What is an Integrated Building Management System?

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Building management is becoming more important as businesses control costs, and increase efficiency. In this lesson, we'll take a look at building management systems, what they are, and what it means for them to be integrated.

Buildings Are Not That Cheap

Buildings are expensive, both to construct, and maintain. You have the cost of the materials needed for the build, you have the cost of the labor needed to assemble the structure, and you have the cost of prevention for things like fire and theft. Even the simplest building can cost millions of dollars. So you'd think that the owners would be looking for ways to reduce their costs and protect their investments. In fact, they are. One method, in particular, provides the ability to monitor and maintain the various systems in a building. It's called a building management system.

What is a Building Management System?

A building management system is a computer system designed to keep track of, and control, the various systems in a building. These systems include:

  • Power - This includes usage monitoring and flow control to various parts of the building.
  • Climate control - Heat, air conditioning, and air circulation, are provided to the various parts of the building.
  • Building entry/exit - Door monitoring and access, intrusion sensor monitoring, and alarms within the various parts of the building are included.
  • Water (pumps) - This amounts to getting the water to the various floors within the building.
  • Elevators - Control, surveillance, and access to the cars in the building are included.
  • Lights - This provides automated activation/deactivation and power conservation of the many fixtures in the building.

What Does It Mean for a Building Management System to be Integrated?

What integrated means, in terms of a building management system, is that the building's system management capabilities were part of the building's initial design. In other words, they weren't added after-the-fact. Take, for example, an extension to a house, like another bedroom. This is something a lot of families consider when their needs change with time. If the bedroom were integrated, it would have been designed and built when the rest of the house was. It would exist when you moved in. As you might imagine, this has a number of benefits, which we'll talk about in a subsequent section.

What Does an Integrated Building Management System Look Like?

Interestingly enough, an integrated building management system looks much like a network. In fact, current versions use similar technologies. It consists of the following:

  • A central server or servers - Much like the servers used by a business, they provide storage and processing to the building management system.
  • Monitoring stations - These are the access points for the system administrators, and are similar to the computers on your desk at work. They provide the ability to monitor the systems mentioned above and control their operations.
  • Remote sensors - These are the devices that capture operational information concerning the systems mentioned above. Think of them like the equivalent to a thermometer for heat, only specific to the system involved.

In picture form, the system looks like:

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