April 2020

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COVID 19 and the BAS Systems Integrators

HVAC/electrical tradesmen are essential according to the federal guidelines that many states are following.  Which means we as an industry are allowed to operate during these uncertain times. 
Scott CochraneScott Cochrane
President, CEO
Cochrane Supply & Engineering

Contributing Editor

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Crazy times... Just a month ago I was worried about cyber security in BAS systems. Now, I’m worried about the business I’ve known and loved for the last 25 years.  I know it’s going to be okay, but I still worry so I call my customers/friends who are integrators to see what they see, to help me understand. And here is what I found out. 

HVAC/electrical tradesmen are essential according to the federal guidelines that many states are following.  Which means we as an industry are allowed to operate during these uncertain times.  
LONG Building Technologies

We are hearing all sorts of stories from different buildings from hospitals to warehouses—there is some important activity keeping our services viable during the epidemic.  While this is important and prioritized, there are many other ways to keep the rest of the team working effectively, still billing for hours.  

I asked Chris Bonzheim from ControlNET in Grand rapids Michigan about if he would need to do any staffing cutbacks.  His response? “Absolutely not!  We had a six-month backlog, of which about 30% can be done remote. So, we are just re-prioritizing our plans to complete that work while working from our homes.”  Chris added, “I am still looking to hire good people during these times.” 

Scott Papay, Sales Manager at LONG Building Technologies in Denver, has a very proactive approach to the situation as well.  They are calling their customers and offering to put their unoccupied buildings in a setback mode to save energy while they are not using the building.  In most cases, they are doing this for free as a public service and a good steward of the industry.  These conversations have led to new opportunities to do work while the buildings are empty.  So as they see projects/buildings shut down, new opportunities open up in buildings that had too much going on in them to allow for BAS services prior to the pandemic.  

Scott is not alone. We have heard from many integrators in a variety of areas that some school districts, universities, stadiums, factories and many more have opened up summer work early or started new projects to take advantage of the empty buildings.  

Scott and his team have not only continued to add new work this month, they have been offering services normally requested for off hours at a high labor rate at normal rates during the day now, because the buildings are empty. Cool….  

contemporary Scott, like Chris, is planning on keeping everybody busy and billable during the turbulent times.  

Brian Oswald, Senior Vice President from CBRE | ESI, sees how being on prem during these uncertain times has heightened everyone’s awareness of the value for remote BAS monitoring capabilities. They have offered remote monitoring services for many years, but with the epidemic, they are getting NEW INTEREST from clients for these remote services and he anticipates a significant increase in demand going forward as his clients realize how important an off premise building control strategy is!

Another observation during the pandemic? More time for training! Given our current state of events, virtual training has exploded as a go-to means for not just kids, but for professionals and tradesmen to take this time to catch up on long overdue training. To take that class they’ve been putting off for months, if not years, because of normally over-packed work days in the office or on site at a customer’s location. Cochrane Tech Services, for instance, sped up their plans to offer virtual Building Automation Systems (BAS) training courses for systems integrators, contractors, service technicians, facility managers and more to accommodate the opportunity for many of us to further our education at the moment. 

The Cochrane Tech Services team successfully hosted its first instructor-led, online Niagara 4 Technical Certification course with LIVE lab panels, and plans to continue down that path to support the industry with additional virtual training opportunities. Kimberly Brown, Cochrane Tech Services’ Manager, is pleased with their virtual class rollouts and the level of excitement and interest being expressed by BAS industry professionals.  

“Our virtual training options have been met with overwhelming enthusiasm with people eager to take advantage of these rare remote opportunities,” Kim said. “They’re able to advance their capabilities and skills from the comfort of their home—while getting the same level of extensive support and education that is standard in our typical classroom setting.”

I’ve personally been encouraging my own staff to use this time to educate themselves as much as possible. To enroll in our Tech Services courses. To watch industry videos. To immerse themselves in eLearning modules provided by our vendors. Along those lines, we want to share our compiled list of additional resources by vendor (some may require account creation/login) to have at your disposal:

Johnson Controls



KMC Controls

Phoenix Contact

Distech Controls

Cochrane Supply




Contemporary Controls

DG logik





Functional Devices


Optigo Networks


TCS Basys



Honeywell Analytics


White Rodgers - Emerson


Attachments area

As a distributor for many different BAS brands, even with many states shut down, I can tell you they are all still doing a great job shipping and supporting their products as of today.  Obviously the future is uncertain, but as we, the BAS Industry, have been deemed essential, it is our mission to stay viable to ensure our services are there for those in need.  BAS Industry: Consider yourselves LUCKY!!! You probably have the option to work TODAY and throughout the pandemic.


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