Building Management Systems


A Building Management System (BMS), otherwise known as a Building Automation System (BAS), is a computer-based control system installed in buildings that controls and monitors mechanical and electrical equipment such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire and security systems in the building. A BMS consists of software and hardware; the software program can be proprietary, typically designed in a hierarchical manner, using protocols such as C-Bus, Profibus, etc. Vendors also produce a BMS which implements the use of Internet protocols and open standards such as DeviceNet, SOAP, XML, BACnet, LonWorks, and Modbus.




Building management systems with robust mechanical, HVAC, and electrical systems are most frequently incorporated in large projects. Systems associated with a BMS typically account for 40% of the energy consumption of a building; if lighting is included, this number approaches 70%. BMS systems are a critical component of energy resource management. It is estimated that poorly installed BMS systems account for 20 percent of building energy use, or about 8 percent of total energy use in the U.S.


In addition to monitoring the internal environment of the building, BMS systems are sometimes connected to access control (turnstiles and access doors controlling who is granted entry and egress to the building) or other security systems such as CCTV and motion detectors. Sometimes fire alarm systems and elevators are also connected to a monitoring BMS. If a fire is detected then only the fire alarm panel can close dampers in the ventilation system to stop smoke spreading, shut down air handlers, activate smoke evacuation fans, and bring all elevators down to the ground floor and park to prevent people from using them.


Disaster-response measures (such as base isolation) have also been included in building management programs to save buildings from earthquakes. In more recent times, companies and governments have been working to find similar solutions to the threats of rising sea levels for flood zones and coastal areas. One such example is Arx Pax Labs, Inc.’s SAFE Building System, designed to float buildings, roadways, and utilities within a few feet of water. The self-adjusting floating environment draws from existing technologies used for floating concrete bridges and runways such as the SR 520 from Washington and the Mega-Float from Japan.


On 11 November 2019, Gjoko Krstic and Sipke Mellema published a 132-page security research paper entitled “I Own Your Building (Management System)” which addressed more than 100 vulnerabilities affecting various BMS and different vendors’ access control solutions.


A list of systems that can be monitored or controlled by a BMS is shown below:


  • Illumination (lighting) control
  • Electric power control
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Security and observation
  • Access control
  • Fire alarm system
  • Lifts, elevators, etc.
  • Plumbing
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV)
  • Other engineering systems
  • Control Panel
  • PA system
  • Alarm Monitor
  • Security Automation



Many benefits exist when a BMS is installed in a building, some of them are:


  • Possibility of individual room control
  • Increased staff productivity
  • Effective monitoring and targeting of energy consumption
  • Improved plant reliability and life
  • An effective response to HVAC-related complaints
  • Save time and money during the maintenance
  • Occupancy sensors allow automatic setback override during unoccupied periods as well as adaptive occupancy scheduling.
  • Lighting controls reduce unnecessary artificial lighting via motion sensors and schedules as well as by controlling daylight harvesting louvers
  • Controllers save water and energy by controlling rainwater harvesting and landscape irrigation

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