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Five Tips to Navigating the Complexity of Open System Building Controls

July 09, 2021

When it comes to building automation systems, not all uses of the term “open system” are equal. The following tips can help you identify the most critical open system capabilities so you can make an informed decision for your building or project’s needs.

1. Confirm flexibility in product selection

Avoid a system that limits product options so you can select best-in-class, best-in-service equipment for your building, regardless of manufacturer. For example, confirm that your preferred technology can communicate with a wealth of lighting manufacturers rather than a limited portfolio. Don’t get locked into just a few suppliers – or worse, a single manufacturer.

2. Check for open data collection

An open system should allow access to all controller data and communicate that data throughout the architecture. Conversely, a system may claim to be “open” but is pre-programmed to collect limited data. While this pre-programmed data set may meet your current needs, your requirements may change, for example, should you want to conduct an in-depth energy analysis. A truly open system gives you the flexibility to configure data collection as needed.

3. Verify open protocols

It is critical to ensure operability between multiple vendors, including with the building automation system itself. If you have an existing system or multiple facilities, open, flexible infrastructure enables you to pull in legacy controllers and smoothly integrate them.

4. Ensure open service and open tools 

Avoid system issues and minimize downtime by selecting a system that is open on the service side. Make sure that your system is optimized for self-servicing and can also be serviced by multiple companies. Confirm that all tools needed are readily available for servicing the system.

5. Know what to specify

When it comes to specifying truly open software infrastructure, wording matters. Challenge potential project bidders (or ask your consulting engineering to do so), by requiring the following:

  • “System communications shall be BACnet at all levels of the architecture,” rather than, “The system shall be capable of BACnet/IP communications.”
  • Stipulate that equipment and control interfaces must be certified by BACnet Testing Laboratories®.

Plan now to make sure the open system you select truly meets your building, service and data analysis needs – both today and for many years ahead

About the Author

Chuck Lehn

Chuck Lehn, Systems Application Engineer

Chuck Lehn is a Trane systems application engineer based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. He offers more than 20 years of controls products experience working with many Trane and non-Trane solutions in a diverse range of vertical markets. Chuck is primarily responsible for system integration, product development, and sourced controls products. He supports the presales and technical support teams and is the lead instructor for the Trane University - System Integration class.

Chuck graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Chuck and his family reside in Minnesota.

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