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The Building Management Systems (BMS) market will surpass $44 billion (USD) this year, according to Future Market Insights, with growth driven by investment in smart cities and energy-efficient buildings. Sales are also expected to continue accelerating at a 7.8% CAGR through 2031. Historically, demand for building management systems has grown at a pace of 5.7% CAGR between 2016 and 2020. The surge in demand for interconnected infrastructure is adding to the accelerated growth projections.
We at T.M. Bier & Associates ̶ a New York City area-based Schneider Electric Master-level BMS EcoXpert specializing in the design, installation, and integration of HVAC, lighting, security, and building management ̶ find ourselves in the middle of this expanding BMS growth trend. In many cases, potential customers approach us with an antiquated BMS that has not aged well or was poorly designed. They then ask us to upgrade the system and eliminate the obstacles that had previously led to system design failures and higher-than-expected energy bills.
Building management best practices
Our experience over many years, across a wide assortment of building types, has helped us identify five critical success factors that distinguish good building management design from bad:
- Experienced programmers– How the building management system is programmed sets the stage for the building management design backbone. Our recommendation to customers is to gain access to the best programmers available. In the BMS programming domain, experience is key. No two controllers are the same. BMS is an environment where a high level of customization is needed. Understanding these nuances requires technical programming resources that have years of knowledge working with the proper tools. Outsourcing the programming to less knowledgeable resources that are unfamiliar with the environment presents substantial risks, especially after the BMS is installed and running the building. When problems occur, technical resources for quickly fixing the issue are scarce, and often on other jobs. This leads to longer-than-expected periods of unscheduled downtime.
- Simple user interfaces – Building simple and intuitive BMS user interfaces is a critical step in ensuring the adoption and proper use of the system. It is also a design refinement that many of today’s building management integrators neglect. Poor user interface design directly affects how users engage with their system. A clean visualization enhances how the system operates and how it is maintained. Cramming operator screens with too much information is the most common mistake that BMS designers make. We at T.M. Bier consult with our customers to focus on the critical points that operators will be looking for. We then lay out that information in an intuitive style on the screen. This emphasis on screen design simplicity becomes even more important in an age when operators use their cell phones to access BMS information. These small screens require clarity and resolution, and the graphics libraries of 20 years ago are no longer adequate for providing user-friendly solutions within such a format.
- Clean building controller panels – The panelboards across the building that are populated with controllers and corresponding wires need to be designed so that they can be maintained in an orderly fashion. When we are asked to come in and upgrade an existing system, some of the panels we encounter resemble a bird’s nest of tangled wire that are rarely properly labeled. This creates a high degree of risk and increased maintenance time on the service side of the project. Whether or not a building management system is poorly designed starts off with how the BMS vendor electrician and technicians install the core panel infrastructure. There can be hundreds of low-voltage wires in a panel. When we implement BMS upgrades, we take time from the beginning to label every one of those wires with tags and stickers. This makes future servicing of the BMS much easier.
- Longevity and consistency of services teams – In today’s marketplace, many building management system vendors cycle through their support personnel based on whoever is available at the time an interaction with the end-user is needed. One week may be one individual, the next week another. With many different people involved in a particular project, the inconsistency of resources leads to situations like control panels that are difficult and problematic to service. At T.M. Bier, our approach is different. We try to ensure that support teams remain consistent over the years so that they are keenly attuned to the fine points of a given BMS installation and how those systems are being used. Over time, our support personnel learn which elements within the BMS are dependent on other elements. As a result, if a breakdown occurs or a wire is accidentally unplugged, instances of downtime are minimized, and fixes are quickly applied.
- Open and broad-based communications – The biggest challenge in ensuring the implementation of a sound building management system design is the flow of information among project teams. In many large system integration organizations, individuals typically work only within highly specialized domains, and they rarely comprehend the big picture of what is happening across disciplines. That makes it more difficult for one team to explain issues that are being encountered to other teams. As a smaller organization, we have effectively integrated our disciplines so that all teams have a consistent vision of what is being deployed in the field at each account. This broad knowledge base helps us build a deeper level of trust among the end users. This makes it easier for them to share broad business needs while we propose specific technical approaches that help to address everyday problems.
Post-installation service guarantees long-term high performance
As modern BMS deployments grow, supporting these systems, post-installation, becomes critical. When working with BMS integrators, look for maintenance contracts that are comprehensive and provide modern support tools. At T.M. Bier, we recommission our clients’ building management systems every year. During this process, we perform point-to-point checks on each piece of equipment to make sure all aspects of the system are working properly. In addition, we use the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ Building Advisor analytics software that allows us to remotely determine if any errors are occurring in the BMS system. This brings our service technicians up-to-speed on the latest potential performance issues before we even arrive on site for the visit.
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