Building Automation Basics Part 2: Building Energy Management System

Published on: May 21, 2024

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Continuing our explainer series on building automation basics, we break down BEMS or Building energy management systems.

BEMS or Building Energy Management Systems are the heart of building automation and the secret to energy efficiency and operational savings.

BEMS or Building Energy Management Systems are the heart of building automation and the secret to energy efficiency and operational savings.

After noticing a surge of interest in building automation in B.C. based on Google Trends search data for the last year, we decided to break down the basics of building automation for our readers. In part one, we looked at sensors. These are the eyes of your building, taking in information and relaying it back to headquarters to adjust for occupant comfort. In part two, we’ll look at Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), the heart of your building’s automation controls. 

What are Building Energy Management Systems?

Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) technology is, essentially, building automation. The nervous system allows for centralized control and monitoring of your building’s vital control systems. 

That means automated control of a building's critical features, like the HVAC system, lighting, or security, for optimal energy consumption and occupant comfort.

The BEMS works with its friends, like sensors, to intake information from a room, such as temperature, light, or the number of occupants, and automatically correct its settings. The result is less energy use, lower operational costs, and happier people inside the building. 

BEMS touches literally everything in a building,  including:

  • Gas detection and alarming
  • Solar systems
  • Air quality and demand ventilation
  • Security systems
  • Humidity 
  • Temperature

The power of information

A key difference when it comes to BEMS compared to say, an automatic door is the information the system is able to collect. 

BEMS actively collects your building’s usage data and communicates it in ways that building managers and technicians can use to be more analytical about energy usage.

By identifying energy patterns and efficiencies, you can easily see where energy may be wasted or peaking unexpectedly and find a solution.

For example, the BEMS might notice that a room is lit when one is in it or that a room is being simultaneously heated and cooled, something a person may not have noticed on their own. 

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to benefit from the information—BEMS also helps to interpret the information for you and your building automation contractor. 

This makes troubleshooting a breeze, as the information is easily transferred to building automation system companies.

The benefits of information gathering from BEMS are plentiful, including:

  • Lower energy usage 
  • Early problem detection usually results in lower repair costs and minimal energy waste from a problem going undiagnosed 
  • Baseline energy use as a benchmark for a building’s output and energy goals
  • Lower operational costs as a result of reduced energy use and preventative maintenance

Energy management project highlight: Mar Jok Elementary

The vision for Mar Jok Elementary was an energy-efficient, LEED Gold-certified building built with local B.C.-sourced wood and natural lighting. Kimco used installed HVAC systems with enteliWEB software and enteliBUS hardware for streamlined controls, energy metering to monitor efficiencies; specialized lighting automation called “daylight harvesting” for energy savings and maximizing natural light, and integrated geothermal heating and cooling. Learn more. 

Gold star for sustainability 

According to Natural Resources Canada, the buildings sector is the third largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. That’s 13% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions from the buildings sector—18% if electricity-related emissions are included—and over 78% of building emissions come from space and water heating equipment! 

Smart building solutions and the energy efficiency offered is one way the country can help fight the climate crisis. 

BEMS allows for easy implementation of energy conservation strategies and creates more sustainable, energy-efficient environments.

Green buildings are seen as so important to the solution in Canada’s eyes that the government implemented a $150 million Canada Green Buildings Strategy in 2022. The strategy aims to support more climate-resilient buildings and increase skilled jobs in the sector.  

Just because your building is older does not mean all hope for a greener building is lost. Retrofitting older buildings is another piece of the puzzle when it comes to climate solutions. 

Upgrading a building’s central nervous system to run with BEMS is intimidating: the time, cost, and potential to disrupt the workplace—it’s easy for a commercial building owner to find excuses and put off the upgrade.

Not everyone realizes that retrofitting older buildings to improve efficiency is so important building managers can often find rebates to help make the change. 

In our home province, FortisBC offers manyenergy efficiency rebate programs. If you’re considering a retrofit, working with an experienced company like Kimco Controls—which has strong relationships with the provider and understands how to navigate the process—is essential. 

Retrofit project highlight: Nav Canada
For building managers concerned about disruption to the workplace, a skilled building automation contractor can complete a project without interrupting daily tasks. 

In the case of the Nav Canada air traffic control tower in Kamloops, B.C., Kimco not only retrofitted outdated equipment and implemented the latest building automation technologies without interrupting building services like natural gas, water, and electrical, but the team was also able to maintain temperature thresholds throughout the building. Learn more. 

Health and Safety

The factors a BEMS controls go far beyond heating and cooling and extend to health and security for your occupants. 

Building managers must take the personal health of people indoors seriously, including indoor air quality. 

Whether it’s smoke, toxic gas levels, or dust particles, air quality is one of the most important ways of keeping building occupants healthy. 

That’s where demand control ventilation comes in. The sensors we covered in part one take information from a room, including the number of occupants in the building and where. 

Once they have that information, the sensors relay it to the BEMS, which will adjust ventilation accordingly. The BEMS then sends a message to your ventilation system to adjust airflow where needed. 

The same technology monitors your air quality for particulates, volatile substances, and harmful gases to warn you of health risks. 

Building automation systems also communicate to keep your building secure. That could look like access control (controlling who can enter your building), cybersecurity, and integration with CCTV. 

Energy efficiency = cost efficiency

One of the major benefits of using BEMS beyond the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing your building has lowered its carbon footprint is the cost savings. 

While you may be nervous about the upfront investment in automated controls for your building, once installed, the cost savings are almost immediate, saving you money in the long run. 

The nice thing about the cost savings from building automation is that it’s multifaceted:

  • Less wasted energy means a lower power bill
  • The data relayed from your BEMS allows users to find inefficiencies faster than without
  • You and your building automation contractor can use BEMS information to plan for equipment repairs and replacements before they become costly emergency interventions

Again, retrofits or technology updates don’t have to break the bank; you may be eligible for rebates. Contact Kimco Controls to find out

Preventative maintenance solutions project highlight: Pushor Mitchell Lawyers

Longtime client Pushor Mitchell was an early adopter of automation technologies. An aging boiler in the building led to repeated maintenance calls and repairs. Kimco presented the law firm with a plan to upgrade the boiler and guide management through a rebate program with the province. 

Through a FortisBC rebate program, the law firm saved money and energy costs in the long run. Learn more about the other services Kimco Controls provides for Pushor Mitchell.  

Work with a people-first company that has been on the cutting edge of building automation, HVAC, and electrical technology in the Thompson-Okanagan for 40 years. See how Kimco can help.

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