How can you find a great building management system partner?
By Martin Vahi
When picking the partner to monitor and control what is going on in your building or portfolio, it is important to make the right decision at the very beginning. The decision you make will affect your day to day work for years or maybe even for the rest of your building´s lifetime.
Some of the solution providers say that in order to achieve true energy efficiency in your building, you have to buy a new air handling unit. To swap this one would be costly and it may not bring the desired result. Imagine a big truck in front of you with the trailer – this can be the size of the air handling unit that was placed inside the technical room during construction of your building. Technology development gives us more options to play with.
You can turn your existing air handling unit more energy-efficient by using smart integration on top of the existing building management controlling system.
This is followed by then changing the parts of the system which are most inefficient. This could be for example motors, adding a variable-frequency drive and fans which bring you the efficiency. This intervention is much less intrusive and easier to do than changing a system the size of a truck. However, it is important to know that this integration has a short return on investment time.
Another important decision to get right is the monitoring system. The precision of sensors will make a difference in the overall comfort felt or energy saved. Let’s take the example of a CO2 sensor. To measure CO2 level some of the sensors use approximation using other gas detectors. They are not very precise and you have to calibrate them after one or two years. Another option is to use NDIR Scattering Technology, so the devices scan exactly the amount of CO2 molecules in the air and don’t require recalibration. Whilst this is a more expensive option, it will make a big difference once you start using and maintaining them. Choose sensors which give you sufficient enough granularity so that you can rest assured your business decisions are based on facts rather than proximations.
Some energy-efficient solution suppliers may say that their software solution is enough and you do not need any additional tools or devices to install. It might be true in some cases, but to gather all the data you need to measure from indoors to then control your air handling units based on those values may require additional devices. It is always possible to add those devices later, but those devices need to be integrated into the existing system and this may be tricky. Always analyse what they offer and what is the potential result. For example, additional energy meters can give you not only the information about the consumption for the air handling units but also the more clear picture of the total energy consumptions.
The low entering barrier may lead to higher expenses at the end of the day. For example, you can buy software solutions to make your system more energy-efficient. Imagine you have a building that has annual consumption €300k for heating, ventilation and cooling system and you make 20% energy efficiency (€60k) you might end up having to give €30k (50%) of the savings to your provider. Compared with other service providers where you can buy the solution, pay it back with the savings in a few years and after that, you have to pay only the annual fee (i.e keeping your system online, updated and under warranty). Even if two offers look like they are not comparable at the beginning, you may find the best solution for yourself after analysing the situation for a while.
You may feel dubious when someone offers you a new solution. In that case, you can always ask for a proof of concept (POC). For example, you could decide to test the validity of the offered solution on one building. Based on the results over a certain time period, you can decide whether the solution in fact delivers and you will have the reassurance that it truly works. If the potential partner doesn’t want to offer you POC, then try to understand the reasons for that.
When choosing the solution partner, it is important to have data analysis features integrated within the whole system. For example, a dashboard functionality which, despite real-time energy consumption data, is also able to compare the energy consumption results to historical data to analyse previous activities if needed.
Tips for you to find a great supplier:
- Check the case studies and their past projects. They should have at least 100 buildings in different locations and different thermal conditions. This is sometimes difficult to make out from the website alone. Give them a call and get them to send you the information. Trustful partners will be readily available to do so fast.
- Ask for proof of concept for your first building in your portfolio and analyse the results if you want to be sure it is the right solution for you.
- Look at what kind of certifications or standards they have in place if the supplier is new to you and ask them to explain the validity of those certifications in the county of your operational seat.
- Check out the partners they are working with and see if they sound trustworthy to you
- Keep that critical mindset and analyse the offer. Is the CAPEX and OPEX ratio justified? What do you get for the price? Cheaper is not always better but it depends on what your overall objectives are.
Finally, finding a good partner means you need to invest some time and effort to build trust. A trusted partner will give you the time and information needed to do so.