Smart Buildings

The Evolution of the Building Management System: Data and Connectivity

While building management systems (BMS) have become smart in recent years, they are certainly not new. In fact they have gradually evolved over the last 50+ years and into the 21st century systems we see today. BMS has always been boosted by the technological developments of the time, but today’s smart building technology is influencing BMS like nothing before. BMS is essentially a computer-based control system that monitors and manages a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, including ventilation, lighting, power, fire and security systems. Consisting of software and hardware, a BMS is typically configured in a hierarchical manner and can be proprietary, using such protocols as C-Bus or Profibus. The various subsystems in a building have traditionally been operated separately, each with their own IT structure. However, as the number of subsystems increased the case for integrated solutions also grew. In particular, the addition of fluctuating renewable energy generation and energy storage capacity added a […]

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While building management systems (BMS) have become smart in recent years, they are certainly not new. In fact they have gradually evolved over the last 50+ years and into the 21st century systems we see today. BMS has always been boosted by the technological developments of the time, but today’s smart building technology is influencing BMS like nothing before.

BMS is essentially a computer-based control system that monitors and manages a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, including ventilation, lighting, power, fire and security systems. Consisting of software and hardware, a BMS is typically configured in a hierarchical manner and can be proprietary, using such protocols as C-Bus or Profibus.

The various subsystems in a building have traditionally been operated separately, each with their own IT structure. However, as the number of subsystems increased the case for integrated solutions also grew. In particular, the addition of fluctuating renewable energy generation and energy storage capacity added a new level of complexity, one which demanded a new form of management in buildings, in order to reduce rising overall costs.

If there were one word to define the development of our modern society in the past decade, it would probably be “data.” The collection, storage and analysis of data from innumerable sources for a broad variety of purposes is shaping the world we live in, not least our buildings. BMS has evolved to be the central platform for coordination of data gathering and the subsequent use of that intelligence.

The driving force of this evolution is energy efficiency. With 40% of total energy consumption coming from buildings the case for greater efficiency is strong. Modern BMS systems allow for historical trend analysis to be paired with real-time data collection to optimize subsystems such as lighting and HVAC. These mountains of ‘big data’ are continuously growing, as is our ability to analyze them, meaning the more data we have, the greater our intelligence, and the greater our ability to optimize energy use.

If there were a second word to define the development of our modern society it would probably be ‘connectivity,’ not least in buildings. By constantly observing and controlling air quality, for example, a BMS can create an indoor environment that boosts employee health and productivity. Furthermore, by monitoring different machine health parameters a BMS can optimize maintenance scheduling and reduce costly downtime.

Connectivity also enables remote monitoring and control of BMS. Not only does this create greater flexibility for building managers, it also increases safety and security for a building’s occupants and assets. Alarms coupled to connected HVAC, fire, security systems, as well as access control permit immediate and effective responses to a wide variety of emergency situations.

All of these developments can be attributed to the emergence of the internet of things (IoT) in smart buildings in recent years. The trends promoting growth in the BMS market are now directly linked to the IoT movement. Similar and simultaneous development in the industrial internet of things (IIoT) have advanced data and connectivity for industrial purposes. This is also feeding back into BMS development in the form of lower cost of ‘things’ with embedded intelligence, advances in predictive analytics, as well as the growth of cloud based services.

We are even seeing tremendous changes at the construction phase of buildings through the rise of building information management (BIM). Each generation of BIM further eases the integration of complex building systems into architecture, engineering, and construction workflows. BIM allows for the incorporation of BMS solutions at the design phases of a project, this enhances BMS integration, reducing operating costs in a building.

BMS and associated systems are not only cutting costs but also creating value. Enhanced safety, security and flexibility are creating a competitive advantage for advanced BMS enabled buildings. Smart building owners can attract better tenants at higher rates, largely because smarter buildings can attract smarter employees.

As BMS and the IoT continue to develop we will see greater cost savings and new features, creating unprecedented value from the building. The future of buildings is data rich and connected, and more than just embracing these characteristics, BMS has risen to become the blood stream and beating heart of the smart building.

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