Data Overload? Five Tools to Better Leverage Your Laboratory Building Automation System

Sam Deptula, B2Q Associates, Inc.
Chris Schmidt, B2Q Associates, Inc.

Laboratory buildings often utilize extensive and complicated HVAC control systems to deliver a high level of performance, safety, and comfort. These controls process and produce seemingly endless amounts of data, making the tasks of efficiently operating the building and assessing system performance more difficult and time consuming than ever for facilities staff and consultants. This presentation discusses five unique tools that leverage building automation system (BAS) data to make it faster and easier to manage complex building systems and uncover opportunities that will reduce energy and operating costs as well as improve occupant comfort, safety, and productivity. These tools range from the most simple to the sophisticated and include: graphics, alarms, queries and summary views, historical trend logs, and monitoring-based commissioning software. In this presentation we explore the benefits and shortcomings of each tool using real-life examples from laboratory buildings at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Graphics, alarms, and queries are powerful tools that inform building managers on the instantaneous performance of systems at the equipment and system level. These tools can be leveraged to verify lab airflow and pressurization, identify and alert managers of failed fume hoods and purge mode activations, and compare lab level operation between labs. This information is critical to maintaining a safe lab environment without excess operating costs.

While graphics, alarms, and queries present instantaneous data and may not illustrate system performance over time, they are a great tool for identifying areas that may require more scrutiny through trend log reviews. Trend logs provide the means for a deeper analysis of historical data but require significant time and effort to complete. These are most useful when queries, alarms, or graphics are used to first identify problem areas or when trying to verify performance over a certain period.

A modern and powerful tool for leveraging BAS data is Monitoring-based Commissioning (MBCx) software. These systems add value to existing BAS assets and act as a 24/7 Building Manager, helping to identify and prevent degradation as equipment and control components fail. These tools aggregate data and utilize advanced analytics to continuously detect and diagnose failures and out of spec performance.

This suite of tools, when utilized correctly, help staff obtain the relevant data and information they need to make informed decisions regarding the operation and maintenance of their sophisticated buildings.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand multiple ways to use Building Automation Systems and their data to manage and analyze complex equipment and systems
  • Quickly evaluate and analyze building automation system graphics and perform queries to manage equipment operation and uncover opportunities for reducing energy cost and increasing comfort.
  • Strategically deploy BAS alarms as a tool and not a nuisance
  • Understand how trend logs and monitoring based commissioning tools unlock the capability to observe laboratory equipment performance and control over time to better manage energy consumption, safety, and comfort


Sam is a Project Manager with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He has over 8 years of experience working in energy efficiency, controls systems, monitoring-based commissioning, and project management.

Chris is a Vice President with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Masters of Science in Engineering from the University of Dayton, with a focus in commercial and industrial building energy efficiency. He has over 16 years experience working in building efficiency, HVAC mechanical and controls systems optimization, re-commissioning, and project management and he co-teaches the Association of Energy Engineers Existing Buildings Commissioning course.


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