Building automation: centralised control of single or multi-sites

Paul Boughton
A specialised facilities monitoring system aims to cut building management costs.

A specialised facilities monitoring system – CitectFacilities – focussed on the rapidly growing global Building Automation market has been launched by Citect.

CitectFacilities integrates climate, lighting and other systems in single or multi-site facilities, creating enterprise-wide monitoring and control systems.

PC-based, CitectFacilities can significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs; it allows a property or facility manager to reduce energy consumption, track after-hours use and generate customised reports for individual billing of all building tenants.

CitectFacilities provides safe, cost-effective, and efficient control for single buildings or entire complexes. Its design is centred on reliability, with multi-level, hardware-independent redundancy provided to ensure constant communication from the server to all remote I/O.

In addition, the facility with CitectFacilities for optional dual servers and dual networking can provide an additional level of operational reliability.

Implemented either as a standalone facility maintenance management system, or integrated with CitectSCADA Reports information technology, a CitectFacilities solution ensures continuous monitoring and control of facility functions including security and access control; HVAC: heating, chillers, ventilation, air filtration; electrical distribution and energy use; lighting; fire detection and suppression; and lifts.

Based on the architecture of the CitectSCADA software, CitectFacilities incorporates major features such as a zero-maintenance, fully functional Web Client, which offers easier enterprise access for more efficient decision making, and Process Analyst, a next generation historical visualisation tool, which enables processes to be optimised by providing an integrated display of trends and alarms. The package also allows open, non-proprietary facilities monitoring and control solutions to be implemented across hardware devices supplied from multiple vendors.

As such, it includes drivers for integration with all networks commonly used in facilities maintenance management, such as BACnet, LONWorks, OPC, Profibus, and many more. This openness protects existing investments; it also provides an upgrade path for future expansion and upgrades.

The flexibility and increased effectiveness provided by a CitectFacilities solution enables operators to employ PC-based displays anywhere on a network, in order to change set points and to override equipment operation. The software features centalised access control for facility security; it also permits continuous 24/7 monitoring of multiple sites, reducing labour requirements and improving the productivity of building maintenance and security personnel.

In addition, Nexa offers the convenience of a Citect Plant2Business interface, which enables back offices to perform billing as required.

With every CitectFacilities package users get a state-of-the-art development toolkit, which includes: HMI and display development tools, including a specialised library of facility management graphics; WAN capability with a centralised database; redundancy at every level with no special hardware requirements; drivers for standard I/O devices and controllers; historical and real-time trending; alarm management and event scheduling.


Meanwhile, CitectFacilities software is providing the platform for a new, wide-ranging system, designed by Entech Ltd, for the remote monitoring of lifts, water pumps, water tanks, boilers, and riser pumps in multi-occupancy buildings right across a large London borough.

The system is providing a more efficient service to residents, by providing real time information for rectification of faults, and is also reducing costs through improved use of maintenance personnel and building management services.

"The Entech/Citect monitoring system is revolutionising the way we operate and maintain council buildings in the borough," said a council spokesman. "The system takes us from a reactive to a proactive approach, where we often know about faults with lifts, pumps, boilers and the like before our residents do, and are able to rectify these faults quickly with the minimum of disruption.

"In addition, the CitectFacilities platform provides us with records of breakdown histories of equipment in our buildings, enabling us to undertake trending to anticipate and obviate longer-term problems."

The London council decided to invest in a new, more comprehensive building monitoring system when the original remote lift monitoring system used in many of its multi-occupancy properties became unreliable.

The previous lift monitoring solution, a DOS-based proprietary control system, had begun to swamp the council with false alarm calls about inoperative lifts.

In addition to overcoming this problem, the council wanted to be able to reduce the incidence of complaints, by being able to identify system faults quickly. Importantly, they also wanted to extend the parameters of the system to include other equipment on site, including water pumps, tanks, heating boilers and riser pumps. To provide a single solution to all these remote monitoring requirements, the council turned to systems integrator, Entech Ltd.

The system provided by Entech is based on a number of remote sites fitted with hardware designed to monitor equipment on site - typically lifts, water pumps, water tanks, heating boilers and riser pumps. It has been designed to be intuitive and guides users via a series of simple, on screen visual indicators that identify faults or alarms. This facility is provided by a graphic front end, which is an integral part of the CitectFacilities software package specified by Entech for the building monitoring system.

At the heart of the Entech system are AMACS units (Advanced Monitoring And Control System). Designed and developed by Entech, these devices have a number of analogue inputs, digital inputs and relay outputs that are directly connected to the equipment to be monitored. They are powered by on site ac power and have internal batteries to allow communication and monitoring in the event that the mains supply should fail.

Each AMACS unit includes an internal modem that connects to a BT telephone line, allowing communications to the central monitoring system, which is situated at the Council's head offices and manned by Council engineers, to enable reporting of alarms and user interrogation. The value of this data to the Council is explained by the Council spokesman.

"If we have a lift breakdown in Deptford, for example, we now know about it the moment that it has occurred, and are able to make the best use of resources by diverting one of our engineers that is closest to the scene. In addition to this, the Council is responsible for a number of sheltered housing schemes. If boilers fail in these premises then vulnerable people can be put at risk. The new system means that we are aware almost immediately when these problems occur and are able to put them right straightaway, often before the tenants know there has been a problem."

Currently, the council is using the Entech system to monitor 25 sites: the plan being to add 15 more sites each year, as capital become available. Asked if the system offered potential for improved efficiencies and cost savings for other councils across the UK, the spokesman replied: "Absolutely."

The council's planned expansion of the monitoring system, up to a potential maximum of 300 sites, is one of the major reasons why Entech specified CitectFacilities software. The package has the ability to monitor and control 100000s of I/O points from a single server, with the scalability to grow the system to monitor one or more multi-site facilities. CitectFacilities is also easy to use; its open architecture and easy-to-use configuration tools enable users to quickly develop and deploy building solutions.

Once installed, the package enables managers to lower building operating costs and improve tenant services, by providing centralised control and monitoring of facilities, and by integrating climate, lighting and other systems in single or multi-site operations.

Principal of operation

The basic principal of operation of the London Council system is to have remote monitoring units on each of the sites; these dial in alarms to advise the user that there is a problem on that site that may need attention.

Each monitored item of equipment on site has specified alarm and monitor points - alarm points are signals that trigger a dial-out to the central system, monitor points are signals that do not trigger a dial-out but can be used to monitor the equipment status while looking 'on-line'.

Based on the alarms received by the central monitoring system, Council engineers can contact the relevant maintenance companies to attend the site. Once logged onto the system, engineers can select a site to observe the equipment in real-time, which, in some instances, can aid fault diagnosis.

The engineers also have a limited ability to control the lifts remotely. The remote AMACS units also monitor whether the lift room door is open.

When the door is opened the AMACS unit starts a timer and the person has to enter a specific code to prevent an alarm dial out. If the person does not log in then the AMACS dials to the central system to indicate that there is an intruder in the lift room. If the person enters the required code the AMACS unit asks if lift alarms generated are to be inhibited from being dialled to the central system.

The system can accommodate multiple remote sites and multiple users. To facilitate this, the central CitectFacilities system has a seven-line modem installed, which allows for simultaneous user dial out and remote site alarm dial in.

Citect Ltd is based in Coleshill, Birmingham, UK. Entech Ltd is based in Sidcup, Kent, UK.