Hospitals are complex environments with many active systems. One of the least understood - and one of the most expensive - is the building automation system (BAS). As technology continues to advance, we are seeing more systems become integrated into the building automation system, such as fire alarms, power monitoring, lighting control and security. The benefits from a well-programmed BAS ensure operational performance, which can reduce energy costs and keep patients, visitors and staff comfortable.
One issue in healthcare facilities is the propensity for executives to direct engineers to incorporate a BAS into their hospital - a.k.a, make a multi-million-dollar decision - on which system to use in their hospitals without fully understanding that these decisions will have a long-term impact on nearly every aspect of facility operations and maintenance. The building automation system controls almost all of a hospital’s critical utility systems, and with over 50% of the facility manager’s budget invested in energy, the BAS should be one of the engineer’s primary focuses. After all, making a decision based on second-hand experience, manufacturer 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, keep these important questions in mind:
- How does the current system function?
Determining the distinctions of the current HVAC system in your facility and identifying the needs you are looking to meet is the first step in determining what system will be most beneficial for your healthcare organization. One way to achieve this is to make a comprehensive catalog of the existing system. Ask your team to answer a series of basic questions about the current BAS:
- 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 BAS users within your facility who represent different perspectives, such as HVAC operators and field technicians. Gaining insights from these users will help determine what features they consider necessary. Once this information is collected, compile it with the inventory list. The data from these activities will help you create a prioritized plan.
- How does the system maintain regulatory compliance?
Compliance remains a crucial component of every decision a healthcare facility makes, and the building automation system you use must maintain compliance with all regulatory requirements. Key requirements are temperature, humidity, space pressures and air changes. A well-designed BAS can facilitate the management of compliance issues by issuing alerts, displaying graphics and showing critical environmental conditions such as occupied/unoccupied mode, along with the key requirements listed above. It also ensures that all of these elements are trended and documented.
When properly displayed and trended, troubleshooting becomes simplified for critical environments with high occupancy. The BAS should also ensure accountability within your facility by alerting personnel when temperature, humidity or pressure readings are outside of the acceptable range. This helps the facility’s staff to quickly identify issues and bring the building back into compliance.
- How easy is it to use?
Nothing slows a facilities department down like a clunky, hard-to-use system that impacts efficiency. 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 BAS to help them resolve issues promptly.
Important factors such as detailed, specific control drawings and sequences of operations must be considered during the early stages of the design process of a BAS. The end goal is a detailed and customized set of future-proof specifications for the facility.
- How well does it save energy?
Healthcare executives are feeling the pressure to reduce energy usage. Building automation systems are essential for generating energy savings throughout a facility and can be used to implement programming and monitor equipment to ensure energy is not being wasted. Implementing occupied and unoccupied schedules for areas like offices or multipurpose rooms is an economical way to save energy.
In addition to implementing control sequences, the BAS is a valuable tool for monitoring systems and equipment. For example, chillers have the potential to be huge energy wasters. Using the BAS trending functions can help facility managers quickly spot problems like frequent starts and stops. A properly designed BAS can also provide the facility manager with daily electric and natural gas consumption trending that supports best practice energy-saving strategies.
Selecting a BAS can have major implications on patient experience, financial, compliance and energy usage factors within a healthcare organization. Interested in setting up a BAS in your healthcare facility so your associates can work smarter instead of harder? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-633-9235 to learn more.