The Big Bang of Building Automation
It all started back in 1883, when Warren Johnson, a school teacher from Milwaukee came up with the basic idea of a thermostat. It was a simple device where a light bulb in the janitors’ room is activated whenever the temperature in the served area drops to notify them to shovel more coal into the furnace. Warren ended up being the founder of Johnson Controls.
For the next 10 years, Automation and Control sequences rapidly evolved in the industrial sector, specifically for steam, hot water, ventilation, and air conditioning applications. At that point, all controls relied on pneumatic valves and pistons to create the needed algorithms. This “air logic controllers” continued to be used all the way till the 1980’s where digital computers were being introduced into the industry.
Strength Through Unity
In the late 1980’s manufacturers were producing building automation controllers as per their own studies and research. Heading towards a distributed control system, where each equipment had its controller, the weakness in such systems was compatibility with other brands as each brand had its own communication method between its controllers. that’s when ASHRAE saw the necessity of a “unified code” for such systems. Being experts in setting codes and standards, in June 1987 ASHRAE called for the inaugural meeting of the ASHRAE BACnet committee with the sole purpose of developing the standards of this industry, and that’s how the BACnet Protocol was introduced into the industry.
“BACnet is a communications protocol for Building Automation and Control (BAC) networks that leverage the ASHRAE, ANSI, and ISO 16484-5 standard protocol. BACnet was designed to allow communication of building automation and control systems for applications such as heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning control (HVAC), lighting control, access control, and fire detection systems and their associated equipment. The BACnet protocol provides mechanisms for computerized building automation devices to exchange information, regardless of the particular building service they perform.”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BACnet)
The Development of the BACnet Protocol lead to a huge improvement in the industry especially after main brands, followed by most brands, started using it in their products. Given that, a solution provider now can compile a system from different brands for the best results in terms of features and cost efficiency without worrying if a certain brand product line can cover their whole project.
The Future Starts Today
In the past couple of decades, with the rising demand for energy saving in all industries, BMS shined like a diamond and came as the savior from the hell of wasting energy.
BMS or Building Management System nowadays is an integrated solution of all the control and monitoring systems present in a building. It combines and automates the operation of HVAC, access control, plumbing, lighting, …etc for the main reason for saving energy.
A great example of that, in one of the projects that I worked on, we had power meters monitoring the electrical usage of all the equipment inside the building, we noticed that employees are leaving the AC turned on in their offices during the night so they can come in the early morning to a well-cooled office. The solution we did was simple, we put created a scheduled order for all the AC units to turn off at 6 PM right after the employees leave the building, and turn on at 6 AM an hour before the come the second day. This saved the facility 12 hours a day of wasting energy (nearly half the electricity bill) and ensured the comfort of the employees. And there are numerous examples that can be found online on the importance of BMS.
Today’s Building Management Systems are getting more integrated and smarter at saving energy and facilitating the operation of huge facilities like universities, hospitals, hotels, …etc.
One of our clients, a well-known university, has embraced the BMS to its maximum potential. Now the BMS operator can monitor all of the buildings in the campus, inspect all of the mechanical, electrical, or other systems integrated to BMS, change any value in any building, being the temperature setpoint in a classroom, the VFD speed of a water pump, or even turn on or off an entire chiller plant all from his smartphone! Thanks to the latest technologies in Building Management Systems.
The future of BMS looks more promising. Research and development in AI and Machine Learning are skyrocketing, virtual assistants are found in every home and on every smartphone nowadays. It will not take long before such technologies get introduced to BMS and out of nowhere we will have AI operating a complete facility 24/7 tirelessly and more efficiently than humans.