1. Importance of Control Panels. 2. Control Panel - what you can find inside? 3. How to make a masterpiece Control Panel. Good practices.
1. Importance of Control Panels.
If the BMS Room is the heart of the Building Management System, the Control Panels are its skeleton. The system of dozens of interconnected cabinets are scattered throughout the building and works as a support structure for building similarly as skeleton works as a support system for our body. As a skeleton contains multiple essential bones, Automation Control Panels contain multiple essential controllers and I/O modules. They support the operation of the building, protect it from derivation from the desired operation, and store crucial information about ongoing processes on the site.
Picture 1. Schema of control panels on the building
Experienced Engineers can make very precise opinions about the overall control conditions on the building just by examining one of the given control panels in a building even without a need to open it. What he would be looking for? The first hint is a Control Cabinet name. It is very important that the naming is done according to the regulations (if such are applied), that would be the sign that a Design Engineer probably has done his best to create a BMS system that would be easily understood by most engineers in this field. If there are no strict regulations related to naming, the name should provide as much valuable information about the purpose of the cabinet as possible. For example, by using the name L25-BMS-AHU23 the designer provides the information about the level where this Control Panel should be installed (L25), to which system it is related (BMS - Building Management System), and for which equipment is has been designed for (AHU23 - Air Handle Unit Nr. 23).
The second hint is the position of the Control Cabinet in a given room. Is there enough space to open both doors? Is it possible to work comfortably with equipment placed in the Control Panel? Is the lighting appropriate around it? Answers to these questions will give us an idea about the project design of the BMS system in cooperation with other systems on a building. As the BMS System is often the last installed system in a building, it would be no surprise for you to see Control Panels located somewhere, where they do not belong - behind the Air Handle Unit Duct channels, Behind Chillers, in the Corners with no lighting etc. You would not believe how creative get contractors who install Control Panels if there is no place for it. Under the roof, a few floors away, behind the equipment with no access. That's a direct sign of poor BMS design - someone forgot something, and now there is a problem. The third hint is the enclosure of the Control Panel. Is it in good condition? Are all the indicator lights, push-buttons, switches working and named? Is there an emergency ‘Turn Off’ button? Is the Control Panel locked and not accessible for third-party? Are the Ingress Protection Rating appropriate to the conditions where the Control Panel installed? Answers to these questions will once again give our engineer a chance to assess overall control standards in a building. And that’s even without opening the Control Panel. But if we can open it, it becomes even more interesting.