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Fri 8 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Smart facilities

Building management systems (BMS and building automation are used widely in the Middle East. But what is the future for this technology?

Smart facilities

Building management systems (BMS and building automation are used widely in the Middle East. But what is the future for this technology?

About 40% of the world's energy is consumed by buildings. With energy resources at a premium, and developers looking for ways to cut costs, facilities managers are turning to BMS to control and monitor the energy expenditure in a building, and make life for the occupant a little easier in the process.

Siemens head of building technologies division Patrick Guedel says "a BMS is a tool that enables a building operator to control and drive each and every function of a building: HVAC, lighting or window blinds."

The cables for the system are installed at the end of the preliminary building works in either cable trail or pipes. Stefan Ries, vice president, private networks, R&M, which produces the cables required to install the systems, comments: "It is becoming more commonplace in to install BMS and building automation systems as developers realise the benefits and rewards of having them."

BMS systems are used quite regularly in the Middle East, although some industry experts believe more awareness would help get the best from them. Johnson Controls regional marketing lead, controls, Sanjay Tendulkar, reports: "Awareness at the moment is not up to the expected levels ... BMS is quite common, only the consultants and the contractors are going for low-spec, and are not looking at the technologies available."

Guedel believes the construction market has now fully accepted BMS: "BMS are used widely in the Middle East, because building owners and operators identify potential benefits very well. For example, if you are checking-in at my hotel, and need a room just slightly cooler, I can do this from a click on a front-desk computer.

"I do not need housekeeping to set the air-con, and I do not need to cool down the whole hotel or a whole floor. I can do it just for you. By the time the lift takes you to your room floor, the right temperature is set. Siemens has installed such systems in such five-star hotels as Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi."

Implementing the systems into buildings is relatively stress-free, argues Ries: "There aren't any big challenges as such, beyond the normal one faced when implementing an IT infrastructure. The developers install a LAN, which acts as the backbone of the cabling."

This is a view shared by Guedel: "Implementing BMS systems in this region is not so difficult; what is a real challenge, though, is for building operators to cope with increasing costs of electricity."

One example of how BMS integrates itself within a building's systems is through lighting, where it can have complete control. Leviton MD Ramzi Nassif reveals: "Leviton lighting management systems have the capability to integrate with BMS through different open protocols; Leviton lighting control panels speak native BACnet protocol. Also, it can communicate with the BMS through MODBUS and LonTalk communication protocols with an optional field server card.

"This integration gives the BMS complete monitoring and controls of Leviton lighting management systems, which gives the BMS the capability to generate reports and alarms, and it will have the capability to control Leviton lighting management system based on time and date."

BMS systems and building automation may use electricity to operate, but through sensible management of buildings, they can save energy in the long run, although Ries is keen to stress they are not the only solution: "Building automation is not the only and greatest answer to a green building. It is becoming a matter of lifestyle demanded by owners. It also plays an integral role in how architects design buildings, meaning more systems can be integrated with an IP-based network and cabling infrastructure than before."

While the cabled solutions currently in use seem to operate efficiently, it has been suggested that wireless is the next breakthrough. However, Tendulkar explains: "Wireless is one area where it depends on the environment, application and budget.

"I am not really excited on the wireless front, except for places like a lobby, where you want to raise the temperature and provide the right cooling, with maybe more than 100 people there. In this case, wireless could work."

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