What is a Building Management System (BMS)?
In simple terms, a BMS is a computer-based approach to managing and monitoring facilities-based equipment within a building. This includes kit like air conditioning, heating, lighting, fire security and power systems. It typically consists of control panels installed within a plant room which are wired to various sensors, valves and switches within the building. This is then managed by a computer or hand-held device.
A BMS works behind the scenes to ensure that a building is automatically controlled to provide the required level of performance at different times of the day as required. It’s also a system increasingly used to manage energy usage, driving cost savings and improved performance.
It’s not new technology; building management systems have been around since the 1960s in a very basic form. However, more recently the advances in smart and connected technology mean it’s now easier and more efficient than ever to invest in a BMS to fully optimise the performance of a building.
Why invest in a BMS?
Manage facilities intelligently: advances in BMS technology mean buildings can now be managed remotely, in the cloud and on apps loaded onto smart devices. This means it’s no longer critical to have a full-time resource such as caretakers and facilities managers located in a single site as modifications can be made to things like temperature and power output remotely at any time of the day or night. When a physical presence is needed, a comprehensive and connected BMS makes it simpler to diagnose issues and make changes to the performance of a building based on a data-driven approach.
Deliver comfort: getting ahead of the great British weather can be a challenge for even the most optimised buildings. Many BMS systems allow zones or areas of a building to be programmed, which means they can be tailored to the needs of those occupying the space. This allows a much greater degree of flexibility to adjust the temperature of the air conditioning or heating during an unseasonal heatwave or stormy summer day. As a result of this more flexible approach, there are energy and cost savings as buildings are no longer subject to a single ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ approach to building temperature.
Save energy: a BMS offers a smarter way to approach energy usage and can result in savings of around 25-30%. Whether a combination of legacy infrastructure integrated with newer technology or an investment in an entirely new system, using the data that a BMS generates and interpreting how this can influence energy usage is both as sensible as it is sustainable.
Building insight: Data from multiple pieces of kit and equipment is consolidated in a single system to improve reporting, information management and decision-making. Integrating the data feeds from these applications into a single portal gives both insight and oversight which can deliver better overall building performance. Coupled with this is a greater level of intelligent reporting which can help inform future building management decisions as well as tracking individual system performance and compliance.
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What can a BMS cover?
- Lighting control
- Electric power control
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
- Security and observation
- Access control
- Fire alarm system
- Lifts, elevators etc.
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV)
- Other engineering systems
- Control Panel
- PA system
- Alarm Monitor
- Security Automation
What does building management look like in the future?
The ability to connect systems and equipment to create a ‘smart’ system has been a turning point for building management; the next evolution is bringing artificial intelligence into the mix.
Looking to the future, BMS platforms could run entire buildings based on conclusions drawn through the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other complex statistical methods. In this scenario, the BMS could automatically adjust the various system settings as needed without requiring human interaction. This approach could be particularly beneficial when looking at energy management as it can deliver results in the form of cost savings.
A BMS that is appropriate in the context of the building it supports can be a wise investment, however, its effectiveness will depend on the range and quality of the information it receives from sensors and the programming of how this information is interpreted. Used as part of a holistic approach to building management, this kind of smart system should allow the role of a facilities manager to elevate, creating space to concentrate on a more strategic contribution to overall portfolio management.
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