The Next Step for Controls?

It pains me to admit it, but every once in a while a salesperson may be right. Last month, as you might recall, I was completing an onerous task—finalizing our editorial calendar for 2005. As noted, part of that process included getting input from our sales staff. A unanimous choice that popped out of the mouths of my colleagues for inclusion was BAS—building automation.

10/01/2004


It pains me to admit it, but every once in a while a salesperson may be right. Last month, as you might recall, I was completing an onerous task—finalizing our editorial calendar for 2005. As noted, part of that process included getting input from our sales staff. A unanimous choice that popped out of the mouths of my colleagues for inclusion was BAS—building automation. The more I thought about this, the more I had to concur. For example, in discussing the LEED program recently with a couple of folks from EwingCole (see Project Journal, p. 69), the importance of controls came through loud and clear: "You have to have the controls know-how," said Eric Joesten, director of mechanical engineering with the Philadelphia-based firm. "That's really where you get your [LEED] credits from—optimization of systems and optimizing controls."

On a recent visit to Atlanta, I heard a similar message from Steve Tom, a controls engineer from Automated Logic. Tom participated in our M/E Roundtable last issue, offering advice on writing better BAS specifications. During my visit with him, we delved into other BAS trends. One trend he noted his company is specifically monitoring is the evolution of web-based BAS services and the use of XML—eXtensible Markup Language—as an information vehicle, so to speak.

"There's a lot of confusion about whether [XML] is the way for different building automation systems to talk to each other, or if it's intended as a replacement [protocol]," he said.

ALC has always backed the idea of web-based services, and if you recall a column I wrote after this year's ASHRAE Winter Meeting, the company even did a demo at the AHR Expo: Using XML, they downloaded real-time electricity rates from a California utility and plugged them into their BAS to show capabilities like automated load shedding could be very real.

Continuing our conversation, Tom added that XML, of course, is not something that replaces BACnet or LonWorks. That being said, he has unearthed an interesting discovery: Users and utilities don't necessarily care or want to be fluent in a specific control protocol, or even XML, for that matter. They just want to be able to get information to their building. So from his perspective, the answer is as simple as making good products that are XML-friendly. But how do engineers become XML-friendly? I'd like to suggest a way. A new seminar series—BuilSpec—is coming to a city near you. The objective of the seminars, which start in Chicago on Nov. 4, is to present the next direction of building automation. Anto Budiardjo, the event's organizer, says their purpose is not to come to any conclusion about specific protocols, but rather to blaze the trail for XML and other innovations, which he believes will create a pathway for more interoperable systems using equipment from all camps. In fact, the BACnet Manufacturer's Assn. and LonMark International are helping sponsor the event, and so is CSE , as we believe this is a positive step in making the whole of the controls world better, especially as the world of IT comes more to bear on BAS. For specifics see the News on p. 13. Hope to see you at one of the seminars.





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