Most mid to large-sized buildings already make use of a Building Automation System or BMS/BAS to monitor their building equipment and alert them to possible issues. These systems use sensors to deliver real-time data to a central hub, giving those building operators readings on each piece of equipment. These systems can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, but the advertised efficiency gains seem like they would offset most if not all of the initial cost. That all makes sense on paper – but when you look at the big picture, sensor-based BMS/BAS systems doesn’t always provide the kind of personalized insights that you may think they do.
The major issue in building automation systems that use sensors lies with the lack of context provided by those readings. For example, take a look at the graph below:
This graph could represent Boiler Temperature or Oil Pressure in a Chiller. Without further context like what piece of equipment this data belongs to and how this equipment should be operating vs recent performance, what/how outside factors influence this equipment – it’s hard to understand the full picture of what that reading represents. Does point B represent efficiency or a problem?
Setpoints will alert you once a reading gets to a certain place – but you want to be proactive, identifying and solving issues before the alarm bells start ringing.
Getting The Big Picture
The answer to collecting the most valuable data lies in collecting non-sensor data that adds to the context of the equipment. Additional context can come from the things the engineer saw, heard, smelled or even felt while he was in front of the equipment, observing it first-hand. By correlating that contextual information to the raw data collected by engineers or sensors, you can start deriving important insights that would otherwise be missed.
The important investment in creating a true “Smart Building” lies with your engineers. Providing them with a digital app, like SmartRounds, takes full advantage of their insights and experience as professionals. A skilled facility engineer can diagnose equipment issues just by hearing or smelling, something a sensor could never replicate. By collecting and storing data digitally, your skillful engineers have immediate access to that contextual information while standing in front of the equipment. Allowing them to make a better diagnostic, remediate the problem faster and communicate any insights instantly.
Catch What Only An Engineer Can
A BMS/BAS has its advantages; But it cannot replace the value that engineers bring when they perform daily rounds themselves. If your building is still performing equipment rounds on pen/paper or using excel spreadsheets, you stand to gain the most value from moving to a cloud-based digital system. The largest benefits of a digital system lie in data storage and analysis – instead of rummaging through file cabinets and trying to decipher handwritten log sheets you can access any document and perform complex analysis with a few clicks. It is important to realize that building data digitization brings immediate value with a more reasonable price tag.