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What is a Building Management System? How does it work?

Gaurav Bali
Gaurav Bali

5th August 2022


In the modern era, building management systems (BMS) are evolving in terms of their function and definition as smart building technologies develop. A BMS is no longer just about using exclusive protocols and having access to notifications for any setpoint changes or damper fluctuations. Nowadays, modern building management systems, also known as building automation systems (BAS) or even integrated building automation systems (IBAS), are designed with owners and facilities managers in mind, with the goal of improving operational decisions, accelerating decision-making, streamlining processes, and enhancing overall performance by enabling preventive maintenance, alerts & notification. In this blog, we will have a detailed look at building management systems and how they work.

What is a Building Management System? 

A building management system is a computer-based system that is installed in buildings or facilities in order to manage and monitor hardware like HVAC, lighting, power systems, security devices, IoT sensors, and gas and energy meters. A basic BMS consists of software, a database-equipped server, and intelligent sensors connected to an Internet-capable network. Intelligent sensors are installed around the building to collect data, which is then transmitted to the BMS and stored in a database. The BMS will trigger an alarm if a sensor outputs data that deviates from set parameters. If a sensor emits data that deviates from predetermined parameters, the BMS will raise the alert. A BMS integrates the HVAC and various building components so they can operate as a single integrated unit. Furthermore, BMSs are primarily designed to centralize procedures and enhance data visualization through a user interface or console.

Features of a Building Management System

Comprehensive Fault Detection & Troubleshooting

System failures result in unexpected downtime, energy waste, and frequently high bills from service providers who must constantly attend to emergency repair requests. An integrated building management system that enables cutting-edge fault detection and diagnostics reduces these occurrences by improving the value of the alarms you receive for troubleshooting, identifying or even anticipating issues before they become significant breakdowns, and providing reports to track advancement or issues and recalibrate strategies as necessary.

With the aid of business management systems’ cognitive analytics, vulnerabilities and faults are noted and discovered in the very beginning stages, enabling you to approach maintenance in a preventative manner. A well-architected system can identify and isolate problems as they appear, offer resolution insights, and make automatic operational adjustments when it is practical, as opposed to responding to emergency “hot calls” and going through a time-consuming human diagnosis process. In order to avoid making superfluous maintenance visits or making emergency calls, contractors can now be used just when necessary for focused maintenance and repairs.

Automated Controls and Optimization

Machine learning (ML) capabilities on analytics platforms create prospects for automated control and command over all BMS-connected devices. Business management systems with intelligent analytics capabilities will enable effective, coordinated, and automatic responses in accordance with user preferences by gathering and standardizing pertinent data from modern and advanced sensors. For instance, the platform can modify the lighting and temperature prior to your arrival based on anticipated users as it learns the behaviors of inhabitants across your building or portfolio. Whether you want to cut down on energy use, streamline internal processes, or improve the occupant experience, advanced building management system automation lowers the need for manual intervention and aids in the achievement of your performance goals.

Mobile Interface 

Users can obtain pertinent, actionable insights from practically any computer or mobile device and location thanks to an intuitive, mobile-first system that is tailored to match each user’s needs. Combining your BMS systems, devices, and controls into a powerful web-accessible interface has the potential to revolutionize operations and significantly increase productivity, allowing you to do everything from diagnosing equipment to setting individual temperature preferences.

Comprehensive and Personalized Reporting

Through a unified dashboard, the finest analytics tools provide simple access and understandable visual representations of clearly organized data. This could include thorough energy reporting, key performance indicator analysis, occupancy statistics, and floor plan information. It makes sure that data is prioritized and made accessible in a way that is relevant to each audience through customizable reporting for all stakeholders. The large amount of data created by building equipment is ultimately transformed into a rich source of insight by combining your BMS with cognitive analytics, which can lead to major improvements in building operations. The analytics-driven building management system feature’s clarity and capabilities enable you to make modifications that guarantee the best potential business results and boost overall effectiveness.

Enhanced Comfort and Productivity

Building owners will have more control over the comfort of the building’s occupants by enhancing the control of a building’s indoor climate. Additionally, air ventilation will be increased, which is projected to have a substantial effect on building occupants’ productivity. The heating and cooling of the building will be done more effectively and efficiently thanks to the temperature-based control systems.

Components of a Building Management System

Any BMS system relies on three basic parts to seamlessly function: BMS hardware, BMS software and BMS networking protocols.

All of the building’s connected equipment is controlled and monitored by BMS software. To alert operators to any serious system errors, an alarm is configured as a popup window in the operator workstation. For the BMS operator to readily monitor the field equipment, a user interface visual is accessible via dedicated BMS software. For BMS, there are numerous protocols that can be used to accomplish the same goal of transferring data from one device to another. 

The hardware components of the building management system are, 

  • Sensors
  • DDC-Direct digital controller
  • Cables to link actuators and sensors with DDC.
  • Valve and Damper Actuators
  • PC Server or Workstation
  • HMI(Human Machine Interface) display
  • Server to store the extensive database

The software components of the building management system are, 

  • User Interface (Dashboards)
  • Programming or configuration tools

The networking protocols of building management system are, 

  • TCP/IP (Transfer control protocols/Internet Protocol)
  • BACnet (Building automation controller network)
  • CANbus
  • Modbus
  • LonWorks

Architecture of the General BMS System with Levels

Management Level: This level serves as the user interface that the engineer and operator use to view the graphics for operating and keeping track of the systems that include a computer workstation, server, web browser, and printers.

Automation Level: In the automation level, The third-party system is integrated, and BMS devices are connected using the BMS Router and other primary controllers connected to the building network.

Field devices Level: This level is where field system detectors, sensors, actuators, and other panel circuits are connected to BMS controllers for continuous monitoring and control.

Comprehensive Architecture of the Building Management System 

The three foundational pillars of the BMS architecture are the Operator Control Unit, the Controlling Operations Unit, and the Management Operation Unit.

Operator Control Unit

The Operator Control unit is referred to as the system’s pulsating center. It primarily consists of control system software, which keeps track of and manages BMS activities. The standard definition of a control system is one that has inputs, outputs, and some sort of decision-making process in between, allowing the outputs to be regulated based on the status of the inputs. The components that make up an operator control unit are given below.

1. Workstations

In the BMS architecture, design and development of the control system are majorly done at workstations.

2. Servers

In the BMS architecture, servers are employed to continuously monitor and manage the control system.

3. Clients

Clients are used in the BMS architecture in order to frequently monitor the control system.

At a specific facility or location, the total number of workstations, servers, and clients is entirely dependent on the size of the BMS. The operator sits in the command center and manages the BMS programme. Auxiliary systems are available for data printing and data storage . The data is stored on the cloud in accordance with Industrial Revolution V4.0 for security reasons.

Controlling Operations Unit

Automation or instrumentation experts, who would play a prominent role in building management systems, are responsible for the design, development, and installation of the control operation units listed below. These units are mostly responsible for regulating the building’s climate.

  1. Air Handling Unit (AHU)

For the purpose of preserving the purity of the air and providing cooling comfort to the area served, the air handling unit is situated in a building’s basement or on its rooftop. Ducts used for air supply or return make up the majority of it.

  1. Chillers

The chiller unit is used to chill the water which is supplied to AHU, FCU, Terminal Units, etc.. It mostly operates according to the refrigeration cycle’s principles. There are primarily two types of chillers: air-cooled chillers and water-cooled chillers.

  1. Fan Coil Unit (FCU)

The air handling unit includes the fan coil unit as a subset. Essentially, it is made up of a fan, a coil, and a thermostat or on board controller. It is typically utilized in designated rooms or portions of the structure.

  1. Boilers

Boilers are employed for producing hot water which is supplied to domestic services, AHUs, FCUs, terminal units, etc.. Following that, the steam is employed in the BMS to manage temperature for a variety of purposes. Boilers come in a variety of varieties, such as water tube and fire tube boilers.

  1. Pumps

The subterranean pumps are typically utilized in the building’s basement to circulate, recirculate, pressurize, and maintain water flow in lines or headers.

  1. Drives

In BMS, the ducting units are made up of sizable air blowers. For the air conditioning system, Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) modulates the air as per the served area requirement..

Management Operations Units

In addition to the aforementioned control operation units, these are the functions that a BMS provider is typically asked to perform in order to control and manage the building or facilities.

  1. Fire Alarm System (FAS)

Devices for detecting fire or gas make up the majority of the fire alarm system. It simply functions as a safety mechanism to alert individuals to any unusual circumstances in the structure. The equipment primarily detects dangerous gasses such as carbon monoxide, smoke, fire, and smoke in indoor spaces.

  1. Building Energy Management System (EMS)

By examining the patterns for energy use and transmission, the building energy management system is primarily utilized to increase overall efficiency and cost savings.

  1. CCTV

One of the safety systems offered by BMS for intruder detection and alarm generation is this one. The data is recorded by the cameras and kept on digital hard discs for up to many months. The information is then used for security inquiries.

  1. Elevators and Escalators

Elevators and escalators are available in large structures, including malls. These are the staircases that BMS monitors and controls to ensure adequate use.

  1. Energy Meters

The energy meters are offered to increase energy accountability, cost savings, and also help in easy monitoring of energy levels.

  1. Water Meters

Water meters are now offered as part of 24-hour water services to enhance home water accountability. Depending on the meter reading, the user gets charged on a monthly basis.

How does the Building Management System Work?

Building Management Systems (BMS) are sensor-equipped devices that monitor the frequent readings from the maintenance systems. The ventilation and security systems are complicated and necessitate constant control. The main components of a building management system are sensors, a server, and a database. The sensors collect data, which is then transmitted to the server. Alarms go ON if specific conditions are not satisfied. Furthermore, the system reacts to an alarm by returning to the circumstances that were previously set. The database records every detail, including the place where an alarm is activated and the outcome.

Totally, four tasks are performed by these systems: sensors gather and measure current conditions; readings are evaluated by comparing them with pre-designed set readings; fluctuations between readings and desired values are calculated; and electrical or ventilation adjustments are made to bring readings within the pre-specified range. These functions are carried out by sensors, which detect the current settings first, then transform the readings into an electrical value and transmit a signal to the transducers, which do the same. The electrical input and output are processed by controllers before being transmitted to the last control components, which ultimately alter the flow. For instance, the final control elements will alter the flow to lower the temperature if the air conditioning is set too low.

Additionally, the BMS is also in charge of the APIs that are employed to disclose data that can be pertinent to building occupants. To distribute-collect valuable data (such as a room’s temperature and humidity, an occupants position, etc.), a network of sensors is typically used. The sensor network is typically made up of occupancy, temperature, luminosity, and humidity. 

Advancing towards an even more integrated and smart BMS

Energy saving has received more attention in recent years, and several building management solutions are already referred to as the accumulated system of all Management Level Systems. The best way to track and manage energy use inside a building is by using a BEMS. It may regulate the required temperatures, the hours of the day and week, and which portions of a structure are heated or cooled. Furthermore, the trend toward integration in construction projects and buildings as a whole is not new. Intelligent building management systems, also known as integrated building management systems, have become commonplace for a number of reasons. 

However, in the current hyper-connected world, the movement towards integration and, more specifically, interconnectedness, assumes a new dimension that is fueled by the alterations brought on by various technologies. As a result, cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things have the potential to gather ever more insights and perspectives in a better, smarter, faster, and cheaper way, thereby adding the various reasons and causes of this evolution. As was already mentioned, it’s not just about using the Building Management System as a digital hub, but also about getting a far more comprehensive perspective of the building from every angle.

How else could the developments in BMS be impacted? With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the perfect storm of a fusion of newer technologies, facilitating digital transformation and innovation. In addition to enabling increased intelligence up to the building’s edge, these technologies are also displacing many current standards and technologies. At the field control level, data analysis and decisions based on this data become autonomous, but ultimately you still need that central hub.

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Considering the increasing demand for Industry 4.0-based smart city initiatives, it is simple to forecast what will happen to building management systems in the future. Because of BMS's energy efficiency and financial advantages, it is crucial to promote its adoption in cities and developing nations. Information technology architecture and a building management system that are integrated into an organization's strategy and operations can produce value across a number of dimensions.  As was previously indicated in this blog, it is obvious that IoT usage will be increasingly essential in the context of building management given that smart buildings are a rapidly expanding use case. This is especially true given that connected buildings are already among the top IoT endpoints. Furthermore, an organization should go beyond the current setup when investing in BMS technology. To better understand the benefits of integrating the building automation system with the IT infrastructure, decision-makers must cast a wider net. Whatever technological platform is chosen to capture the energy and operational data, it must be completely compatible with the existing IT network. By employing BMS solutions like Know Your Building™, you can step into a future where your building can talk to you and offer suggestions and insights that will alter the way you manage or govern your facility or physical space. The business intelligence elements of the Know Your Building™ solution allow you to quickly make adjustments to improve operational efficiencies and obtain useful, real-time information from all across your physical environment or surroundings. Get in touch with us right away to discover how our innovative solutions can help you manage your commercial real estate business more successfully.

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