Choosing the Right BMS Contractor (why it matters and how to do it)

How important is the building management system (BMS) in your building? Let’s put it this way: if you are not worrying about it, it’s because you have an excellent building management system contractor watching over things.

You May Not Know the Term BMS 

There are other names and acronyms for this critical component of your building. Some in the industry refer to it as the building automation system (BAS). Others call it the energy management control system (EMCS). For the sake of consistency in this post, we will refer to it as the building management system or BMS.

The BMS primarily controls the HVAC in your building, maintaining and monitoring heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. If your building has multiple offices or areas, then you know that everyone has their temperature preferences. If your building is part of a university, there are also large classrooms and assembly halls with different HVAC requirements. 

Hospitals are even more critical. Surgical suites, patient rooms, and laboratories all have specific temperature limitations and airflow requirements. Improper ventilation and laminar airflow in a surgical suite can result in life-threatening surgical-site infections.

Whether you are in the planning stages or your building is part of a retro-commissioning project with an HVAC upgrade, selecting a BMS contractor is crucial. The installation must be correct. It is also critical that the contractor you choose is there for you afterward.

More About BMS

The heart of the BMS in your building is a central computer. Connected to it are numerous programmable microprocessor-based DDC units (direct digital control). The DDC units communicate to the central computer about the environmental demands of various rooms and areas in the building. The central computer sends messages to the various control units and mechanical components. More airflow here, less airflow there, less heat in that office, more air conditioning in that auditorium.

The mechanical components of the HVAC, air handling units, filters, coils, dampers, and the electronics that control them, can get complicated. There is a great deal of programming and engineering required. Periodic maintenance, auditing and tuning, system calibration, and optimization are also necessary to keep these systems running at peak performance.

Regardless of the size and demands of a building, a well-tuned HVAC system, managed by an expertly installed BMS, can reduce your energy bill by double-digit percentages. You also make all your tenants very happy.

A poorly optimized BMS wastes energy and, in the worst-case scenario, does not exhaust stale air. In extreme situations, a lack of fresh airflow can make the building uninhabitable. Selecting a qualified BMS contractor helps to realize all the benefits of BMS and avoid all the pitfalls. Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing a building management system contractor.

Look for a Well-Staffed Contractor

BMS often requires a multi-disciplined approach. Heating, cooling, air control, and contamination issues are only a few of the challenges your building or retro project might include. Depending on the type of business in the building, you get into airflow requirements and various other technical issues. There is also a considerable difference between new buildings and retro projects alone. Look for a firm that employs experts in these disciplines. Having all these professionals as part of a seasoned team reduces the headaches.

Use a Company with a Track Record of Success

Look for a firm with experience, especially if this is your first project. They should have a portfolio. Request a list of completed projects that show a solid track record. As you go from one project to another, you will invariably run into BMS professionals that have switched firms or even started their own businesses. If they earned your trust in past projects, let that experience guide you in your decision to work with them again.

Give Strong Consideration to Industry Certifications

As you research HVAC and building management systems, the same names surface. Schneider Electric, Niagara, and Johnson Electric are all industry leaders. The difference is in the contractor that installs and services these systems.  Look for firms with personnel certified by these firms and who have advanced training. Check on specific certifications and licenses required by the state or city where your project is located. Make sure the contractor is compliant. 

Look for a Contractor That’s Strong in Service

You want a BMS contractor with the latest upgrades and new technology for your building. You want a contractor that will come through in an emergency. You also want a BMS contractor that works with your in-house building maintenance department, showing them how to do the auditing and tuning, imparting knowledge, experience, and training. They should be willing to work themselves out of a job because, chances are, they won’t. They are experts in building management systems.    

BMS Doesn’t Operate in a Vacuum

A trend with leading construction companies is to address HVAC and BMS as part of a holistic approach. It is called MEP, or mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Each of these is an independent system, but they are tied together. Electricity powers HVAC, and larger systems use water for cooling from chillers. Other systems are also involved, most notably security, IT, and backup systems. A security breach affects everything. It is essential to have a BMS contractor who understands that they are part of a team on your project.

Contact FICO for a Free Estimate

FICO provides turnkey building management and system integration services in and around Montana. We have been doing it for more than 20 years. Our staff works with leading HVAC and BMS manufacturers to provide safe and comfortable environments. We invite you to look at our portfolio. Call us for a free estimate or visit our website.

FICO provides turnkey building management and system integration services for technically complex buildings in Montana and beyond. From design and installation to ongoing maintenance and security, our best-in-class people and products help you achieve operational savings and minimize risk as you work to provide reliable and safe environments.

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