Open-access content 15th September 2009
BEMS - what do they do, why should we have them and where are they heading? Maureen Moody checks out building and energy management systems
17 September 2009
by Maureen Moody
Building management systems do exactly what they say on the tin, so says Simon Willcox, product development manager at PeopleCube. "They manage buildings and enable us to run them more efficiently."
And not just efficiently, but energy efficiently too. David Kitching, building development manager at Siemens Building Technologies, believes building and energy management systems (BEMS) are the lifeblood of FM organisations: "They report all problems and can be programmed to save considerable amounts of energy based on how a building is being used, and they can provide those essential details that prove the FM organisation has taken the right, timely remedial action to fix problems, protect buildings and occupants, and save waste."
Kitching says it's about continuous real-time monitoring of the status of environment and occupancy, and reporting instantly when anything drifts outside of agreed limits. "For instance, are the chillers still on when it's nearing the end of the working day and the outside temperature is dropping? Or, say, it's the end of the month and the accounts department will be working late - the set point can be managed to ensure the environment is comfortable at 7pm without having to run the expensive chillers for only 10 per cent of the building."
Paul Crilly, deputy chairman at Reliance Facilities Management, cites three climate change-related benefits of BEMS. "First, systems can drive down the cost of a building's operation through the efficient use of utilities and plant and the effective maintenance of plant and building fabric. Second, they enable social responsibility through compliance with associated legislation. And third, they make it increasingly attractive to occupiers and potential buyers."
Not surprisingly, providers are seeing ever-increasing demand for BEMS. "There is a growing demand for a green approach to building facilities management and a rising trend for BMS systems to support environmental management strategies," comments Jack Fraser, product director at Service Works.
This can be achieved, he says, via automated monitoring of meter readings: "Exceptions in energy use trigger alarms in the BMS, which can be sent via SMS or email to relevant personnel. Alternatively, when the BMS is integrated with an application such as Service Works' QFM, alarms automatically raise help desk requests. Additionally, increasingly sophisticated analysis and graphical reporting within BMS systems allows building owners to measure and analyse power consumption, control waste management and support accurate utility billing."
Anders Noren, director at Priva Building Intelligence, develops the meter monitoring issue. "In the past you connected electricity, gas, water, and sub meters by pulse counters, wiring each meter back to a control panel to measure the number of pulses. So if you have 30 sub-meters in the building, there's a huge cost saving in putting in one bus communication loop, rather than wiring each meter to individual panels.
"Today more variable speed pumps are fitted with inverters, and by using communication protocols you can find out the amount of energy used, water flow rates, runtime hours, or the torque, temperature or speed of the pump. All this data helps FMs analyse an installation's operation and put in maintenance alarms. At Priva we integrate by applying different open protocols. So the control devices talk to protocols within our own products, and we can interface with other devices."
Mix and match
Integration and interfaces are a central plank of building intelligence says Noren. "Over the past 10 or 15 years people talked a lot about integration but it didn't really happen. Now integration between different third-party devices is standard."
As Crilly at Reliance points out, "Additional benefits and efficiencies can be achieved by integrating BEMS with other management systems such as those controlling access, CCTV, lighting, and fire and intruder alarms. Integration here can, through continuous monitoring of the building performance, enable actions to reduce unnecessary running costs."
But what about the people aspect? "What building management systems don't do is manage people and resources", notes Willcox at PeopleCube. "This means you have to find interfaces that will talk to the BMS so the people aspect is captured. Imagine A Person; he/she is based in London and therefore does not have a pass to get into the Edinburgh office where they have reserved a hot desk and have a series of meetings. If on reserving hot desk and meeting rooms A Person's access control card was upgraded for that day to enable access around the Edinburgh office, this would to save time and effort in managing A Person on arrival."
So what are the day-to-day implications for the FM? Paul Ehrlich, president and founder of the Building Intelligence Group, says there are plenty of benefits. "We see intelligent building systems providing FMs with an improved and consistent user interface for operation of all building systems. For example, you can see a floor plan showing temperatures, energy usage, fire and security information all on one page. Integration can optimise systems, for example only providing cooling and lighting in conference rooms when their use is scheduled.
"Intelligent building systems offer easy remote operation allowing for on-site, off-site and mobile operations. There's the ability to bring facility information into a business enterprise computing model. Tools such as system analytics, fault detection and diagnostics, energy information, dashboards and connection to maintenance management become possible.
"The end benefit is an improved set of tools that can result in reduced energy and operations expense and improved occupant experience."
So what are the newest trends? "Probably the most significant is the entry of traditional IT companies into this space," suggests Ehrlich. "Cisco, IBM and Accenture are all becoming involved, starting to drive the market towards an intelligent building automation system that merges IT with facilities. As for future advances, we'll see the delivery of high-performance buildings, and a movement towards better diagnostics and analytics and measurable performance."
Ultimately, Kitching at Siemens Building Technologies, sees future developments having a positive impact on the role of the FM. BEMS systems that adopt the very latest eu.bac standards can make plant as effective as possible and operating to appropriate standards. Each building has its special characteristics and BEMs can ensure the highest possible energy efficiency rating. "This", he concludes, "will promote the skills of the FM organisation."
Maureen Moody is a freelance journalist
Priva case study
At Charterhouse School in Surrey, Priva has achieved backward compatibility and integration with other manufacturers' systems, while enabling future-proof building control.
A major refurbishment and the construction of a new language block prompted an upgrade of the BEMS with Priva controllers. The existing sensors and cabling were used because Priva controllers support any temperature sensor, do not require screened cabling and are equipped to communicate with a range of protocols. This led to savings in capital cost and installation time.
The new controllers monitor and control HVAC systems, and achieve energy savings through an optimum start and weather compensation programs. A natural ventilation system interfaces with a DALI lighting system via its built-in BACnet over IP capabilities, giving a soft start capability that maximises lamp life and enables the lighting to be dimmed from 100 per cent to 1 per cent.
In addition, built-in, multilingual communications and the ability to communicate over a range of networks, including Ethernet and the Internet, is enabling the new BEMS to accommodate future developments in building controls.