Talking around the problem isn’t always a bad thing.

Now and then, we wind up publishing intelligent but perhaps seemingly conflicting opinions about the same topic. I kind of like it when that happens. Here’s a current example. If you’ve read Howard McKew’s column much at all, you know he is a believer in the idea that facilities should invest in a full-time BAS operator. This isn’t terribly common - or not common enough, he would tell you - and from better system performance to growing the next crop of building professionals, Howard can make the case for the benefits.

Ron Caffrey, on the other hand, does see the same problem (underperforming BAS). Caffrey is a partner with BCS Partners who previously held leadership posts at Johnson Controls and ASHRAE, and he is making his first contribution to ES this month. He comes at the problem from the other side and says BAS manufacturers are going about this the wrong way - adjust how you develop and market your products, and help building owners get the human element OUT of the equation. Bring buildings closer to a “set it and forget it” reality with even smarter BAS, and the owners will beat down your door.

On the other other hand, this month our building automation columnists Paul Ehrlich and Ira Goldschmidt just happen to ask the very question of how feasible is “set it and forget it” for BAS installations. Their answer: fuggedaboudit. There are just too many opportunities for something to go wrong, from planning to post-occupancy.

BIG PICTURE, MANY BRUSH STROKES

The headlines may suggest some contradiction, but each author is focusing on a different part of the same problem. McKew addresses how to wring better performance out of often woefully underused BAS as they exist today, while Caffrey looks past answers for the present and toward pre-empting the need for such solutions tomorrow. Complementary ideas, really, just in different verb tenses.

Similarly, Goldschmidt and Ehrlich focus on avoiding problems through quality design, contractors, commissioning, and continuous commissioning while not really getting into the additional dedicated on-site personnel that McKew advocates. Those emphases wind up dovetailing more than anything.

So where does that leave us? A consensus on the problem at hand, three perspectives on what to do about it, and a roughly even split between the present and the future: sounds like a good mix to me. In the next phase of facility BAS, what level of real human presence will remain in day-to-day BAS operations strategy? And in the meantime, which part of which angle are you in position to influence? ES