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Should You Sole-Source a BAS?
As with many BAS issues, the answer to this question is “it depends.”
Ira Goldschmidt, P.E., LEEDŽAP
July Issue - BAS Column
many situations, there are some definite advantages to sole-sourcing a
BAS as long as you can skirt around any requirement to bid the work
out, and then there’s also some possible disadvantages.
Therefore, as with many BAS issues, the answer to this question is “it
depends.” In my recent two columns, I covered the challenge of
integrating new BAS additions or upgrades to existing BAS’s. In
these cases, the advantages to sole-sourcing are extremely
compelling. This month’s column addresses this question for new
and/or fully renovated buildings where an all-new BASs will be
If a new building is not part of a campus and is the owner’s sole building, then there is little advantage to sole-sourcing the BAS. Otherwise, a campus or multi-building owner will want to strongly consider the sole-sourcing of a BAS for a new or renovated building.
Should You Sole-Source the Manufacturer or the Contractor?
a BAS mean limiting the bidding to a single manufacturer or a single
contractor or both? Most BAS manufacturers select a single
contractor (or have a factory branch) to represent their products
within a given geographical area. Therefore limiting the
manufacturer to a single choice will also, in turn, limit the
contractor to a single choice…but not always. So listing both the
sole-source manufacturer and associated contractor within the spec is
usually a good idea given that the manufacturer cannot lawfully refuse
any other contractor from purchasing their product (though not at the
pricing usually afforded to an authorized rep). It’s also
possible that an out-of-town contractor may try setting up a “beach
head” in a new location by low-balling the project price.
An owner that has standardized on the Tridium platform has a unique opportunity of considering multiple contractors to bid using essentially the same manufacturer. I say “Essentially” because the Tridium platform generally refers to only a web-server operator interface and various IP-level controllers but not lower-level controllers (e.g., for terminal equipment). So it is possible to end up with multiple manufacturers of lower-level controllers when using this approach.
What Are the Advantages of Sole-Sourcing a BAS?
If the same
manufacturer’s products are used, there will be full integration with
the existing system (assuming that there hasn’t been a change in that
manufacturer’s products that did not properly address backward
compatibility). Using a different manufacturer will always result
in less complete integration even if the existing and new BASs both use
BACnet. In particular, a centralized operator interface (i.e.,
for all of the owner’s buildings) may not be able to interact with the
new BAS as completely as with a BAS of the same manufacturer.
Further a whole different and separate set of programming tools will be
needed for the new BAS. Finally, more spare parts will need to be
stocked for any in-house service efforts. All of this will
require additional training for facility staff and may add unneeded
confusion troubleshooting an off-normal condition or failure.
If the contractor is sole-sourced, then there will be improved consistency in the installation, setup programming, and resulting sequences. Only having to call one BAS contractor when there’s an issue is also simpler than dealing with multiple BAS contractors.
What Are the Disadvantages?
The first is of
course price. How do you know if you are getting the best price
if you are only getting one price (then again is the low-bid price the
“best” price)? Developing unit and/or open-book pricing with the
contractor can help reduce this concern. There’s also the “fat
cats don’t hunt” belief that a contractor won’t respond well to your
needs once they know that you are a “captured” client. There is
undoubtedly some truth to these issues, but I’d argue that they are
typically outweighed by the advantages.
owners would benefit greatly from sole-sourcing the BAS manufacturer
and contractor. This approach can also serve as a great platform
for standardizing many aspects to BAS design and installation so that
it better serves the owner.
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