Maintaining proper standards

Trend has long stressed the need for regular maintenance of building management systems, a message that to some extent would seem to be getting through. Indeed, compared with five years ago, there has been a definite increase in the number of building owners and FM companies that are now taking out BMS maintenance contracts. Unfortunately, many such contracts fail to deliver an adequate level of service and all too often the provider is not a building controls expert. In addition, there are still an alarming number of systems that are not being maintained at all.

There is much more to building controls maintenance than just dealing with breakdowns, which tend in any case to be relatively rare owing to the reliability of modern equipment. For instance, there is frequently a need to re-optimize BMS performance because of periodic changes to a building’s layout, usage or occupancy patterns. Quality of control will also gradually deteriorate due to factors such as loss of sensor accuracy and unnecessary system overrides, which again shows the necessity of a pro-active service regime. Without one, the building user will usually face higher energy bills and poorer comfort conditions.

Those who only opt for emergency breakdown cover are probably unaware of this fact. It is also clear that not everyone appreciates that BMS maintenance is a job best left to the specialists. Although manufacturers and controls contractors still carry out the majority of service and maintenance work, a significant and apparently growing proportion is being done by non-specialists. Most are general maintenance companies, who inevitably lack an in-depth knowledge of BMS technology. The rest are largely ‘cowboys’ who claim to be controls experts but are anything but. Generally, neither of these groups will have access to the latest service tools.

The specialist tools developed by Trend are only available to its own service engineers and those of its channel partners. They allow a range of system checks to be performed very rapidly – and in some instances without a site visit. Remote provision of services is in fact a core element of the Trend offering. From its Horsham Bureau, the company can continuously monitor a customer’s site and system, and where necessary make appropriate control adjustments. 

There are of course some maintenance tasks that can only be done on site. In addition, a physical tour of inspection will allow the trained eye to spot potential problems that might otherwise go unnoticed. Consequently, regular visits are still a must.

BMS users need to be confident that the maintenance contractors they select can offer a full range of service options and have the know-how and tools to implement them effectively. In making their choice they are not helped by the lack of a recognised qualification for those working in the controls industry. It was partly to remedy this problem that the Trend Expert accreditation scheme was launched. ‘Expert’ status provides third-party proof that an individual has a thorough understanding of Trend BMS technology. It is held by all of Trend’s own service engineers and many employed by its network of partners.

When a BMS performs as it is supposed to, it can make considerable savings on energy and other costs – as well as ensuring consistently comfortable conditions for a building’s occupants. But for this to happen it needs to be maintained regularly – and by experts. In the case of a Trend system this can only mean Trend itself or one of its approved partners.

Tim Darkes