS is to reduce energy usage and costs, a BAS enables managers to monitor operations at all their facilities at one time, not just one or two. “Consider first what matters to your team. Is it reducing service calls on the weekends? Or is it having greater transparency and control of your facilities?” said Zack Cornwell, Manager of Smart Buildings Enterprise at FSG.
The key to getting the right results from the BAS is knowing what specific data you want to monitor and how you want that data to be measured, Smith added. It also helps that FMs maintain their systems properly. “Like a new car, if the new automation system is not properly monitored or maintained, it won’t meet users’ expectations,” Smith said. “The key is setting the right expectations with FMs.”
What to Look for in a BAS
While the ultimate decision to convert to a BAS rests primarily with FMs, lack of education and fears about costs and installation can prevent them from converting to one. “Many FMs don’t understand the value that BAS might bring to their operations,” Smith said. “They don’t understand that it can be tailored to their needs. This isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. They don’t have to retrofit all their facilities at one time. They can start small with one or two locations and expand the system to all other locations.”
Cornwell suggested before converting to an automation system, FMs first educate themselves and their team about the benefits and how this solution will be managed. Armed with this understanding, they can make their case to C-suite executives, emphasizing how it can make their own jobs easier and how it can reduce operation costs.
Petock said FMs should look for an automation system with a proven track record. Systems that are installed in 50 buildings with solid results are more trustworthy than those that are installed at only five buildings, he explained.
Look for an open system that isn’t locked into one specific supplier, which can limit where FMs can go for service and upgrades. An automation system should be easy to use and scalable so it can be expanded to more locations as needed. Also, ask the provider if they have the means to address cybersecurity breaches. These are all issues that FMs should address before committing to a BAS.
Petock sees traditional building systems converging with workplace systems, so the two will work more seamlessly together. A process called active occupancy management allows certain systems to be adjusted based on real-time occupancy. For example, a room with three occupants in the early morning will require one temperature, but when the same room holds 30 occupants later in the day, a BAS can sense the increased population and automatically lower the temperature to make it more comfortable.
“FMs want to be able to adjust the comfort level at their locations and achieve better health for their occupants,” Petock said. “These days, building owners expect BAS to do more for them.”
Cornwell added that because of COVID-19, indoor air quality has become a bigger concern among building owners, who are taking steps now to create healthier environments. “BAS is moving to the point where it will be considered its own utility,” he said. “Companies will look to have all their critical utilities automated to create better environmental and operational standards.”