Things to Know Before Starting on Building Automation in NYC
For all of its reputation and glamour, New York City may be best defined by its skyline.
The equipment used in the building automation system constitutes a significant part of a commercial building’s construction and maintenance budget. Despite its essential role, equipment related to HVAC, lighting, security, parking, and other interconnected systems has a shorter life expectancy compared to the building itself—and replacement can be costly.
Maintenance of building equipment traditionally centers around periodic inspections, with repairs driven primarily by occupant complaints. But this reactive maintenance approach often misses opportunities to extend the lifespan of specific equipment and the overall building automation system. With the help of data analytics, the variables affecting equipment can be better understood and addressed to prolong the useful life of your building automation system.
In the past, building control systems were relatively simple. With fewer points of potential failure, equipment survived on fewer inspections and lower maintenance. Over time, however, technological advances have made building equipment more complex than ever before—and the lifespan of automation systems has been severely impacted. Today, a typical building automation system (BMS) is expected to last 10 to 15 years, assuming that it is installed and maintained properly and its technology does not become obsolete sooner.
But how do you get the most out of those 10 to 15 years? And are there things you can do to expand the life of your equipment even further? The answers to these questions lie in understanding four key variables that can significantly affect the useful life of a building’s automation system.
The design of building equipment needs to be suitably scaled to support the full needs of the building. A smaller HVAC system may be less costly upfront, but it will not effectively heat or cool a large commercial building. The stress placed on an underpowered system will severely impact energy efficiency, put undue strain on equipment, and ultimately shorten the useful life of the building automation system. Conversely, an oversized HVAC system may result in drastic temperature swings, as its disproportionately powerful heating and cooling capabilities cause the system to start up and shut down in rapid succession (also known as short cycling). This also leads to unexpected wear and tear of HVAC components.
Installation choices can be critical for determining the life expectancy of a building automation system. In an HVAC system, for example, placement of the ductwork, location of the vents, proper sealing, and the correct ordering of components parts are vital to efficient operation of the building automation system over time. Correct, well-planned installation should therefore be a priority.
When equipment is not operating as designed, it works harder than it needs to and is more prone to breakdowns. In a building where many pieces of equipment run around the clock, this can be a prime area of vulnerability and waste. Improperly operating equipment gets worn out quickly and needs to be upgraded or replaced frequently, leading to unnecessary material and labor costs.
Geography and environment also play a role in operational efficiency. Buildings in coastal areas experience more rapid deterioration of equipment due to metal corrosion. In cooler climates, furnaces see disproportionately high use while heat pumps and air conditioners are worn out faster in warmer ones. While these factors may be beyond your control, they are important to consider when creating strategies for optimizing your building automation system’s useful life.
Maintenance is one of the most important factors in increasing or decreasing the life of a building automation system. HVAC systems require periodic checkups and interventions like filter changes and programming updates to minimize instances of complete breakdowns and emergency repairs.
It is difficult to manually track the operation of an interconnected network of building equipment and automation systems to detect potential weaknesses. Data analytics can provide a high-level cross-site view to increase the lifespan of building automation systems with minimal human intervention.
Analytics is becoming a hot topic in building management as building owners and staff increasingly come to recognize the impact data can have on day-to-day operations.
Without intelligent analytics, the growing complexity of building equipment makes it easy to become overloaded by data. For example, alarms triggered by any random fault condition can tell you that something is wrong, but does not pinpoint the root cause of the alarm or suggest any way to resolve the issue. Instead of creating insight and enabling action, these alarms often lead to chaos—or complacency. Predictive analytics in building automation systems, on the other hand, can process a large volume of data and extract trends to identify probable failures based on specific variables. This, in turn, creates dynamic, smart alarms that are only triggered by multiple fault conditions consistent with the underlying problem. By reducing alarm fatigue and offering clarity, analytics can help prioritize maintenance and significantly improve operational efficiency.
But the benefits of analytics go beyond the day-to-day. With the right building analytics platform, the long-term sustainability of a building automation system can be enhanced, dramatically improving return on investment. This prolonging of the building automation system’s useful life is the result of multiple factors, including:
Continuous monitoring of equipment operation: Relying on periodic manual inspections and maintenance of building equipment is highly inefficient and can allow small problems to go undetected until they become big problems. Truly understanding building conditions and optimizing operations—both immediate and over time—requires continuous round-the-clock monitoring.
Fault detection and diagnostics: An intelligent analytics platform can provide insights into key performance indices, such as energy usage, run-time, and faults. A reduction in performance efficiency can alert you to potential weaknesses in equipment and trigger alarms to fix issues before they become cost-intensive.
Proactive maintenance: Proactive maintenance is essential to enhance the comfort of building occupants, increase equipment uptime, and reduce repair and overall maintenance costs. An advanced data analytics platform makes proactive and predictive maintenance possible by tracking equipment and providing data-driven recommendations.
An interconnected network of building equipment: The efficiency of a building automation system is dependent on the ability of equipment to easily communicate and share information. Robust analytics makes it easier to run equipment in smarter ways, including minimizing the scope of human error in equipment operation.
onPoint Analytics is a powerful analytics platform with innovative features to track equipment performance, reduce energy use, and improve operational efficiency. This secure edge-to-cloud service draws on machine learning to optimize systems automatically while giving you the insights you need to create a smart building management strategy—and, ultimately, increase the lifespan of your building automation system.
Conversations about smart building technologies often focus primarily on environmental impact. But intelligent analytics can do more than reduce your building’s carbon footprint; it can help you get the most out of your equipment and enhance the financial sustainability of your enterprise.
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