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The origins of building management systems go back to 1883 and the invention of thermostats, simple devices that activated lights in buildings’ boiler rooms that indicated when a furnace required more coal. These devices evolved to automatically control steam radiators, hot water and, eventually, HVAC systems, with centralized systems slowly taking over operations as computer technology advanced. The late 1980s saw these systems converted to distributed digital computers (DDC) that communicated with the central system and, by the mid-1990s, the central computer could even communicate with the Internet.
More recently, cloud-based software has replaced the automated hardware controlling these centralized systems, with IoT sensors working with actuators to maintain comfortable environments for occupants and decrease costs. While this hardware offers extraordinary opportunities, its true value is only realized with unified building systems and advanced analytics. But when adding analytics to a building management system, advantages and disadvantages should be carefully considered.
Today’s building management systems (BMSs) largely focus on energy efficiency and optimizing occupant experiences by harnessing real-time data from IoT sensors, lighting, HVAC, and other key systems. As datasets expand, an analytics layer with advanced machine learning (ML) capabilities should ideally refine automated adjustments to a building’s environment according to real-time and predicted conditions and with increasing precision. But not all systems are alike, and analytics-led building management system advantages and disadvantages stem from the quality of data and the features of the analytics platform.
Analytics for smart building systems help monitor and support:
The advantages of building management systems with analytics can vary greatly. A well-designed smart system will save money and reduce inefficiencies while a poorly designed, installed, or maintained one can cause significant operational problems and even raise costs. Often, the difference between a good and bad smart system lies in its analytics.
Unifying building systems and applying analytics allows building owners and facilities managers to gain deep insight into building conditions and equipment performance. A robust analytics platform also allows you to align objectives for individual buildings, campuses, or multi-regional facilities and develop comprehensive plans for energy conservation, improved occupant comfort, and more efficient maintenance. When done right, the result is more inviting buildings and an impressive return on investment.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the advantages of adding analytics to and integrated BMS:
System integration and advanced analytics supplies building managers with the tools necessary to ensure building systems run smoothly, and that any problems are dealt with expediently. It can also reduce costs in a variety of ways. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, building management systems using analytics can save over 14% of costs related to lost productivity annually. Additionally, integration can save up to 24% in capital expenditures and 35% in operating expenditures over time.
Most cons of adding analytics to an integrated BMS involve choosing the wrong system or provider. The least expensive systems may not offer the capabilities needed to address your building’s specific issues, while many features in overly expensive systems may remain unused or underutilized.
Disadvantages of a subpar system include;
Some disadvantages of analytics in building management systems involve poor system architecture and misuse or misinterpretation of the technology, particularly if providers sell inappropriate products or services that do not do enough to improve system efficiency. Sometimes failures can also occur due to insufficient or poorly organized data. This is why it’s so important to partner with a knowledgeable and experienced provider to best achieve efficiency and environmental goals for built environments.
For some, the potential cost of bringing problems to light is seen as a disadvantage to even the best analytics; you can no longer turn a blind eye to issues. But not seeing the issues doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and allowing them to go unaddressed can result in major failure and unexpected costs in the future.
A BMS without analytics is like a person with all their senses but no brain to process that input. However, when deciding if and how to integrate analytics in a building management system, advantages and disadvantages should be thoughtfully considered in light of what you hope to achieve. This is different for each project. Some may require major overhauls, while others work better by unifying legacy systems and a targeted range of smart technologies along with an intelligent analytics platform. In some cases, you may be able to recoup expenses in as little as six months with appropriately-directed analytics, IoT sensors, switches, and other software.
While adding analytics may increase costs in the immediate term, not doing so—or doing so with the wrong technologies—will limit the efficiency a built environment can achieve and can have a detrimental impact on the occupant experience. It can also cause you to miss out on important opportunities to reduce operating expenses and, in the long term, may even increase such costs. With the right partner, integrating systems and adding analytics will likely pay for itself many times over and help you create a more attractive, sustainable, and well-managed building.
Jon Schoenfeld, PE is Buildings IOT's Director of Energy & Analytics. He's been developing advanced algorithms for building automation applications for more than a decade and he applies his tremendous building expertise as he oversees the team of building scientists creating the onPoint platform.