September 2015

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Bringing BACnet Back to Users

Education, Information and Connections

Andy McMillanAndy McMillan
Strategy Consultant
BACnet International

Contributing Editor

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Over the years I’ve written several columns lamenting the fact that many Users find BACnet difficult to understand (and in “Users” I include building owners, operators, consultants, system integrators and facilities management executives and anyone else who is not intimately involved in BACnet-related activity).  Since my first column on this topic in 2008 a lot of additional BACnet information has been developed.  On the BACnet International website alone there are dozens of success stories (case studies) and over 100 white papers, articles and conference presentations.  All of which is good.  But it’s not enough.  A recent survey of thousands of users indicated that most of them struggle to find accessible, relevant BACnet information and education.  It’s a little ironic that BACnet only exists because Users demanded open, interoperable systems but now that BACnet is widely available Users find it hard to learn enough to take full advantage of it.  In some sense, we need to bring BACnet back to the Users.  Fortunately, I think we are on a path to doing exactly that. 

Challenges in Learning about BACnet

One challenge Users face in finding relevant BACnet information is that the topic seems inherently technical so they go to technical experts or technical documents for information -- which can create more confusion than clarity.  It’s sort of like asking an automotive engineer to explain the difference between a five-speed transmission and a four-speed transmission to the average driver.  They are likely to explain it in terms of torque, brake-horsepower and gear ratios when the average person just needs to know the five-speed will give the car more power at low speeds and better gas mileage at high speeds. 

A second challenge Users face in finding relevant BACnet information is that repositories of content and resources can be hard to navigate.  Google is great but searching for “BACnet Trending” results in a lot of links to content at many levels of detail written for many different audiences.  The same is true of searching dedicated BACnet information repositories like the one on the BACnet International website. With limited time and a lot to do, Users find sorting through all this frustrating and some no doubt conclude it’s just not worth the effort.

And, even when Users find relevant information it may not be accessible when they need it and in the form they want it.  Traditional learning through classroom instruction and reading articles doesn’t work for everyone.  Many people (dare I say, especially the younger people in our community) prefer to learn through self-paced online training or by asking questions or engaging in discussions on a social medial platform.  

Address the Challenges

BACnet International has just announced plans to initiate a new online information and education center designed to address these challenges. It will be called The BACnet Institute and will include three components.

  1. Education in the form of on-demand, self-paced BACnet courses
  1. Information in the form of curated, multi-media resources tagged for content and audience
  1. Connections in the form of a platform for asking questions and sharing challenges

The BACnet Institute will leverage existing content resources where they are available. For example, the white papers and articles currently available on the BACnet International website will be appropriately tagged and incorporated into The BACnet Institute.  Where important resources do not exist such as on-line courses, they will be developed.  In fact, the development of the first online course (BACnet Basics) is already underway. 

The BACnet Institute is a significant undertaking.  The goal is to launch the first components by the end of this year and then continue building it out going forward. The BACnet Institute will operate under the auspices of BACnet International in collaboration with other organizations in the BACnet community. Hopefully it will be a meaningful contributor to bringing BACnet back to the Users. 

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


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