How to Bridge the Gap to New Energy Saving Technology

Building owners can find themselves trapped with an older building management system (BMS) that is:

  • Obsolete
  • Built on proprietary communication protocols
  • Can no longer be serviced due to lack of knowledge by the BMS supplier or unavailability of parts

How do we escape this?  A quick history lesson provides perspective.

pneumatic BAS controls, BAS, pneumatic controls, Radius Systems, Legacy BAS Systems, BAS; older BAS system

Before the current proliferation of web-based, open systems, there were… pneumatic controls.  Pneumatic controls were based on the use of a compressed air source (usually 20 PSI), which was modulated through small mechanical devices (thermostats, receiver controllers) to control the temperature in buildings.  Unfortunately, these systems were inherently problematic. Air leaks, water/oil entrainment, and frequent required calibration made these systems both unreliable and very expensive to maintain.

The 1970’s spawned the next step – digital controls, which were built on microprocessor technology that utilized proprietary communication protocols developed by each BMS manufacturer to transmit data between controllers in the system.  This resulted in many building owners being “stuck” with whichever BMS they initially purchased since no other manufacturer’s system was able to communicate with it.  The only options were to continue with the original manufacturer’s system (usually at very high long-term cost) or install a completely separate BMS.  The release of the ASHRAE 135 BACnet standard in 1996 began the process of resolving the proprietary communication issue.

Legacy BMS based on proprietary protocols and obsolete technology eventually result in an accelerating drain of maintenance/capital due to:

  • High and escalating energy costs
  • High repair/maintenance costs
  • Unhappy and uncomfortable tenants due to temperature control issues caused by frequent breakdowns
  • Wasted time spent on repairing and troubleshooting unreliable parts
  • Costs related to inability to adhere to City, State or Federal energy codes or ordinances

How do you free yourself from this situation and greatly lower the long-term operating costs? Follow this recommended path:

  • Analyze annual energy usage against benchmarks (ENERGY STAR, CBECS, etc.). Perform an ASHRAE Level I (at minimum) Energy Audit as a starting point.
  • Analyze your annual repair/maintenance costs on a per/SF basis compared to benchmarks and compare to your original $$ investment in the BMS.
  • If you still have pneumatic controls, develop a comprehensive plan to replace them. This will yield reduced energy costs and far better control of the facility.
  • Research the many current open communication technology options that will allow you to integrate the old and obsolete BMS, while providing you a path for updating your system over time. This should also include investigating 3rd party repair options for the legacy BMS.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan and budget for a migration path to a leading-edge open-technology (BACnet-based) BMS platform.

If done correctly, implementing the above will reduce energy and maintenance costs, improve comfort and indoor environmental conditions, and provide you with a far superior user interface for ongoing operation and analysis of your facility.

AHU Controls; Automated Logic; ALC; Building Automation; Radius Systems