Investing in a Building Automation System

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In the January/February 2008 edition of Facilities Manager Magazine, there was a featured article titled, “Pay Now or Pay Forever: The Design of Control System Software”. This article was recently brought to our attention by one of the original author’s LinkedIn posts which outlined the fact that not much has changed in the BAS industry over the last 10 years. At Computrols, we couldn’t agree more. Below, you will find some of the most profound quotes from this article and Computrols’ approach to remedying these issues.


ConstructionThe construction industry works on a “get in, get out, get paid” approach to delivering buildings.

Unlike most contractors, your building automation service partner is going be around on a regular basis for the foreseeable future of your building; therefore, more care must be taken when assessing potential partners for this portion of the project. Not only will you be communicating with this partner on a regular basis, but they will also have the largest impact on your ongoing operations costs. These contractors will ultimately control your facility’s energy consumption and occupant satisfaction, not to mention how many hot and cold calls you receive on a daily basis.


…over 80 percent of the issues identified existed the day the school took occupancy of the building—traced to design intent or controls programming implementation errors and omissions.

Although this article is referencing a specific case, this is not uncommon. This is why Computrols technicians arrive early and stay late to ensure the building is running as efficiently as possible. Our technicians will stay on site until the job is done right.

Our team also continuously monitors and tweaks the system while corresponding with the design and operations team. Once the system is commissioned, seasons change and as a result, the building operations change. Our team is comprised of not only controls experts, but also experienced HVAC and mechanical systems professionals.


…the software tools to program them make it difficult (sometimes virtually impossible) to achieve what the hardware is capable of doing.

The cumbersome BAS technology of the late 1980s is what drove Computrols’ founders to create the first version of Computrols Building Automation Software (CBAS). Unfortunately, not much has changed in regards to the building automation industry as a whole. Most manufacturers still provide their customers with software that is purposefully over-complicated in order to secure large maintenance contracts.

What separates Computrols from the competition is our belief that facility managers should be able to manage their own BAS and not have to make (and pay for) service calls on a regular basis. This is why we created our user-friendly software platform and provide free 24/7 remote support. No more going to school to learn programming logic. In CBAS, if you can say it, you can program it.


Iowa State was enrolled in the “pay forever” plan, experiencing daily energy waste during heating season by providing a lot of unnecessary heat and then needing to immediately correct that mistake with cooling. They also paid through hot and cold calls.

Computrols number one value to our customers is that we provide the most economical to own building automation system on the market today. When considering all life cycle costs, particularly energy savings and operational costs, Computrols Building Automation System becomes the obvious choice.

(Not to mention the lifetime warranty provided on all of the hardware Computrols manufactures.)


“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” —Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple, Inc.)

The article quotes Steve Jobs in reference to software design. There are many “pretty” building automation and energy management software platforms out there with very limited functionality. At the end of the day, if your BAS software is not functional, what does it matter how it looks?


Tech Doing TrainingThe design intent is to enable Iowa State to achieve three simple goals:

  • Meet comfort and IAQ requirements in every individual occupied space,
  • Do so at the minimum possible operating cost, and
  • “We don’t want to have to dink with the system.”

Computrols is truly a solutions-based company. When installing our building automation system, our technicians work side by side with our customers to achieve their goals. We know that our customers know their buildings inside and out, and we do everything in our power to leverage that knowledge and our expertise to meet their needs.


ANATOMY OF AN OPERATIONAL SPECIFICATION
Points: The specification defines a series of naming standards designed to provide users with an understandable, maintainable system. It then defines which points are mapped to the control system user interface, which are trended, and which are collected into an external historical database as a record for the building owner.

In CBAS, users do not have to worry about a limited number of characters when naming the points in their system. CBAS allows for longer point names which ultimately makes for a better user experience.

Worried about which points you are going to trend and save in your historical database? Not with CBAS. We save all historical point data, all the time, from system inception. These means when you have a hiccup in your HVAC system, you don’t have to trend the points and wait for it happen again.


CBAS TrainingOperators are rarely trained on how the system works. They know how equipment works, but they do not often have the background to realize the systemic effects of some of their actions.

Because our technicians work side by side with the facility’s staff during the installation process, our customers walk away with invaluable knowledgeable on how the system is programmed and how to utilize the software to make adjustments. In addition to that initial training, Computrols also provides regular training courses at our state of the art training center.


Life Cycle Cost of a BAS