Schneider, one of the Building Management System leaders (BMS), believes that 12% of the world’s energy could be saved with the digital upgrade of BMS.  This is indeed a significant financial and environmental opportunity.  On that theme, ADEME the French energy and environment agency went on a  quest to find out why the building system optimization, promised by the  industry in the 90’s, has not happened yet.

During the 90’s, the development of electronics, software and standard protocols announced the rise of efficient digital solutions for the operations of building equipment such as HVAC, lights, elevators and so on. However almost 30 years later, the report from ADEME exposes a well-known reality in the industry, the digital optimization has barely started.

According to ADEME, the barrier for the digital optimization is the lack of compatibility of BMS components and the complexity of the various BMS designs. The BMS infrastructure is a struggle for industry players: automation engineers, integrators, building owners and operators. Here are 2 illustrations of that struggle:

  • When renovating a building or creating an extension, many automation engineers and integrators prefer to scrap the existing BMS and create a new one. This is very costly but still cheaper than adapting the current BMS which would be a longsome and uncertain process.
  • It is not rare to find costly variable frequency drives which operate as on/off controllers due to the deficiency of the BMS setup. It is comparable to buying a premium fuel-efficient car but driving it at full throttle only.

The ADEME report explains that systems are designed and built with functionality in mind: control the temperature, bring fresh air, etc. The operational optimization is not the priority of the builder. This is supposed to come afterwards, from the building operator. But the reality is that system designs tend to be frozen due to the high cost and effort it takes to set simple optimization applications.

The deficiencies of the legacy BMS industry has pushed many companies, among them WattSense, to tackle the issue. At WattSense we agree with ADEME on the significant energy saving potential, however, we disagree on the approach which should be taken. The recommendation from ADEME is to increase the regulation of construction and maintenance operations. We believe that due to the diversity of applications and the complexity of systems, stringer regulations on the building equipment control will have little chance of creating an impact.

As recent events have shown, even the highly standardized and regulated automotive industry faces challenges to enforce regulation. Imagine in the diversified and complex building industry… More regulation is not the answer.

Businesses are always trying to eliminate waste. Every building operator would like to upgrade their BMS to a smarter one. We believe that the BMS upgrade will be driven by value creation and there is plenty of value creation potential. Some go as far as paying the building operator by optimizing the building operations towards utilities.

Still, to truly scale, the emerging companies which create BMS optimization applications will need a universal solution that decomplexify the spaghetti BMS infrastructure. WattSense is ready do that job.