February 2011

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Set it and Forget It?
We suspect that this is exactly the approach that most designers, owners and contractors would really like to be able to take with their BAS installations.

Paul Ehrlich, Ira Goldschmidt & Angela Lewis
Building Intelligence Group

As published
Engineered Systems 
February Issue - Column


There is a well-known ad for a kitchen gadget, which runs on late night TV.  The pitchman says his product is so easy to use; you can  “Set it and Forget It.”  We suspect that this is exactly the approach that most designers, owners and contractors would really like to be able to take with their BAS installations.  Simply set it up and it will run flawlessly for the life of the building.  Unfortunately reality differs significantly from this lofty goal, and the proper operation of most systems requires continuous fine-tuning, troubleshooting, and commissioning.  This month we are going to review the recommended steps for making sure a system works properly.

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Step 1:  Good Design

In computer programming, there is a saying called GIGO for “garbage in, garbage out.”  The concept is that to get a high quality result you need to start with high quality data and inputs.  This is also true for BAS installations.  A high quality system starts with a thorough and well thought out design.  Careful attention on the part of the design engineer to lay out the system and most importantly, sequences is an important first step to delivering a quality installation.

Step 2:  Great Contractors

The quality of any BAS project is highly dependent on the contractor and more specifically, on the technician who will do the programming and setup.  High quality contractors pay close attention to details and are developing quality submittals and documentation.  They also are working closely with the design engineer and owner to meet the design intent and resulting in a high quality installation. 

Step 3:  Commissioning

We are amazed to hear from owners who don’t formally commission buildings, only to complain that they don’t work properly.  The process of commissioning provides a way to optimize systems, provide valuable checks and balances, and to assure that systems are working properly.  While the commissioning process provides a great training opportunity for the owner, it also provides a good place to resolve project issues and to make sure that systems are working optimally.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Step 4:  Continuous (or is it Continued?) Commissioning

While ideally we would like to think that commissioning ends when the project is turned over to the owner it is not really the case.  There are many reasons for this.  Some of them have to do with problems, from the original installation that had not been uncovered by the contractor and commissioning team.  Many more are due to the challenges of buildings dynamics.  For example, as buildings go through seasonal changes, new challenges appear.  Building usage may not be exactly as planned.  Tools such as building metering and long term trending also allow us to uncover system problems which may not of been obvious during the original commissioning process.  Continuous commissioning can be achieved through many methods from a regular check by the contractor or engineer, to the use of an automated program or service which help assist in evaluating the efficiency of a building. Of course the best continuous commissioning comes from a diligent operator, who is using the BAS on a regular basis as a tool to optimize the facility! 

So until we reach the state of “set it and forget it” we need to keep working with the BAS to keep it working in an optimal manner.

About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com


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