EP Forum Recap: How Smart is Your Building?

“Buildings work great, until people move in,” says Richard Nowak (Siemens Industry), but a Building Management System (BMS) can help facility managers be more productive while increasing the efficiency of building systems. Nowak gave an overview of current BMS technology at Tuesday’s EP August Forum, with a peek at the advancements that will transform the industry in the future.

A BMS is a computer-based system that can communicate with, monitor, and control a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment. Nowak says that these capitalize on the opportunity in today’s large buildings to bring all of the disparate systems together into one integrated network. This can have significant implications for energy conservation, “like a sophisticated thermostat you might have in your apartment,” that monitors lighting, ventilation, fire systems, security systems, and power systems.

User interface has now taken a front seat in many BMS system designs. “Current BMS technology is generally the same, it just depends how you implement it,” says Nowak. Dashboards with live displays and real-time information can give building operators the data they need in the format they desire, even on their personal computers or phones.

But what new BMS technology will change how buildings work years from now? Consider automatic fault diagnostics, state-of-the-art software that can diagnose problems before humans can even detect them. This means important equipment like pumps and motors can be monitored over time with complex algorithms and alert building operators to problems before the equipment fails, lowering maintenance costs and reducing system disruption.

Nowak noted that many current ventilation systems are guided by CO2 sensors that monitor the quality of air. “Today it’s CO2, tomorrow it’s more sophisticated methods” like communicating with security systems with badge-in-badge-out personnel counting and cameras. Siemens even has microchips in their ID cards, which are recognized by the BMS system and can turn on equipment like lighting and HVAC systems only in the zones that are needed by the people currently in the building. “It’s like a concierge service when you’re alone in your building on a Saturday.”