Building Automation: Old Tools, New Tricks
As our industry's Web-based building automation unfolds, strongly based on using Microsoft's Internet Explorer, we find ourselves closer to our goal of being part of the enterprise than we thought. As we re-examine and better understand the interactive power and "meshability" of the office backbone of most company enterprises, we see evolving standards with simplified presentation.
The best new presentation standard is always the one we presently understand. Microsoft Office has penetrated deeply into most corporate enterprises and in most cases has become inseparable from the enterprise itself. Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint®, etc., have become the tools for user interface. The only non-Microsoft product that has a giant presence is the portable document format, or pdf file, made by Adobe® Systems. The advantage of this product, of course, is its ability to be printed to a hardware device. This allows many nonstandard software programs to be presented in this standard form. The ability to scan paper source documents into pdf format allows an easy method of connecting paper-based data.
Building Websites And Building ArchivesSo why am I telling you what you already know? The understanding of these concepts helps us set the pattern for a seamless, nonconfrontational, and well received entry into our client enterprise.
The ability of these programs to interact, and be saved as XML documents without a loss of content, adds a new dimension to these already powerful applications. This allows us as an industry to breath life into the familiar static documents with our real-time data. Much of our existing documentation is in Microsoft Office and the connection, launch, and presentation of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access database files are handled well with the Explorer browser.
In a project that I am presently involved with, we have created a website for the building. The website is home for project information such as ISO policy and procedure for the project, team contact information, minutes of all meetings, project spreadsheets, chat forums, etc. Posting electronic documents prepared by team players allows for quick communication and management of the project including justification documentation, budget information, and variance reports.
Now that we have the onsite BAS Web server working, we are able to link to the real-time information plus build graphical displays. The building website provides a staging area for the real-time BAS Web server allowing verbose descriptions and explanations as well as generally preparing management for some of their first views of real-time data.
We are presently exploring the best ways to link existing static data and dynamic data, while documenting operating philosophies. We found that the PM program onsite is a series of Word files that we are able to link to for fan and pump specification information. No conversion was necessary. Spreadsheets analyzing past energy performance were easily linked. We are also working on a graphical presentation of operating sequences that uses a cartoon-type speech bubble to link information to dynamic graphs.
These new presentation mediums are great but the reality of bringing a 20- to 30-year-old building on to the Web is that we are tied to a lot of paper documentation. This actually presents a great opportunity as critical paper documentation can be quickly and economically scanned into very manageable pdf files. These files behave well in both html presentation and when printed. In fact, in these turbulent days of downsizing, outsourcing, and rapid change, scanning irreplaceable paper documents into manageable pdf files is one of your better investments.
Next Up: Daily Energy SpreadsheetOur project is looking forward to the evolving XML standards. These standards will provide patterns for us to follow in making our connected documents dynamic. While we wait for these standards, we will explore how to best proceed with the tools that we now have. One of our project's first applications will be the auto creation of a daily energy spreadsheet that will dynamically monitor and report.
I am constantly amazed by the amplification effect we achieve by connecting to existing documents and procedures. I think that you will agree that exploring how to best bring real-time data to the enterprise's office is an excellent investment. ES