The Basics of Building Integration

Building management systems (BMS) can be applied to most commercial environments. They enable building owners and facility managers to integrate HVAC, lighting, electrical, security, and alarm systems into one easy-to-manage control platform.

Security concerns
IoT security is a concern for many building owners, facility managers, and suppliers. Security should be thought of as a custom designed solution, not a standalone out-of-the-box software product. IoT security involves an upfront understanding of the system’s security requirements and risks. This can be achieved by thoroughly assessing the software architecture, reviewing the code, and performing penetration tests against upcoming threats. Understanding who has access to the building data is critical. Security is a business issue, and needs to be a priority.

In the case of connected buildings, operations and information technology teams need to focus on collaboration. This marks a changing role for facility managers who traditionally focus on equipment.

Connectivity in the real world
In one real-world example, a movie theater chain completed an enterprise-wide BAS retrofit project employing building management systems (BMS) to integrate HVAC and lighting controls at each of its locations. The facilities involved in this project are a mix of existing buildings and new construction. These building-level systems connect to a web-enabled, enterprise-level BAS network. This cloud-based connectivity allows a facility manager to monitor, control, and apply changes to buildings across the country from a central location.

This system integration and enterprise-wide control delivers numerous benefits, including the ability to synchronize lighting and HVAC system setpoints with ticket sales and show time schedules. On Friday nights, as the cinema lobbies fill, the theaters automatically adjust their indoor environment as tickets are sold, ensuring the crowded room showing a new release is cool, while the less popular screenings are temperate. The theater chain saves money by leveraging automatic heating, cooling, and lighting adjustments based on occupancy needs.

Advanced services available through the theater’s BMS also provide remote resolution of system alarms 24/7 and intelligent dispatching of data for troubleshooting to the technicians’ handheld devices.

Smart devices give facility managers access to building data, which can be used to increase energy efficiency and cost savings.
Smart devices give facility managers access to building data, which can be used to increase energy efficiency and cost savings.

In another example, a regional microbrewery uses the connectivity of BMS to gather enterprise-wide system data from locations in 13 states. The web-enabled building control system provides corporate-level access to all of the sites, and the ability to view and adjust site conditions and equipment operation from mobile devices.

Deliver benefits with integrated control
Connected buildings provide capabilities to improve building performance, reduce energy use and operating costs, shrink a building’s environmental footprint, and enhance reliability and uptime. Building owners and facility managers can reap these benefits long term, but it all starts by choosing the right systems and controls at installation.

Once a BMS is in operation, some common causes of degradation can include:

  • sensors not maintained;
  • alarms not set up or ignored; and
  • permanent overrides of schedules or changes to setpoints instead of temporary changes.

These may result from changes in the way the facility is used, requiring reconfiguration.

A properly commissioned building will operate “as designed.” Once the owner invests in the right equipment and systems, these need to be connected, monitored, and analyzed. The data should enable actions (which quite often require feet on the street). However, components can fail, dampers get stuck, filters and coils need cleaning, and occasionally animals chew through ductwork, die in vents, or get tangled up in the wrong place.

Ongoing benefits over time are supported by connected buildings, but the design requires a complete life-cycle solution.

Neil Maldeis is the energy solutions engineering leader at Trane in White Bear, Minnesota. He has more than 35 years of experience in the contracting and energy fields, and is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Minnesota. Maldeis is certified by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) as a certified energy manager and certified green building engineer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He can be reached at

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