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Building Management System vs. Building Automation System: What’s the Difference?

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Clint Bradford

Building management system vs. building automation system—is there a difference? 

Even seasoned facilities managers may be surprised to find that building management system (BMS) and building automation system (BAS) are largely used interchangeably. Both terms refer to computer-based control platforms installed within commercial buildings that control and monitor mechanical and electrical equipment, such as HVAC, electric power systems, lighting, ventilation, and other core functions.

The primary goals of deploying a BMS or BAS within your commercial building infrastructure are typically improving system efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring occupant comfort and safety. But while the two are generally synonymous, not all individual BMSs or BASs are alike; the exact features of a system and its relationship to other components in your network influence how successful you are in achieving your goals. Considering the benefits of automation and the role of advanced analytics can help you identify the right system to achieve your operational objectives. 

The Benefits of Analytics-Driven Automation

A traditional BMS or BAS provides unwieldy, poorly organized data and typically presents information in a way that does little to help you achieve efficiency, cost, and occupant experience-related goals. In fact, they may obfuscate more than they reveal. Significantly, these systems tend to lack sophisticated automation capabilities—or even relatively basic ones—severely reducing your ability to benefit from the data generated by equipment and devices within your building.

Whether you call it a BMS or BAS, adding an intelligent analytics platform like onPoint Analytics to your technology stack can greatly expand opportunities for automation.

HVAC System

Strategically automating HVAC functions according to insights provided by analytics can significantly improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort. This may include maintaining a specific temperature, humidity, or ventilation level throughout the business day and relaxing standards at night to reduce energy use. Or it can mean automatically adjusting HVAC functions based on more complex variables, like occupancy. An analytics platform applied on top of BMS or BAS can help facilities managers efficiently control HVAC functions while allowing for significantly more advanced and precise automation.

Electrical Systems Power Management

Within electrical systems power management, efficiency, monitoring, and control are frequently under review. When you see high electric bills and need ways to reduce costs, all things electrical throughout your building must be evaluated. 

Your BMS or BAS offers basic monitoring of electrical power consumption, as well as your primary electrical switches. These systems can be internet-enabled to connect as a stand-alone system or be connected to other systems and devices, including advanced analytics for more comprehensive energy management, regulation, and reporting. Analytics also gives you the ability to automatically flag changes in energy consumption according to custom setpoints. These anomalies can also trigger automatic actions to correct equipment settings or malfunctions that are causing excess energy use.

Lighting

Lighting systems are a prime point at which to optimize efficiency. While a BMS or BAS without advanced analytics can typically offer some limited automation capabilities, such as turning lights on or off depending on time of day, intelligent analytics introduces more sophisticated options. This can include automatically adjusting lighting conditions in entire buildings or room-by-room according to occupancy, season, or even individual user habits.

Other Monitored Elements

Other core functions often monitored by a BMS or BAS include access and security, surveillance and intrusion detection, fire alarm and smoke control systems, elevator status and display, plumbing and water monitoring, as well as gas and power meters. Intelligent analytics can identify strategies for automating these as needed.

Creating a Streamlined System

A building management system vs. building automation system comparison is generally unnecessary. Understanding that these systems have real limits in terms of automation in the absence of advanced analytics, however, is critical to creating an effective strategy for optimizing efficiency and operational performance. By adding a cutting-edge analytics platform, like onPoint, you are better equipped to reduce energy use and costs, improve occupant comfort, and increase the uptime of your BMS/BAS system and related equipment.

Master systems integration services can integrate advanced analytics with traditional systems to offer advanced single-pane-of-glass experiences for facilities managers and building owners. Such streamlined systems allow you to gain deeper insight into your entire network, detect and correct problems that might otherwise be overlooked, and identify opportunities for improvement. Significantly, an integrator can architect this system to expand automation capabilities after assessing your needs, bringing you closer to your goals. The result is total operational synchronicity and, often, a healthier bottom line.

To learn more about how Buildings IOT and onPoint can open up new possibilities for automation, contact our integration and analytics experts.

 

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