Enhance BMS performance with smart building tech

By Switch Automation • September 21, 2017

Building engineers are tasked with ensuring all aspects of a building are performing optimally. This means teams are fixing the right problems, tenants are happy and KPIs are being met. What if they could enhance BMS performance with smart building technology?

Often, this daunting responsibility entails battling the tyranny of the urgent. In addition to putting out literal and figurative fires, building engineers are faced with:

  • Aging equipment that requires a lot of attention, effort and time to maintain
  • Budgetary constraints on upgrading equipment and repairing critical issues
  • Repetitive, time-consuming maintenance system checks
  • Failing Building Management System (BMS) features that require physical inspections to verify every piece of equipment is working
  • Tenant complaints about hot/cold space temperatures
  • Limited human resources to triage and resolve building issues
  • Locating and measuring equipment service data while maintaining accurate records
  • Understanding management vs. tenant responsibilities in accordance with lease agreements
  • Reporting, reporting, reporting

What does a BMS do?

A BMS consists of software and hardware that controls and monitors a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment to manage the environment. Depending on the BMS vendor, it might be configured with either proprietary communication protocols that are difficult to integrate with or open standard protocols, like BACnet IP, that enable integration and easy access to data.

The systems linked to a BMS usually represent most of the energy usage, which makes them a critical component of managing energy demand. Improperly configured BMS systems can use 20% of building energy and have a negative impact on systems and equipment. For example, poorly regulated space temperatures and overworked equipment result in tenant complaints and system failures. For this reason, it’s crucial to ensure the BMS is doing what it’s intended to do.

What doesn’t a BMS do?

While a BMS is an important component of successful building management, they do have limitations. A BMS doesn’t:

Integrate disparate building systems and information–That’s why combining electric meter data, badge access records, and utility bills with BMS data provides a more comprehensive view of building performance. For example, if a meter’s reading spikes, indicating equipment is working harder than it should be, it’s easy to find out WHY. By aligning the meter data with badge access data, a building engineer can immediately identify that there was a conference that day resulting in 10x the normal number of occupants, which led to elevated space temperatures.

Map historical data trends– Without historical data, there’s no way to tell if a building is operating ‘business as usual’ or if there are missed savings opportunities. Failing economizers, faulty dampers, misconfigured isolation valves or overridden systems might be operating below average, but without mapped data trends, a building professional would never know. Historical data can confirm the BMS is operating optimally or that a retrofit completed years ago actually did improve performance.

Deliver advanced fault detection and diagnostics– BMS platforms typically provide some level of alerts or alarms, but rarely have the level of sophistication to identify and triage issues. Without a comprehensive set of tools, it’s nearly impossible to investigate a problem’s root causeAdvanced fault detection and diagnostics mean no more running around verifying the performance of every system and device because the alerts process can be automated.

Allow easy changes to alarms– Receiving an alert every day for an issue that isn’t mission-critical soon becomes noise that drowns out high-priority building needs. The ability to tailor an alert to a specific building, it’s zones and equipment is one way to turn down the volume and stay focused on the most valuable opportunities. For example, if the sun hits one side of a building longer than the other, it’s helpful to know when conference rooms are too warm in that zone but comfortable in another. Buildings are like snowflakes and each requires unique programming.

Report on and manage KPIs– BMS platforms don’t normalize data or have reporting capabilities. Without them, it’s not possible to calculate energy benchmarks or comfort indexes, which could mean more service calls and unhappy tenants. Having a single place to view and compare system and equipment performance in a building or portfolio helps provide a complete picture of operational efficacy.

How to fully leverage a BMS to save big $$

Engineers know their buildings inside and out, but they don’t have time to inspect every damper to ensure its opening or closing when it should, or check every single VAV box. That’s where Switch Automation can help.

The Switch Platform is a software application that compliments a BMS. It can enhance BMS performance by aggregating and monitoring meaningful data points, then issuing real-time notifications of savings opportunities. Once repairs or adjustments are completed, the Switch Platform verifies they were effective and that the BMS is functioning as expected.

Enhance BMS Performance Alerts Analysis

Enhance BMS performance with smart building technology

You can’t fix what you can’t see. Proactive management means no more waiting for an angry tenant phone call or a critical system failure. Experienced building engineers know they’ve done their job well when the phone isn’t ringing. That’s why they look for creative ways to enhance BMS performance any way they can.

Whether a building is brand new or a historic landmark, there are always opportunities to save time, money, energy and human resources. Have a look at some of the savings building engineers have generated by using the Switch Platform to enhance BMS performance:

  • Opening dampers to utilize free cooling: $140,000 annually
  • Optimizing control sequences: $27,000 annually
  • Rectifying failed isolation valve: $20,000 annually
  • Simultaneous chiller and boiler plant running: $29,000 annually
  • Fixing a control failure: $2,500 annually

Smart buildings, IoT, fault detection & diagnostics, machine learning; these are all ways technology creates opportunities to improve building performance and make the life of a building engineer easier. Want to see more of the Switch Platform in action?

Here are some business applications from Switch customers!



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