• commercial_buildings

    What's New? What's Next? -- Next Generation BMS for Commercial Facilities

    Feb. 16, 2024
    News about a big development in Building Management Systems.

    This is the second installment of our 2024 Series, "What's New? What's Next? where we focus on new developments and initiatives by select HVACR manufacturers. - ed.

    Founder of Nexus Labs, James Dice, PE, CEM, CMVP, recently penned a white paper titled “The Untapped 87%: Simplifying Controls Technology for Small Buildings.”  In it, the author explains that a 20,500 square foot building was retrofitted with a BMS (building management system) by the United States Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory in 2010. 

    Within the first two years, this led to a 22 percent energy savings, and a “dramatic decline” in occupant comfort complaints. 

    In addition to energy savings and improved occupant experience, a BMS can also significantly lower overall building operational and maintenance costs.  In the case of HVAC equipment, most buildings are operated in a highly inefficient run-to-failure mode whereby support personnel are only made aware of equipment problems via complaints from occupants. 

    This results in the need for a 24/7 rapid response capability and typically requires multiple site visits to determine the cause of the complaints and then to fix the underlying problem.  A remotely monitored building with a BMS changes this dynamic.  Through automation and notification, smaller facility management teams are enabled to more efficiently manage large portfolios of buildings. 

    Mr. Dice’s paper goes on to explain that buildings smaller than 50,000 square feet represent 94 percent of commercial buildings in the US, 44 percent of electricity use, and 44 percent of total energy use. 

    However, only 13 percent of commercial buildings under 50,000 square feet are equipped with a BMS.  

    Why? Economics prevents broad deployment.  Building management systems are too complex and too costly for the average building owner, often to the tune of $5 or even $10 per square foot.  Moreover, most BMSs require expensive annual service plans. 

    As a result, there’s great opportunity to reduce energy consumption, increase indoor comfort, improve air quality, and lower building maintenance costs by moving beyond industry standard conventions and to unconventional, interoperable BMS technologies. 

    In addition to developing new heat pumps to replace R-410A product offerings, Fujitsu General America has recently been busy creating one such alternative to the conventional BMS: AIRSTAGE Cloud, which provides BMS as a Service (SaaS). 

    The highly versatile AIRSTAGE Cloud platform provides effective and efficient monitoring, management, and maintenance of Fujitsu VRF and Mini Split systems along with the ability to control and monitor any thermostatically controlled HVAC system, regardless of the manufacturer. By deploying highly automated SaaS based software services on a modern cloud-edge computing architecture based on Amazon Web Services (AWS), AIRSTAGE Cloud provides the power of a traditional BMS without the prohibitive cost. 

    The new plug-and-play platform automatically communicates with most deployed equipment.  This solution makes it economically possible for all buildings to decrease energy consumption, increase health and comfort while decreasing building operational expenses.  It automates all the costly installation, configuration, and operational building management functions.

    Fujitsu is not trying to make every device needed in the market.  Instead, we’re focusing on enabling a world where the end-user can pick and choose the best equipment for their needs and have that equipment automatically recognized, commissioned and put into operation.  Beyond that, the platform automatically coordinates the behavior of the equipment.

    The introduction of AIRSTAGE Cloud is a strong, deliberate movement away from the traditional, siloed behavior of BMS controls manufacturers.  Take indoor air quality as just one example.  Fujitsu does not manufacture any IAQ-specific components, aside from fresh air collars as an accessory to indoor units.  With that said, AIRSTAGE Cloud offers nearly endless opportunities to seamlessly integrate and control IAQ components within a building.

    The Schneider 8650 room controller was the first IAQ solution to operate on AIRSTAGE Cloud.  With an 8650 installed at a site, AIRSTAGE Cloud can monitor IAQ and IAC parameters via wireless battery-operated sensors.  This provides monitoring and response to IAQ issues via alerting operators and even automatically coordinating equipment behavior to deal with problems.   

    Again, it provides monitoring and control of any thermostatically controlled device.  This includes more than 60 percent of all heating/air conditioning systems, including Carrier, Rheem, and York equipment, among many others.  Essentially, all unitary equipment found throughout North America can now be controlled through one platform without the need for a conventional BMS.  

    AIRSTAGE Cloud now includes two new apps, Site Manager and Refrigerant Cycle Monitor (RCM).  Site Manager allows users of an account to monitor and control a complete portfolio of sites, from one site to thousands.  Account access can be assigned to any number of users.  For example, the property owner and business staff can be added as administrative users, facilities support personnel and HVAC professionals can be added as technician users, and tenants can be added as occupant users.  In addition, a user’s access can be further customized by a sophisticated permissioning system.

    RCM is a specialized diagnostic tool used to monitor and diagnose issues with AIRSTAGE VRF systems. It is predominantly used during installation and commissioning of VRF systems. It greatly reduces service times, labor, and repeat visits, saving all stakeholders time and money. 

    By decreasing the cost of BMS equipment, installation, and operation to a fraction of traditional systems, Fujitsu is essentially bringing all the benefits of BMS to the masses.   HVAC contractors, building operators and facility managers can finally deploy a cost effective BMS for any size project.  The 87 percent of commercial space under 50,000 square feet in the United States finally has a BMS solution.

    Matt Taylor’s 35-year engineering career has been primarily focused on the design of high-speed data communication equipment and software systems, spanning from the early days of Ethernet on through to today’s modern Internet.