May 2009

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BACnet by the Numbers

A twelve step program for kicking the proprietary systems habit

Andy McMillanAndy McMillan
President and CEO
Teletrol Systems Inc.

BACnet International

Contributing Editor

Organizations that have spent years (or decades) buying or implementing building automation systems based on vendor-specific proprietary systems often find it hard to break that habit and adopt open, standards-based BACnet solutions.  Even though BACnet solutions hold out the promise of lower life-cycle costs and better long-term return on investment, it can be organizationally difficult to break with past practice and accept the short-term challenges of transition.  Unfortunately, the failure to adopt or promote BACnet places these organizations at a competitive disadvantage that will increase dramatically over time.  The following twelve-step program was designed to serve as a guide for such organizations.  It is a step-by-step action plan for adopting BACnet drawn from the experience of users and suppliers that have successfully overcome their dependence on legacy, proprietary systems. 

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Step 1:  Admit we are powerless to effectively control and extend our building automation solutions that were built on legacy, proprietary systems.  Our solutions have become unmanageable. 

Step 2:   Believe that users and suppliers working together in the ASHRAE standards community can create more commercial power than any individual supplier or user and that such a collaborative community can restore our technical world to sanity. 

Step 3:  Make the decision to turn our building automation interoperability future over to the collective wisdom of the SSPC-135 ASHRAE standards committee and its global counterparts. 

Step 4:  Take a fearless, searching inventory of our building automation systems, specifications and business practices to identify dependence on proprietary communications protocols, vendor-specific solutions and “single supplier” thinking. 

Step 5:  Admit to ourselves and our peers those areas where our specifications and implementations are inconsistent with BACnet’s philosophy of open, interoperable solutions. 

Step 6:  Participate in the BACnet community and allow the collaborative standards process to guide us in addressing these areas. 

Step 7:  Humbly ask for guidance and assistance from our community of fellow users and suppliers through participation in annual BACnet conferences, online forums and BACnet International activities. 

Step 8:  Document the benefits of implementing BACnet projects and share project outcomes with other BACnet community members and prospective members. 

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Step 9:  Publicly share the credit for achieving specific benefits with all project participants through BACnet International conference presentations, published case studies and trade press.

Step 10:  Continue to review proposed new projects, upgrades and re-implementations to eliminate bias toward legacy systems and identify opportunities for migration to BACnet solutions. 

Step 11:  Contribute to increased organizational and community awareness of the power of user-supplier collaboration and the BACnet standard. 

Step 12:  Having had an organizational awakening through the practice of these steps, seize every opportunity to carry the BACnet message of open, interoperable systems to other organizations and continue to practice it ourselves.   

Note that if enough interest is expressed in this program, an online PA (Proprietary Anonymous) support group may be formed.  Watch this column for further developments.   

As always, the views expressed in this column are mine and do not necessarily reflect the position of BACnet International, Teletrol Systems, ASHRAE, or any other organization.  If you want to send comments to me directly, feel free to email me at


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