What does the Future Hold for BAS?

This past month, St. Paul, Minn.-based HVAC equipment manufacturer Trane celebrated its 25th anniversary on the building controls side of the business and conducted a symposium with industry press to take a look at where the controls business may head in the next 25 years. Many of these trends were communicated by Paul Ehrlich, P.

By Staff January 1, 2004

This past month, St. Paul, Minn.-based HVAC equipment manufacturer Trane celebrated its 25th anniversary on the building controls side of the business and conducted a symposium with industry press to take a look at where the controls business may head in the next 25 years.

Many of these trends were communicated by Paul Ehrlich, P.E., business development leader of the company’s Global Controls and Contracting division. Ehrlich, who helped write the BACnet BIBB amendment, was provided a rare opportunity by his company, a sabbatical to talk to customers, academics and others to find out what’s happening right now in the business and what issues need to be addressed. Ehrlich’s search revealed that owners face the following:

  • A disposable economy

  • A shortage of qualified labor

  • Fewer on-site staff members due to more outsourcing

  • Security challenges

  • Rapid changes in space needs

  • A convergence of BAS and IT systems

Building owners/operators are looking for the following:

  • Ways to get their building controls to utilize the infrastructure of their existing intranets and the Internet.

  • Ways to get their facilities to serve as a data source to help them better run their business or organization.

  • Easy integration of all facility management tasks that they can operate more efficiently.

“It’s kind of ironic,” said Ehrlich. “Most businesses run on paper-thin margins—they know to the minute, in real time, what their sales, costs and salaries are, but they don’t know their building and energy costs. And on top of that, their data is coming in two months late. So we really need to help them turn that data back into knowledge.”

In putting on his clairvoyant’s hat, Ehrlich noted there are definitive initiatives presently germinating that will soon have a dramatic impact on BAS: wireless communications; more open protocol standards; Internet enabled systems; and finally, self-installing, self-diagnosing intelligent control devices.

“Wireless communications is really hot,” said Ehrlich. “We see it spreading beyond data networks.”

Perhaps its greatest advantage, according to Ehrlich, is that it will significantly reduce wiring costs, something, he says, that consumes 25% to 50% of a typical networking project’s budget. But moving forward, wireless technology will also provide greater flexibility for owners and better meet the mobile natures of building operators.

On the subject of open protocols and the Internet, a number of exciting things are happening, most notably discussions involving XML. In fact, as reported in our last issue, the Continental Automated Buildings Assn., in partnership with various industry leaders, have launched a new organization, oBIX—Open Building Information Exchange—that will study ways of making true integration and communication possible.

oBIX will be co-sponsoring a symposium at the ASHRAE Winter Meeting in Anaheim this month, to note current happenings, particularly concerning XML, and a desire to draft a new industry standard using current Internet standards for interoperable facility management.

He says it’s the group’s goal to have a draft of the standard sometime this year.