BAS Problem Solvers Series: Are you getting the most out of your Building Automation System?

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat son” my grandfather would say to me during our time spent in his garage, full of every tool known to the modern world… and some to the ancient. While he most certainly had every tool needed to accomplish almost any task and proudly boasted of not only his collection of expensive gadgets but his ability to conquer any mechanical obstacle, I often found myself tolerating the dreaded “My way or the Highway” mentality. His words would express a plethora of choice while his actions would be bound firmly to a rigid set of standards dictated by him and him alone. All too often we find this very same mentality employed in the sale of Building Automation Systems.

Still though, I cannot lay all of the blame on the control salesmen as there are many extenuating circumstances that come into play when navigating the slippery slope of “offering vs customer budget”. It is no secret the customer wants the most value for his dollar, while in contrast the salesman wants the most dollars for his value. Nevertheless, the decisions made and the common grounds reached will set the foundation for the level of efficiency and return on investment the customer can expect to receive.

Later we will take a look at some of the promises we make as controls providers and hold that up next to customer expectations and end deliverables. It would be unfair not to take into account budgetary restraints of the customer so we will incorporate that aspect as well. Every control salesman can give a customer endless data sheets of studies showing ROI of this many years or that many years, but what is often overlooked is the inescapable employment of certain strategies and/or the cost thereof, necessary to facilitate these savings. A fair majority of these strategies require additional hardware and programming to accomplish the desired effect. What I have found in the past is a customer’s budget will simply not allow for the additional components and programming time and are often value engineered out of the sequence while expectations of savings remain unchanged.

Whether you are building a new building or retrofitting an existing building here are some of the main questions you should take into consideration when budgeting for your Building Automation System.

  1. What is my budget?
  2. What kind of ROI would I like to see?
  3. Does my budget propagate my projected ROI?
  4. Am I willing to compromise my initial budget to promote my ROI goals should the two find themselves in contrast of one another?

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill we can take that will alleviate the task of answering these questions accurately. It will require good old fashioned “elbow grease” but if done correctly the homework will surely pay dividends in the long run. As I have eluded to previously, one’s ROI is directly linked to available budget and while this is not a particularly linear relationship, when we address what we want out of a building we must also ask ourselves what we are willing to put into the building.

Now that we have identified initial criteria for budgeting a control system let’s get back to those promises and how the premise of those promises can change depending on certain circumstances. Take for example a Co2 control strategy often referred to as Demand-Controlled Ventilation. While this strategy can save an owner substantial money during operation there is an unavoidable up front cost. We have to factor in the cost of not only the hardware (either duct mounted Co2 sensors or space mounted Co2 sensors), but the installation of the hardware as well as the time it takes to write the program and commission the sequence appropriately. This cost can add up when considering multiple air handlers as well as the implementation of additional strategies like Supply Air Temperature Reset and Supply Air Pressure Reset just to name a couple. Should the building owner decide against this additional cost, consideration must be taken in regards to energy savings or the lack thereof and ultimately the extension of the return on investment. This principal must be applied throughout the entire budgeting process to lend an accurate assessment of cost savings.

While there are numerous other strategies we could discuss I think the point is clear. If you want the most out of your building, the cheapest solution or “race to the bottom” as I refer to it, is more than likely not going to foster the desired results. So if a solid ROI and quantifiable energy savings are what you are looking for then look no further. Give us a call here at HTS and let us guide you through the mine field of energy savings promises and allow us to help you get the most out of your Building Automation System!

-Shane Ray, HTS North Texas BAS Manager

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