Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
Creating high quality graphics is only half of the picture to support system usability.
Paul Ehrlich, Ira
& Angela Lewis
Our February column (Set it and forget it? Forget it!)
ended with a discussion of continuous commissioning – “the best
continuous commissioning comes from a diligent operator who is using
the BAS on a regular basis as a tool to optimize the facility.”
Unfortunately we find many buildings engineers aren’t regularly using
these systems. There are many reasons for this, including
challenges with training, time, focus, and the usability of
systems. This month we would like to look further at the
challenges in delivering a usable BAS solution.
There is an entire industry focused on delivering usable software
solutions from desktop software to web sites. Software developers
do analysis on user needs and conduct formal usability testing.
Web developers monitor usage to see how their sites are accessed.
Unfortunately we can’t say the same for BAS installations. Most
projects have few requirements provided for their user interface (i.e.
graphics) and BAS engineers who may be more talented with installing
controllers and programming sequences than in creating and linking
graphic images, often create the graphical interface. As a result
the user interface for these critical systems comes together often more
by convenience and less by design.
Vendors have attempted to fix this problem by moving to web based interfaces, creating standard graphics libraries and tools to support easy replication. We even see suppliers who provide graphics as part of their system, as well as independent graphics contractors who support owners and controls contractors. But in most cases, little time or attention is put into creating the graphics, reports, and trends.
Creating high quality graphics is only half of the picture to support system usability. For operators of multi-building organizations, it is important that there is a standard in place so that all BAS graphics look the same of each type of system and the same information is found in the same place on each graphic. These standards include conventions for building, system, and point naming, how equipment and systems should be represented. These standards can be created by the owner, systems integrator, or by specialized consultants. Creating these standards allows an owner to have consistency even whey multiple suppliers and contractors are utilized.
Have a graphics standard? Great, however, this does not necessarily mean your BAS graphics will comply with the standard. It is one thing to create a standard, and another thing to implement it – not to mention implementing the standard accurately.
Tips for Improving System Usability
Here are a few tips for consultants, and facility management teams to development and successfully implement a usability standard.
What can consultants do?
What can consultants do?
What should owners and facility management
expectation is that a BAS should be as intuitive and easy to use as
commercially available web sites or software. The development of
standards and selection of high quality suppliers can make this a
Special thanks to our associate Angela Lewis for this month’s column.
About the Authors
Paul and Ira first worked
together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee
and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building
Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together
professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design
and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence
Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading
Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be
We also invite you to contact us directly at
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