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CBAS Power User: David Foster


David FosterDavid Foster
Controls, Arkansas State University

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m the youngest of 4 children, born in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to a farming family. We had 300 acres of rice and soybeans. I took computer science in high school and have been working with computers ever since.
I’ve been at ASU for 17 years where I started in the electrical department and was moved to the controls department when they learned I had a computer background. At the time I started, we had 4 control systems: Trane Tracer, Honeywell, KMC, and Computrols. We have since moved away from the other controls systems and have replaced 90+% of the older controls with Computrols with more being replaced every day. I’ve now been using Computrols Building Automation System for about 15 years.
What is your favorite feature of CBAS?
My favorite feature in CBAS is the ease of programming. If you can say it, you can program it. The drop-down choices to write logic make it really simple. The points relations button helps a great deal when debugging your code. It lets you see which points are looking at other points. Schedules and overtimes are very easy to use and manipulate.
The graphics on CBAS are great. You can make it as simple as using Microsoft paint to make some pictures, use Visio to make really nice 3D pictures, or import stock photos or animations. I also use summary pages to get a picture of an entire air handler and VAVs. It makes it so easy to troubleshoot when you can see it in that way.
What have you been able to accomplish since you have started using CBAS?
Since I started in the control shop, there have been some personnel changes. There were 4 of us and until recently, I was the only person left in the control shop. The system is so easy to use and maintain that I’ve been able to keep the system up and running efficiently on my own. We have over 52,000 hardware and software points across 250+ X-line controllers and 800+ VAVs.

ASU Student Union
I, Zereshk [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What kind of impact has CBAS had on your building from an energy consumption and/or operational standpoint?
We recently hired Jonathan Howard, a project engineer and recent ASU graduate. Together, we have been tuning our buildings using a variety of strategies. We were able to save $30,000 in electric and $16,000 in natural gas on last month’s bills without the occupants even knowing that the changes were being made.
Are your employees more engaged with the system?
I put a remote GW outside of my office for the techs to check their buildings and do some troubleshooting on their own. They were intimidated at first, believing that they would mess something up. I programmed the users with limited rights so they could only view and change very little. They started using it, and then we went to a zone maintenance and our techs were not at our shop anymore. I then programmed our web server to be their diagnostic tool. I programmed a view for every zone in their buildings. They now can check the space temps and valves, etc… If they can’t figure it out, they call me for a more indepth look at the equipment.
What do you see in the future of building automation?
I see BAS systems using more intelligent end devices that can tell you when a piece of equipment needs servicing/replacement and do some of the functions that the BAS systems do now. I would like to see a better communication protocol that would integrate easier and be more stable than the ones currently being used across all platforms.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One other thing… As long as I’ve been working with CBAS, I’ve talked to the same customer support tech the entire time. George Hingle. You don’t get that from other companies. Customer service is HUGE at Computrols. Positive experience every time.

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