Building Management System Giving you Grief

Unlock Your Building from “BMS Single Vendor Captivity”.

Building Management Systems (BMS) was designed as labour and energy-saving systems. Building Management System GriefThey can be an absolute delight to work with, delivering information accurately, switching plant equipment, lighting, and monitoring other building services. Recording and trend logging the results the physical assets in the building deliver.

Or they can be the source of “Building Management System Grief”, an unmitigated disaster that continually delivers grief and anxiety to those responsible for running the building. Giving site management, Building Management System Grief. Which do you have, or is it something in between?

Perhaps you look after a building where you are experiencing Building Management System Grief. Read on, as we may have some constructive information for you.

A Few Common Issues – Building Management System Grief:

  • Supplier Culture (poor service, over-pricing, communication difficulties)
  • Doesn’t work properly (Poor engineering or poor design, poor installation, poor commissioning)
  • It works, but it is difficult to use; the system requires constant attention from the supplier (poor programming)
  • Little or no sustainability performance (high costs, no ROI)
  • The BMS System is cumbersome and clunky to use and maintain (eighty’s technology)
Building Management System Grief|building Controls automation from 1980's

Digital Controls Building Management System for the 1980s

The most common issue, which we have witnessed, is where the building is literally “captured” by a BMS vendor. The Landlord or the Property Manager all feel compelled to “stick” with the vendor. They feel helpless and resigned to the problem, even though the vendor’s culture and pricing make the situation untenable.

So what can you do?

The following is a step-by-step process to unlock your building and essentially place you in a stronger position with your current supplier.

  • Obtain the Communication (s) protocol of the system.
  • Full access password (if you can’t get this, there is another possibility)
  • Obtain the functional specification of the system (should be in the O&M manuals)
  • C.A.R.E.
  • Go to the Market, but stay away from the “majors” (we’ll explain this further below)

1      The Communications Protocol of the System, this is the Key,

There are two main Open protocols which include:
BACnet, Lon Works,

These Open protocols have been in the marketplace since the early 90’s, so there is every chance your building uses one of these. It important to check the Function description or ask the vendor to ensure a “truly” open system.Building Management system integration into mechanical switchboard You need Native BACnet if it is a BACnet system, as there is Proprietary  BACnet (which is a conundrum in it self).

There are also Building Management Systems with proprietary communications protocols. There are solutions that can help (the best is a disgruntled employee who has left the company to start their own business – hence why you might not engage the “majors”), including “Gate Ways”.

2      The BMS System Ownership

Similar to the Chiller, the lifts and so forth, if there is no incumbency over the System (warranty or Comprehensive Service Agreement), then the system is owned by the building Landlord.
Check this with the appropriate representative and/or legal department to be 100% for your circumstances.
The full programming Password belongs to the Landlord. A vendor cannot ask you to pay for it, or ask you to sign a service preventative maintenance agreement before they send it to you. (this is the same with fire systems also).

3      The Functional Specification

This is usually a part of the Mechanical HVAC Operation and Maintenance Manuals and/or a separate Manual altogether. The Functional Specification document will make alternative Vendor pricing easier for the Market (they should also do a site survey and system survey)Building Management System grief | BMS Maintenance and Upgrades

4      C.A.R.E:

Make sure you have a current full system back up and a few copies of it for your absolute worst-case scenario. Date these. An important note here is now you have the password, DO NOT PLAY!! or you’ll create your own Building Management System Grief, and all this will be just content for google.

5      Going to the Market;

Call the large companies, but give consideration you may be jumping from one fire into the next.
“Google” those protocols above, “control companies”, “BMS” and so forth and you will find a plethora of SME’s that can help you and will bend over backwards to keep you as a long-term client. We know of at least 30 Australian-owned companies that can help you.

Open and Closed System:

Your Current Supplier/Vendor knows this information above; they know you have a right to “shop” for the best service and value for money in the market you can buy. This is essentially why the consultants, who designed and outlined your system, specified the Open Protocols communications systems in your building management system. Its insurance sourcing multiple vendors without having to replace an entire system.Building Management System Grief|climate controls

These Open Protocols communications and Full access passwords make it easier to go to Market.
If you have a closed Proprietary BMS system or no full access passwords or both, there are technicians and companies that can still help; as with any computer system, “there are ways”.


There is lots more to discuss; every situation is different, we can talk about open platforms, Proprietary Systems, more on Open Protocols and the other four typical BMS issues, but my coffee has just landed so we’ll save it for next time.

Thank you for your time.

Nigel Wraight

3 Responses to Building Management System Grief
  1. […] the “exclusive” vendor, you just don’t know who they are. These vendors, can be difficult to find, they are not your typical “Search Engine First Page” […]

  2. […] a few symptoms of “Sick Building Syndrome” in relation to Building Management Systems and the mechanical HVAC […]

  3. […] the new FCU; the new FCU caused the circuit breaker to keep tripping, (cause = conflict between BMS fan speed and an on board control fan speed) so that was sorted, the BMS didn’t work as it […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *