Follow these considerations when selecting building automation systems.

Keeping patients, visitors, and staff comfortable while reducing energy costs is a goal that most healthcare executives want to achieve. Building automation systems (BAS) control every aspect of the HVAC system so the benefits from well programed building automation systems ultimately ensure operational performance which in turn can achieve these goals.

Known as the primary backbone for energy savings in a hospital, choosing the right building automation systems can be a daunting task.

Unfortunately, this system is the least understood and yet one of the most expensive systems in a hospital. And, as technology continues to advance, we are seeing more systems become integrated into building automation systems. This includes systems such as fire alarm, power monitoring, lighting control, and security.

One of the many issues in healthcare is that many executives are directing engineers to make multi-million dollar decisions on which manufacturer’s building automation system to use in their hospitals without fully understanding that these decisions will have long-term impacts and ramifications on almost every aspect of facility operations and maintenance. The building automation systems control almost all a hospital’s critical utility systems, and with over 50 percent of the facility manager’s budget invested in energy, the building automation systems should be one of the engineer’s primary focuses. Making a decision based on second-hand experience, manufacture sales pitches or un-vetted third-party recommendations is dangerous. To ensure this decision is not taken lightly and a system that works best for your facility is selected, below we have highlighted four critical considerations when selecting building automation systems.

4 Critical Considerations

1. Ease of Use

Nothing slows a facilities department down like a clunky system that is not easy to use, ultimately impacting the efficiency of work and the overall patient experience. HVAC and facility technicians already have multiple priorities when maintaining a hospital. By ensuring a user-friendly interface with dashboards, easy-to-read graphics, and logical drill down screens, the time to monitor, evaluate, adjust, and troubleshoot daily operations will be minimized and staff can depend on the building automation systems to help resolve issues quickly.

Important factors such as detailed, specific control drawings and sequences of operations must be considered during the early stages of the design process of building automation systems. The end goal is a detailed and customized set of future-proof specifications for the facility.

2. Needs Assessment

Determining the nuances of the current HVAC system in your facility and identifying the needs at the local site are the first step in determining what building automation systems will be most beneficial for your healthcare organization. One way to achieve this is to make a comprehensive inventory of the existing system. A way to start is by asking your teams to answer a series of basic questions about the current building automation systems in place:

  • What works?
  • How well does it work?
  • What flat out doesn’t work?
  • What is still being supported?
  • What parts of the system will work with an upgraded system?
  • What will not work with an upgraded system?

After you have completed that step, speak directly with building automation systems users within your facility who represent different perspectives (e.g. HVAC operators, field technicians, etc.). Gaining insights from these critical users will help to determine what attributes they consider necessary for the building automation systems. Once all this information is collected, compile it with the inventory list—the data from these activities will help you create a prioritized plan.

3. Energy Savings

Healthcare executives across the nation are feeling the pressure to reduce energy usage. Building automation systems are essential for generating energy savings throughout a facility and it can be used to implement programing and monitor equipment to ensure energy is not being wasted. Implementing occupied and unoccupied schedules for areas like offices or classrooms is an economical way to save energy.

In addition to implementing control sequences, building automation systems are a valuable tool for equipment monitoring. For example, chillers have the potential to be huge energy wasters. Using building automation systems trending function can help facility managers quickly spot problems like frequent starts and stops. Properly designed building automation systems can also provide the facility manager with daily electric and natural gas consumption trending that supports best practice, energy-saving strategies.

4. Regulatory Compliance

Compliance remains a crucial component of every decision for a healthcare executive. The building automation systems you use must maintain compliance with all regulatory requirements. Key requirements are temperature, humidity, space pressures, and air changes. Well-designed building automation systems can facilitate compliance issues by sending immediate alerts, displaying informative graphics and critical environmental conditions. It also ensures that all these elements are trended and documented.

When properly displayed and trended, troubleshooting is simplified for critical environments with high occupancy. Building automation systems should also ensure accountability within your facility by alerting personnel when temperature, humidity, or pressure readings are outside of the acceptable ranges. This helps the facilities staff to quickly identify issues and bring the building back into compliance.

Impact on Healthcare Facility

To say the least, the selection of building automation systems have major impacts on patient experience as well as financial, compliance, and energy usage factors within a healthcare organization.

Most healthcare facilities are not a static building that remains unchanged from the day it was built. It’s important to have a carefully crafted plan to ensure the key factors of the system are considered.

Most importantly, the reward of having comfortable patients and staff, a streamlined maintenance program and energy savings will far outweigh the grueling process of finding the right building automation systems.  

About the author:  Damian Skelton serves as Area Vice President for Medxcel Facilities Management (Medxcel FM) which provides healthcare service support products that drives in-house capabilities, savings, and efficiencies for healthcare organizations that, in turn, improve the overall healing environment for patients and staff. Skelton specializes in all areas of facilities management including energy reduction. He oversees facilities management services for hospital sites throughout the U.S. and manages Medxcel FM’s proprietary integrated service delivery model while focusing on customer relations and strategic development.