How to Select a Building Automation Control System in 2023: Avoid Common Mistakes

Buying Guide for BAS Systems 2023


Building automation controls systems have changed the way we manage and control various functions in buildings, from temperature and lighting to security and energy consumption. These systems integrate different technologies and components to provide efficient, automated control and monitoring capabilities, enhancing the comfort, safety, and efficiency of modern buildings. In 2023, as technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate, it becomes paramount for businesses and facility managers to understand the importance of selecting the right building automation controls system that aligns with their unique requirements.

Importance of Building Automation Controls Systems

The importance of building automation controls systems cannot be overstated. These systems offer numerous benefits that contribute to both operational efficiency and cost savings. By automating processes such as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) control, lighting management, and access security, building automation controls systems streamline operations while reducing energy wastage.
Furthermore, these systems play a crucial role in improving occupant comfort by providing personalized settings for temperature control and lighting levels. For businesses aiming to create a productive work environment or facilities like hospitals where patient comfort is paramount, building automation controls systems ensure optimal conditions are maintained at all times.

Overview of the Current State of Building Automation in 2023

In 2023, building automation has reached new heights with advancements in sensor technology, wireless communication protocols, cloud computing capabilities, and data analytics. The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has enabled buildings to gather vast amounts of data from various sensors distributed throughout the premises.
This data is then processed in real-time by sophisticated software platforms that allow for intelligent decision-making. The current state of building automation in 2023 also encompasses greater interoperability between different components within a system.
With standardized protocols such as BACnet, Modbus, and Zigbee, it is easier than ever to integrate disparate building automation systems from different vendors into a cohesive ecosystem. This interoperability allows for seamless communication between subsystems, enabling centralized monitoring and control.
Building automation controls systems in 2023 also leverage artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to optimize energy consumption based on historical data and adaptive learning. These AI-driven systems can anticipate patterns and make adjustments proactively, resulting in even greater efficiency and energy savings.
Overall, the current state of building automation in 2023 is a culmination of cutting-edge technologies and sophisticated software solutions that have transformed the way buildings are managed. The possibilities for improving comfort, operational efficiency, and sustainability are immense with the right choice of building automation controls system.

Understanding Building Automation Controls Systems

 Definition and Purpose of Building Automation Controls Systems

Building automation controls systems, often referred to as BACS or simply building automation systems (BAS), are sophisticated networks of hardware and software designed to monitor, control, and optimize various building operations. Their primary purpose is to enhance the comfort and productivity of occupants while ensuring efficient energy management. By integrating different building systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, security, and more, they enable centralized control and real-time monitoring for efficient operation.
BACS provide a comprehensive solution that goes beyond conventional manual control mechanisms. They enable automated adjustments based on predefined parameters or feedback from sensors installed throughout the building.
This allows for proactive response to changing environmental conditions or occupancy patterns. The overarching goal of these systems is to provide a safe, comfortable, and sustainable environment while reducing energy consumption and operational costs.

Components and Functionality of a Typical System

A typical building automation controls system consists of several interconnected components working in harmony to monitor, analyze, and manage various aspects of a building’s operation. The key components include sensors and actuators, controllers and software platforms, as well as communication protocols that facilitate seamless data exchange between devices.

Sensors and Actuators:

Sensors are the eyes and ears of the system. They collect data on environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, occupancy levels, air quality indicators like CO2 levels – even information about light intensity within different areas of a building. Actuators are responsible for carrying out actions based on this collected data—for example adjusting temperature settings or controlling lighting levels—ensuring optimal comfort conditions while minimizing energy waste.

ControlTrends tip: All the major controls manufactures like Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric and Siemens have their own line of branded sensors, valves, and actuators. Having one vendor providing all the controls for a project has its advantages. But it is good to know that companies like Belimo only make valves, actuators, and sensors, which means they can sometime use more advanced technology. Other sensor manufacturers like ACI, Veris and Functional Devices provide  great options.


Controllers act as the brains behind the operation by receiving information from sensors then processing it using predefined algorithms or user-defined logic. These algorithms determine optimal setpoints and trigger appropriate responses from the actuators. Additionally, controllers collate and analyze data to provide valuable insights into building performance, identify potential issues, and suggest improvements.

Software Platforms:

Software platforms serve as the interface between the user and the system. They provide a user-friendly dashboard to monitor and control different elements of the building automation controls system. This includes features such as scheduling, trending analysis, alarm management, energy usage reports, and more.
Advanced software platforms also support remote access capabilities which allow authorized personnel to monitor or modify settings from anywhere using mobile devices or computers.

ControlTrends tip: most control manufactures use the Niagara Platform, aka Tridium, as their interface between the control system and software the building looks at. Make sure that your building automation controls supplier provides you with an Open JACE ( the device that Tridium provides to the controls manufacturer.)Make sure it has an open NICS statement, don’t worry your systems integrator knows what this is, just as for it! Having this open gives you choice, more on open later.

Communication Protocols:

In order for various components of a building automation controls system to collaborate effectively, reliable communication protocols are essential. These protocols define how information is transmitted between sensors, actuators, controllers, and software platforms within the system.
There are numerous communication protocols available in the market today catering to different needs and requirements. Some popular examples include BACnet (Building Automation Control Network), LonWorks, Modbus TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), Zigbee, KNX (Konnex), among others.
Each protocol has its own strengths in terms of speed, scalability, compatibility with specific devices or systems, security features, etc. The choice of communication protocol depends on factors such as project size/scale, existing infrastructure compatibility (legacy systems), flexibility requirements for future expansion or integration with other technologies/services.
It is crucial to consider these aspects when selecting a building automation controls system as it directly impacts interoperability and ensures seamless functioning of all components within the system. By understanding these fundamental aspects – definition and purpose of building automation controls systems; components such as sensors & actuators along with controllers & software platforms; and crucial communication protocols – one can gain insight into the intricacies involved in selecting an appropriate solution that aligns with specific building requirements, optimizing comfort, energy efficiency, and overall operational performance.

ControlTrends tip: In 2023 BACnet is the way to go, you will have more options when it comes to devices that will work with your system. This might not be true a couple of years from now as IP controls are becoming more popular. 

Benefits of Implementing Building Automation Controls Systems

Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

Building automation controls systems have revolutionized the way we manage energy consumption in commercial buildings. By integrating various components, such as sensors, actuators, and controllers, these systems optimize the performance of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems.
This optimization results in significant energy savings and cost reduction for building owners and operators. One key aspect of energy efficiency is the ability to monitor and control HVAC systems with precision.
Building automation controls systems continuously collect data from temperature sensors placed strategically throughout the building. This data is then used to adjust heating or cooling settings based on occupancy patterns or external weather conditions.
By avoiding unnecessary heating or cooling when areas are unoccupied or the weather is mild, these systems mitigate energy waste and lower utility bills. Moreover, by integrating lighting controls into building automation systems, further energy savings can be achieved.
With advanced lighting control algorithms that take into account natural light availability and occupancy patterns, lights can be automatically dimmed or turned off when not needed. This ensures that energy is used judiciously throughout the building without compromising occupant comfort.

 Improved Occupant Comfort and Productivity

Building automation controls systems not only enhance energy efficiency but also significantly improve occupant comfort and productivity. These features contribute to a healthier indoor environment conducive to optimal work performance.
Personalized temperature settings are one such feature that building automation controls systems offer. Occupants have different comfort preferences depending on factors such as clothing choices or metabolic rates.
With individual temperature control options provided by these systems, occupants can adjust their surroundings according to their specific needs without affecting other areas of the building unnecessarily. In addition to personalized temperature settings, lighting control integration allows for customized lighting scenarios based on individual preferences or task requirements.
Whether it’s creating an ambience for a meeting room or providing ample lighting for focused work, building automation controls systems can adapt lighting conditions to suit the needs of each space and its occupants. This flexibility enhances occupant satisfaction and productivity by creating an optimal work environment.
Furthermore, indoor air quality (IAQ) is a crucial aspect of occupant comfort and health. Building automation controls systems can monitor IAQ parameters such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
If any of these parameters exceed defined thresholds, the system can automatically adjust ventilation rates or trigger alarms for immediate attention. By maintaining high IAQ standards, these systems promote a healthier indoor environment that contributes to improved occupant well-being.
Implementing building automation controls systems brings numerous benefits to commercial buildings. From energy efficiency and cost savings achieved through HVAC optimization and integration with lighting controls to improved occupant comfort through personalized temperature and lighting settings, these systems offer a comprehensive solution for modern building management.
Additionally, by monitoring indoor air quality parameters and taking appropriate actions when necessary, these systems ensure a healthy working environment that enhances occupant productivity. Considering these advantages, it becomes evident why building automation controls systems have become indispensable tools in the realm of smart building management in 2023.

 Factors to Consider when Selecting a Building Automation Controls System

Technical Requirements

When choosing a building automation controls system, several technical requirements must be carefully evaluated. One of the key considerations is scalability, which refers to the system’s ability to accommodate future expansion or changes in the building’s layout.
It is crucial to select a system that can easily adapt and grow alongside the evolving needs of your facility without requiring significant reconfiguration or replacement. This ensures that your investment remains viable in the long run and prevents unnecessary expenses in case of future expansions or renovations.
Furthermore, compatibility with existing infrastructure, equipment, and protocols should be thoroughly assessed during the selection process. A compatible system seamlessly integrates with your current setup, reducing potential disruptions and minimizing additional costs associated with replacing or upgrading infrastructure elements.
It is advisable to choose a system that supports open protocols and offers flexibility in terms of integration with different devices and technologies commonly used within your facility. Moreover, it is essential for the chosen building automation controls system to support various applications required for your specific needs.
These applications typically include HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), lighting controls, security systems, access control, fire sprinklers, and more. Assessing whether a particular system can effectively handle all these diverse applications ensures comprehensive control over all vital aspects of your building’s operations.

ControlTrends Tip: Virtually all building automation controls systems have the same technical capability, so focus on the reputation of the company, specifically the integrator installing your system.

 Cost Considerations

Cost considerations play a pivotal role in choosing a building automation controls system as they directly impact both initial investment costs as well as ongoing expenses throughout its lifecycle. The initial investment primarily includes hardware procurement such as sensors, actuators, controllers, software licenses, installation charges by professionals familiar with the technology involved. Additionally, it is important to factor in recurring maintenance costs along with potential upgrades needed in the future.
Routine maintenance ensures optimal performance and prolongs the lifespan of the system, while regular upgrades enable access to new features, improved security, and compatibility with emerging technologies. One crucial aspect that should not be overlooked is evaluating the potential return on investment (ROI) offered by a particular building automation controls system.
Assessing the energy savings achievable through optimized HVAC controls, lighting management, and other smart functionalities can help identify the expected ROI over a specific duration. Furthermore, increased occupant comfort and productivity resulting from an efficient system also contribute indirectly to ROI by enhancing employee satisfaction and reducing downtime.

ControlTrends Tip: If you are bidding a project be wary of the low cost vendor, especially if their quote is way below the other bids, they probably missed something and you will pay for it one way or another.

Vendor Selection Criteria

Selecting a reliable vendor is vital when it comes to building automation controls systems. A vendor’s reputation and experience in the industry are key factors that demonstrate their reliability and expertise. Look for vendors with a track record of successfully implementing similar projects in buildings comparable to yours.
Additionally, technical support availability is crucial for ensuring smooth operations once the system is installed. The vendor should provide timely assistance in case of any issues or queries that may arise during operation or maintenance to minimize downtime.
Training programs for system operators are another essential criterion to consider. A comprehensive training program equips your staff with the necessary knowledge and skills required to operate and maintain the system effectively, reducing dependency on external support while ensuring its optimal utilization.
Assessing a vendor’s long-term commitment to product development is essential since building automation technologies continue evolving rapidly. Ensure that your selected vendor actively invests in research and development initiatives, regularly releases software updates with new features, security patches, and remains committed to improving their products’ performance over time.

ControlTrends Tip: If you want to have choices make sure your system is truly open. Many vendors will say their system is open because it communicates with and open protocol like BACnet. If you want to have choice, you need to ask the building automation control vendor for a list of all the qualified companies that can people that can quote and service your system. Some companies will only have one authorized dealer or branch that can quote and service your system. If you want your own staff to service and work on your system you need to make sure they can get the same training and programming tools as the installer. 

Is Your System Secure from Cyber Threats?

Although building automation controls vendors take every step possible to make their controls cyber secure it is not enough. Building Automation Control Systems provide another possible entry for hackers to get in your building, it makes sense to consult with cyber security experts that have building automation controls experience like Fred Gordy or Intelligent Buildings to do an audit of your building automation controls system to make sure they are secure.

ControlTrends Tip: Ask the contractor installing your system for their written cybersecurity requirements for their company and techs, if they are working on your building using their computers you want to make sure they are using best practices.

Bonus Tip: Ask them about Tosibox. Tosibox creates a separate hardened network that your building automation control system resides on, keeping it separate from all other networks in your building. This is a reliable, cost effective way to add a layer of cyber security.

Types of Building Automation Controls Systems Available in the Market in 2023

 Wired vs Wireless Systems

In the modern era of building automation, a key distinction lies between wired and wireless systems. Wired systems utilize physical cables to connect various components, ensuring reliable and secure communication.
These systems have long been the industry standard due to their stability and resistance to interference. However, they can be more complex and time-consuming to install as they require extensive wiring infrastructure.
On the other hand, wireless systems have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their flexibility and ease of installation. These systems employ wireless communication protocols such as Zigbee or Wi-Fi to connect components seamlessly.
Wireless technology eliminates the need for extensive cabling, reducing installation time and cost. Additionally, it allows for greater scalability and adaptability as wireless devices can be easily added or relocated within a building.
While both wired and wireless systems offer distinct advantages, choosing between them depends on specific requirements such as budget constraints, building layout constraints, and desired level of system integration. A comprehensive evaluation of these factors will guide decision-makers towards selecting the most suitable system for their needs.

Within each category (wired or wireless), there is a multitude of different building automation controls systems available on the market in 2023. These systems vary in terms of features offered, compatibility with third-party devices, scalability options, user-friendliness, security measures implemented, and support from manufacturers. Some popular wired systems include BACnet-based solutions like Honeywell’s WEBs-AX or Johnson Controls’ Metasys System.
These robust platforms offer advanced functionalities such as energy management algorithms, fault detection diagnostics (FDD), cloud connectivity for remote monitoring/control operations, and integration with various facility management software. In terms of wireless offerings, LoRaWAN-enabled solutions like Siemens Desigo CC provide long-range communication capabilities, making them suitable for large-scale installations.
Other notable wireless systems include Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Building Operation, which offers a comprehensive suite of applications for HVAC, lighting, and security management. 75F provides a solid wireless solution for smaller buildings. Additionally, there are open-source options like Niagara Framework that provide flexibility for customization and integration with diverse devices.

A Good Consulting Engineer Can Be Your Best Friend 

Engineers by nature are risk adverse. This can be a good thing or it can cost you. If the engineer is of the mindset that “we have done it this way for 20 years and never had a problem”…run! Building Automation Controls is changing to fast for the “if it is not broke don’t fix it attitude. You need to make sure your consulting engineer is staying current and understands the latest technologies. Donny Walker and the team at Newcomb and Boyd are a great example of the type of consulting engineer you want on your team.

ControlTends Tip: Ask your engineer what conferences they have attended in the last two years, if they say Realcomm/Ibcon or Haystack Connect they are keeping up with the latest trends.


In the ever-evolving landscape of building automation controls systems in 2023, the choices available can be overwhelming. However, with a meticulous understanding of wired and wireless systems’ pros and cons along with an evaluation of specific requirements, building owners and facility managers can make informed decisions to meet their automation needs. As technology continues to advance rapidly, the future of building automation looks promising.
With ongoing research and development efforts in the industry, we can expect even more innovative solutions hitting the market soon. These advancements will further enhance energy efficiency, optimize occupant comfort levels, and empower decision-makers with data-driven insights to streamline operations further.
Investing in a suitable building automation controls system not only brings immediate benefits such as energy savings but also ensures long-term operational efficiency. By harnessing the power of intelligent automation technologies available today and staying updated on emerging trends tomorrow, buildings will continue to evolve into intelligent ecosystems that prioritize sustainability and improve occupants’ quality of life in remarkable ways

ControlTrends Tip: Talk to lots of different people, look at different systems and keep informed. Subscribe to the ControlTrends Smart Briefing and talk to the people we have mentioned in this post. Let me know if I can help.


20 Responses

  1. Great article! It’s also important to read your contract before you sign it and understand your rights to accessing the building data. For example, you may want to access the data to help qualify for an incentive or as part of M&V (measurement and verification). The process of sharing data needs to be secure, yet accessible.

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