No matter how old the building system is, it is always worth an upgrade
By Martin Vahi
In client meetings, I often hear that the existing building management system and equipment are too old, so there is no point or it is too complicated to make an energy efficiency investment. It takes time and effort to understand the variety of building automation solutions out there in the market and you may be sceptical about the new AI-empowered solution providers.
Before jumping to conclusions or making any decisions on future investments – let me explain how much easier than you imagined it can be in a quick guide. This will help you see through the different solutions available to you and come to a well informed, evidence-based decision.
Existing Building Management System (BMS) is well maintained and documented.
Some of the service providers offer software-only solutions that can be implemented on top of the existing BMS. In this case, you have to have good infrastructure (with sensors and actuators in place) and very well maintained up-to-date documentation. It is called a software upgrade where you integrate an AI-based smart solution on top of the existing system.
Advantages: full control of HVAC systems with increased energy efficiency results.
Disadvantages: longer installation and configuration time.
The existing building has an HVAC system in place, but there is no centralized BMS.
In this case, some building automation companies offer you expert advice and management of a ‘Custom BMS’ service project which is tailor-made and set up for you. During the analysis phase, companies should also discover whether there is a need for a set of sensors or actuators to make the system even more automated.
Advantages: being tailor-made this option will achieve higher energy efficiency compared with the partial installation.
Disadvantages: Longer installation and configuration time.
The existing BMS and equipment could only be upgraded partially.
This is when you can opt for a partial retrofit installation. It means you have an automated dynamic control on selected components of the existing HVAC system. For example, in a building with an HVAC system, you can choose which air handling units you want to control. While doing the partial retrofit installation, you control the components such as heating valves, cooling valves, inverters, dumpers etc. to achieve the desired results. To do the partial retrofit installation, there will be added controllers which allow you to control the different components of the HVAC system remotely with AI-powered software.
Advantage: This is a scalable solution with fast installation and configuration time.
Disadvantages: Partial control of HVAC
There are companies who can offer you all of these solutions. You need to look for a partner, who gives you complete transparency and suggests corrective or improvement actions as the building project unfolds, rather than just a solution provider.
In reality, each building always has some grey areas, which need to be improved. So, to begin with, it might look like you need to do only the software part. However, when doing the integration you may find some areas which are not covered enough.
In that case, it is always important to look for a partner who is there for you along the way. I suggest you pick a partner who is like a one-stop-shop, from where you can get all the devices and software you need. Then the integration with added devices will be faster and without any problems.
Changing your BMS is not as difficult as it may seem at the beginning. You owe it to yourself, and your company, to check the market for better solutions.