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For building managers and business owners tasked with leading large teams, safety and security consistently rank as top concerns. A building’s basic infrastructure and technology systems such as lighting, access control and installed security devices will all need to be well maintained and frequently assessed in line with industry standards and safety guidelines.

With modern technology, businesses are able to improve the efficiency and efficacy of building management practices through the use of customized features and smart devices. This integrated network is known as a building management system (BMS).

This guide will help business owners understand how building management solutions can be used to improve security networks, streamline daily operations and aid teams in the analysis of collected data used to develop more efficient and effective HVAC, lighting and energy systems.

What is a BMS system?

Building management systems, sometimes referred to as BMS control systems or building monitoring systems, are a collection of automated devices used to control, assess and monitor the operation of essential electrical equipment such as lighting, access control and HVAC units.

A typical configuration will use dedicated BMS software alongside hardware devices to allow property managers full control over all installed systems from a single interface. Operating this network means that any data collected from individual devices like lighting or heating systems can be used to improve wider aspects of the network for increased efficiency.

As the inner workings of any given business are likely to differ between organizations, the best building management systems will be designed specifically for the property in question. Cloud-based platforms are also becoming increasingly popular, as the system gives admins the ability to view, manage and adjust individual devices remotely from one integrated management portal.

What is an integrated building management system used for?

Integrated building management systems and BMS software configurations are typically designed to combine the operation of security devices like cameras, access control and alarms with essential electrical systems like heating, ventilation and lighting.

By allowing property managers the ability to view and control these devices from an integrated platform, individual settings can be programmed in relation to the electrical system as a whole.

The major benefits of building management automation include:

  • Collecting and reporting real-time data
  • Managing and controlling energy usage
  • Monitoring the operation and performance of BMS building devices
  • Enhancing and improving security policies
  • Improving occupant/​tenant experience
  • Building monitoring systems and checking alarm systems

According to research published by Ener​gy​.gov, around 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is ultimately wasted, highlighting the importance of developing an integrated building management system able to provide admins with real-time data pertaining to energy usage.

By operating a building management control system that combines the function of all active electrical hardware, admins can view the usage data of each device and compare these metrics to one another, allowing for automated responses. For example, lighting can be designed to activate in response to motion, with air conditioning units powered in response to lighting.

Common features of a BMS (building management software and system)

Access control

Most modern building management solutions will be connected to the property’s access control systems, primarily as installed readers can be used to inform the operation of a wide variety of additional electrical systems and alert admins to the presence of unauthorized intruders.

For example, lighting and HVAC systems may be linked to specific access control readers installed around the property, with building management automations programmed to only activate these devices in response to verified credentials. Additionally, access events can be viewed from an integrated BMS platform, giving admins the ability to quickly locate nearby cameras to improve incident responses.

Building management teams can choose from a range of access control devices depending on the unique requirements of the installation. Traditional options include physical credentials like proximity cards and fobs, although modern remote access systems are becoming increasingly popular as credentials can be issued directly to smartphones to be managed via a BMS system.

Video security

Alongside access control devices, property managers will often choose to integrate on-site video security cameras into a wider building management control system. By combining the operation of these devices, admins are able to visually verify the identity of any individuals attempting to access secured areas, as well as monitor the property remotely.

If advanced security cameras are in operation, security teams can also benefit from the use of AI-informed video analytics software, whereby building management automations can be developed to alert admins of specific events. For example, license plate recognition may be utilized to identify suspicious vehicles or motion tracking may be used to alert staff of activity during evenings and weekends.

HVAC systems

Outside of building security devices, BMS systems will usually be configured to control and automate electrical equipment including heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as doing so can help building managers to reduce waste and monitor general energy efficiency.

Using an array of IoT sensors and monitoring devices, metrics such as temperature, humidity, air quality and occupancy can be viewed in real-time via the BMS system interface, allowing admins to make adjustments to individual devices or the wider system with immediate effect. 

BMS software

BMS software essentially allows admins to oversee the operation of all critical systems from a single interface, with a unique control configuration designed specifically for the property and hardware in question.

For installations that require a 24/7 security presence, cloud-based management solutions are recommended, as property managers and security teams will be able to view, adjust and control individual devices from anywhere with a reliable Internet connection.

The benefits of an integrated building maintenance system

Developing an integrated building maintenance system can present commercial and residential property owners with a number of distinct benefits, ranging from improved energy efficiency to the formation of more effective security policies informed by actionable real-time data analytics. Further benefits of a building maintenance system include: 

Strengthened security

The installation and operation of a fully-integrated building management system allows security teams and property managers to monitor all active security devices from one interface. Access readers can be linked to security cameras, with both systems viewable simultaneously, ensuring that admins always have a clear picture of unfolding incidents across several linked IoT devices.

Additionally, real-time alerts and automated responses can be programmed for specific installations and use cases. For example, on-site motion sensors may be set up to notify admins of suspicious activity outside of working hours, with the operation of a cloud-based BMS system allowing teams to remotely access wider related devices like cameras and alarms. 

Reduced operating costs

A well-designed building management system will generally require less maintenance during operation, as each connected hardware device will be programmed to function at optimal efficiency. This consideration also results in cost savings related to reduced energy waste.

Utilizing an integrated temperature, humidity and motion sensors provides staff with detailed system usage data. Building management automations can be programmed to ensure that HVAC units, lighting and other related utility systems are only powered when necessary. 

Adaptive control

When operating a cloud-based building integrated management system, security teams and admins will be permitted to access and adjust all connected hardware devices remotely, allowing for a great deal of flexibility when optimizing systems in line with business growth.

Teams can issue, adjust and revoke access credentials sent directly to users’ smartphones, access parameters and set schedules such as operational hours. Security clearance levels can be edited in line with changing needs and on-site cameras can be viewed at any time to provide 24/7 protection.

Improved sustainability

The BMS industry is crucial to modern businesses in terms of achieving sustainability goals. By optimizing on-site utilities such as HVAC units, pumping systems, lighting and irrigation systems, business owners can dramatically reduce energy waste to improve efficiency.

IoT sensors can be connected to these systems to provide detailed data regarding how the property is commonly used, ultimately allowing for smart automations where each system is only powered when needed. For example, IoT motion sensors can be used to control lighting and HVAC units can be programmed in relation to collected common usage data.

Plus, all data recorded by IoT sensors and building monitoring systems will be viewable from the same interface as the main controls for installed hardware devices, allowing property managers to adjust building management automations in line with changing practices to consistently minimize energy waste.

Increased comfort and convenience

Alongside energy efficiency benefits, data-informed HVAC systems are utilized to provide staff and residents with improved comfort and convenience. IoT sensors installed across the property can be used to regulate heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in line with a selected ideal climate. 

Admins can program HVAC devices to engage only when certain criteria are met. For example, if IoT sensors detect ambient temperatures to be outside of a comfortable range, an integrated BMS system can combine the operation of all heating, ventilation and air conditioning units to bring temperatures back within this range using data to find the most energy-efficient method.

BMS systems can also improve convenience through security devices. By integrating frictionless access control systems like mobile credentials or biometric readers within a BMS software platform, staff and tenants can move seamlessly throughout the property using touchless credentials to open doors. Additionally, admins can issue and adjust credentials within the BMS system to ensure that individual users are permitted access only to the areas that they have authorization to enter. 

Provide valuable data insights

With all essential utility and security systems connected via an integrated building management system, actionable data insights collected from individual devices can be viewed in relation to the property as a whole, allowing admins to optimize systems in response to observed patterns.

For instance, managers may notice that meeting rooms are only used on Mondays and Fridays, meaning any heating or lighting applied outside of these times will contribute to energy waste. By comparing this data to wider electrical systems, building management automations can be developed to dramatically reduce wasted resources.

This concept can also be extended to other aspects of property management such as using license plate recognition cameras to monitor how parking infrastructure is commonly used, helping to optimize parking management by providing residents with their own monitored space. 

Increased property value

When implemented in residential properties such as apartment complexes or multi-tenant housing developments, the presence of a well-maintained building management system can act to increase property values by providing potential tenants with tangible convenience benefits.

Offering residents the ability to seamlessly enter the premises using touchless access control, issue temporary credentials to guests, book access to on-site amenities and monitor their own energy use through a comprehensive BMS software interface will contribute to a more desirable property.

Studies suggest that 75% of tenants are willing to pay more in rent for properties equipped with smart building management features, while 55% of younger renters are happy to pay increased rates for homes fitted with smart door locks and other related smart building security solutions.

Enhanced health and safety

By connecting essential HVAC systems together via a unified BMS software, property owners can improve health and safety policies. Poor air quality is known to cause irritation, respiratory issues, headaches and fatigue. Developing a system in which air quality is reliably monitored and HVAC devices are automated to frequently sanitize environments will benefit all residents.

With access to an integrated BMS software platform, air sanitization can be automated by instructing ventilation systems to engage based on preselected schedules. Data collected by IoT sensors can be used to highlight patterns of frequent poor air quality, with corresponding ventilation units programmed to automatically engage at these times or in response to a rise in pollutant levels.

Further health and safety benefits can be found in real-time occupancy tracking, allowing staff to manage access to high traffic areas to reduce the spread of seasonal and airborne illnesses, as well as ensure access to busy areas like the lobby and cafeteria is monitored to keep occupancy levels within safe parameters.

Key building management system and software takeaways

The implementation of integrated building management systems can help property owners to improve security, efficiency and safety policies, while providing numerous convenience benefits to staff, residents and guests. By combining the management of essential security and utility systems, admins are able to develop smart building management automations designed to improve daily operations  and use collected data insights to assist teams in optimizing systems. To maximize the benefits of a building management system, property owners are advised to consult a specialist to create a customized solution unique to their BMS building requirements.

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