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How to get the most from your building automation system

Building automation systems help improve operations and save money

5 min read



This post is sponsored by Johnson Controls.

An abundance of data from building automation systems is helping facility managers, building owners and community leaders make important operating and purchasing decisions. The goal is to improve operations and overall building efficiency, which is why it is so important that the data be accurate.

In this post, we talk with Lisa Brown, national director, Local Government, at Johnson Controls, about properly maintaining building automation systems to ensure the data provided is timely, accurate and secure.


What is a building automation system (BAS)?

A building automation system is the foundation of modern building energy management efficiency. Systems like the Johnson Controls Metasys® building automation system connect a building’s commercial HVAC, lighting, security and protection systems, enabling them to communicate on a single platform. This is turn helps facility managers, building owners and municipal leaders make smarter, savvier decisions while enhancing occupant comfort, safety and productivity.


What is meant by re-tuning?

Re-tuning is a process to identify and correct building operational problems that lead to excess energy use. Almost all buildings have the potential to save 5% to 30% in energy costs by making simple changes to their controls. Using data provided by the BAS, re-tuning adjusts a number of operational points, including schedules for HVAC, lighting and fans, night setbacks, occupancy-based controls, photo sensors, automatic lighting controls, airflow sensors and dampers, static pressure, discharge temperatures, and chilled/hot water temperature and heating/cooling set points.


What are the key maintenance activities for any BAS?

Maintenance of a BAS begins with system verification, which is a thorough check of all control sequences and points associated with a piece of equipment. These checks can help identify the common issues that waste energy.

Sensor calibration is also important, as sensor error is one of the top five causes of energy waste. Critical control sensors should be calibrated two times per year and other sensors one time per year to help ensure occupant comfort as well as efficient system operation.

The third key maintenance activity is database backups, which enable business continuity in the event of system failure, minimizes downtime and reduces the cost of restoring a system.


What does it take to build a strategy for BAS maintenance that includes these activities?

In many cases, the approach to BAS maintenance is split between internal and external resources so building a strategy begins with evaluating your in-house staff. Do they have the capability and the capacity to execute the three key maintenance activities? Are there areas where you need to supplement their expertise?

Then evaluate potential partners. Do they have the processes and skills to execute the three key maintenance activities? Can they tailor a maintenance program to meet your facility’s specific needs? Can they work with your staff to share responsibilities? Can they provide supplemental services and support? What is their record on safety and customer satisfaction?

Finally, create a plan. Identify which systems will be reviewed at what frequency. Determine which activities you will do in-house and which you will partner with an external supplier to perform and then document, track and manage every aspect of the plan.


What additional services can a partner provide?

The more important services that a partner like Johnson Controls offers through its Metasys service include operator training and technical support, remote monitoring and technology upgrades. Training can be tailored to specific problems and issues, and technical support provides online access to a database of troubleshooting and product information, as well as phone support so operators can get their questions answered quickly.

Remote monitoring leverages the power of technology to watch over a system 24/7 and minimize risk, along with downtime and system failure. Technology upgrades can improve productivity and energy efficiency and provide IT and security enhancements that keep pace with ever-changing security standards.


Lisa Brown joined Johnson Controls in 2003 as district sales manager in the company’s Building Efficiency division. In 2011, she was named regional sales director for North East Solutions, and in 2014, she moved into her current position. As national director for Local Government, Lisa is responsible for growth of the local government market in North America, including the development of strategies, offerings and innovations for local government service and systems markets. Last year, Lisa created Johnson Controls’ local government urban growth initiative, which combines smart city solutions with community outreach and workforce enhancement for midsize to large municipal customers.

Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gettysburg College. For the past three years, she has been the east region leader of the Women’s Resource Network of Johnson Controls and served as global ambassador for International Women’s Day. Lisa served 15 years with the Junior League of Montclair-Newark, four of those years as director of community development and outreach in Newark, New Jersey. Lisa currently is a board member of the Rumson-Fair Haven Education Foundation. She was honored as one of July 2016’s NY Women of Valor and received the Humanitarian Award from St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters.