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A Special Guest: An exciting new look at building automation

By Andrew McCoy and Fred Sargent | Mar 15, 2023
A robot wearing a headset. SHUTTERSTOCK / BUSYFINGIE

Our interview guest became a national celebrity a few months ago. We were so amazed by the basic clarity of the following responses that we would like to present the Q&A first, and save the introduction of our special guest for the end.

Our interview guest became a national celebrity a few months ago. We were so amazed by the basic clarity of the following responses that we would like to present the Q&A first, and save the introduction of our special guest for the end.

Advantages and qualifications

What are the greatest advantages of building automation?

Building automation refers to the use of technology to control and monitor the mechanical, electrical and lighting systems in a building. There are several advantages to implementing building automation systems:

  • Energy efficiency: Building automation systems can help optimize the performance of a building’s systems to reduce energy consumption, resulting in cost savings and a reduced carbon footprint.
  • Improved comfort: These systems can help regulate temperature, humidity and lighting levels to create a comfortable environment for occupants.
  • Increased safety: Building automation systems can monitor and control various systems and equipment to help ensure occupants’ safety.
  • Greater convenience: They can allow users to control and monitor systems remotely, using a smartphone or other device.
  • Enhanced building management: They can provide real-time data on the performance of a building’s systems, allowing facility managers to identify and address any issues in a timely manner.

Who is best qualified to install and maintain a building automation system?

Building automation systems typically require specialized training and expertise to install and maintain. There are several types of professionals who may be qualified to work on building automation systems.

  • Electrical contractors typically have the knowledge and skills to install and maintain building automation systems that control electrical systems, such as lighting, power distribution and HVAC.
  • HVAC technicians are trained to work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and they may be qualified to install and maintain building automation systems that control these systems.
  • Controls technicians are trained to work on building automation systems specifically, and may be the most qualified professionals to install and maintain these systems.

It is important to choose a qualified and experienced professional to install and maintain a building automation system, as these systems can be complex and require a high level of technical expertise. It is also necessary to ensure that the professional is licensed and insured.

What should you ask electrical contractors in order to verify that they understand building automation systems?

Here are some questions you could ask an electrical contractor to verify that they understand building automation:

  • How much experience do you have working with building automation systems?
  • Can you describe your process for installing and commissioning a building automation system?
  • Do you have experience integrating building automation systems with other building systems, such as HVAC or lighting control systems?
  • Can you explain the difference between a standalone building automation system and a networked system?
  • Do you have experience programming and configuring building automation systems using different protocols, such as BACnet or Modbus?
  • How do you troubleshoot and diagnose issues with building automation systems?
  • Can you provide references from past projects where you have worked on building automation systems?

Asking these questions can help you verify that the electrical contractor has the necessary knowledge and experience to work on building automation systems. It is also a good idea to ask for references and check the contractor’s licensing and insurance status.

Revealing the interviewee

As usual, we produced the three questions in this article. But every single word in the answers came from the artificial intelligence (A.I.) writing tool ChatGPT. A.I. wrote most of the words on this page. According to developer OpenAI, ChatGPT, which has been all over the news lately, is designed in a dialogue format so it can “answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

We did this to dramatize that service-­oriented electrical contractors today more than ever must stay on top of technology in the products they install for their customers and the ones used in their companies.

At the end of our conversation, we thanked ChatGPT and received a friendly answer.

Thank you for your expert advice on building automation systems.

You’re welcome! I’m glad that I could help. If you have any further questions about building automation systems, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help!

Header Image: shutterstock / Busyfingie

About The Author

MCCOY is Beliveau professor in the Dept. of Building Construction, associate director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Contact him at [email protected].

 

SARGENT is president of Great Service Forums, provider of management education for service managers. Contact him at [email protected].

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