Cutting Through the Confusion About BAS, Analytics, and Energy Dashboards

Building owners with sophisticated Building Automation Systems (BAS) obviously want to gain the full value from them. But the industry chatter about advancements in related systems such as analytics and energy dashboards can definitely be confusing. Are these systems needed? How are they different? Won’t they overwhelm facilities staff already challenged with maintaining the BAS?

Actually, these additional systems make it easier to realize the true value of the BAS. This article will take a brief look at the distinct purpose and value of analytics and energy dashboards as they relate to the BAS. We’ll also explore how building insights, operational efficiency, and energy efficiency improve when these systems work together.

Building Analytics 

Let’s start by differentiating this system from the BAS. The BAS controls equipment directly. Whether it is a central chilled water plant, air handling unit, fan coil, exhaust fan, etc., the BAS commands equipment to run, monitors its status, and directly ties into instruments that measure all the most critical building variables: temperatures, air/water flow rate, percent relative humidity, energy metering, etc.

As a result, most BAS systems produce a daunting mountain of data. Even experts find it difficult to ferret out the key real time events and conditions, much less spot subtle and underlying faults that cost money every day and could ultimately result in serious failures. That’s where analytics comes in.

Analytics is simply a layer that “sits” on top of the BAS via software integration. It automatically boils down the mountain of BAS data into the most relevant and actionable events and conditions. This saves all the time and effort it takes to manually scroll through a BAS to identify problems. It also results in a proactive response to issues before they become comfort complaints or equipment failures.

A BAS may generate “hard” alarms such as a pump or fan failure or high chilled water temp.  Analytics will identify more subtle anomalies and performance drifts before they become a major problem. It does this by running a sophisticated model of how systems are expected to operate against the actual operation reported from the BAS. Anomalies are automatically flagged, often with a related cost of not fixing them so issues can be prioritized.

Think of analytics (despite its complexity) as “CliffsNotes” for the BAS – reporting only the most relevant and actionable data requiring intervention to prevent failure, comfort complaints, or unnecessarily high energy costs.

Energy Dashboards

Where analytics uses sophisticated algorithms to do a deep dive into system performance, the energy dashboard takes a gigantic step back to give a 10,000-ft. view of building energy use.

Looking at only the highest-level Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) such as Kilowatt Hours or BTU per Square Foot, the energy dashboard employs eye-catching graphics to display this information in a fun and intuitive way that’s easily digestible by the general public – or as part of an educational curriculum. Energy consumption is often shown as something relatable to the public or students, such as gallons of water boiled or hours of video games played.

The energy dashboard can be used as a fun way to encourage energy efficiency competitions between buildings on a campus, showing energy efficiency rankings with light, often cartoon-like, graphical representations. Displayed in a lobby kiosk, energy dashboards are an effective way to impress visitors with the environmentally conscious and forward-thinking nature of a company.

Energy dashboards can also be used by energy managers or other professionals to identify the worst-performing buildings and target them for improvements. This may require a new BAS or deployment of analytics on an existing BAS.

Here are key takeaways:

  • Building Automation Systems get buildings under control and are used by Facility Managers.
  • Analytics helps Facility Engineers sustain control and identifies performance issues.
  • Energy dashboard is a public-facing, high-level view of building energy shown in fun, creative ways – and it’s used by Energy Managers, Educators and the General Public