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A quick guide to: building management systems

A well-designed building management system (BMS) can help you oversee energy efficiency and environmental performance as well as health, safety and comfort. Find out whether a BMS is right for your business.

The World Economic Forum stated in September 2021 that buildings represent 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including 28% in operational emissions and 11% in building materials and construction.

A building management system (BMS) can help businesses reduce energy, carbon and costs and operate their premises in a more sustainable way. 

 

What is a building management system?

Commercial buildings must be comfortable, functional, efficient, and safe. A BMS is a computer-based system installed to monitor and control all aspects of a building from a central point. It is usually controlled from one interface, in real time.

A building’s services include:

  • lighting
  • heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC)
  • fire systems
  • security systems
  • information and communications technology (ICT) systems

If your building houses office space, your employees will typically spend most of their time in a small number of specific locations. Your BMS could therefore heat or light only the essential areas that are in constant use, for example, improving the overall cost efficiency of your business.

What are the benefits of implementing a building management system?

Although implementing a BMS will involve an initial outlay on hardware and software, your investment could offer short- and long- term cost savings and efficiencies. 

Gaining insight into your energy usage can help you reduce it in ways you might not have otherwise been aware of – for instance, switching off lights in bathrooms and stairwells when they’re not in use.

An effective BMS can also improve reporting and information management, resulting in better decision-making and performance. 

 

What role can a building management system play in decarbonisation?

According to a 2014 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, buildings offer by far the most cost-effective opportunity to reduce emissions of all sectors.

A BMS can give a user access to information regarding usage patterns and demand within a property, providing business owners with insights that may result in less energy wastage.

A building management system can make your workplace more energy efficient by:

  • Adjusting the temperature to yield reductions in energy consumption
  • Improving the performance of the building
  • Detecting and flagging issues early

To get the best out of your building management system, you should:

  • Ensure it is programmed to run during normal operating hours so it can flag higher than expected energy use
  • Check it can integrate automated functions such as presence detectors to adjust heating, light and ventilation
  • Ensure the software is up to date and well maintained
Could your business benefit from having a building management system?

For some SMEs, a BMS may offer the sort of functionality they will never use based on the size or purpose of your building.

First of all, the Carbon Trust says you need to weigh up whether or not a BSM is likely to significantly improve energy management. It could be that smart thermostats or smart lighting, for example, are enough to help you achieve energy efficiency or reduce your costs.

Because a BMS allows settings to be changed quickly and easily, it is particularly useful in larger buildings with an energy bill in excess of £10,000 and can offer an appropriate and cost-effective solution.

As with any IT system, a BMS comes with risks – it could fail or be vulnerable to malware. It also requires maintenance and appropriate training. Consider any legal issues or liability should things go wrong.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the NatWest Group Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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