Will your BAS be working in the year 2000?

Like many other plant systems, BASs are susceptible to year 2000 time and date malfunctions. Although products shipped today may be ready to handle the next century, systems already in place may not be.
By Staff August 1, 1998

Like many other plant systems, BASs are susceptible to year 2000 time and date malfunctions. Although products shipped today may be ready to handle the next century, systems already in place may not be. In most cases, users do not need to fear that the entire BAS will fail, but because many of their operations are time and date sensitive, activities such as event scheduling, equipment cycling, and similar tasks may crash.

– The millennium bug is real, and a coordinated plan to manage year 2000 difficulties is essential. Any program that relies on dates could be confused. The year 2000 is especially challenging for embedded systems that are abundant in building operations. HVAC controls, boilers, chillers, local and wide area networks, building access systems, and similar BAS functions are a few examples.

– The most important year 2000 action for a plant engineer to take is to get started! Ask your BAS supplier to perform a site audit and request a documented response. Be specific. A generic letter is difficult for a vendor to answer. When solutions are suggested, ask for a quote for remedying the problems. If the system is upgraded, users may want to ask for a letter stating that the system is now year 2000 compliant.

– Solutions may be as simple as upgrading software or changing out firmware, or as complicated as total system replacement. Equipment having no upgrade path, for example, may have to be replaced. In some cases, a new system may be justified. If a system has been in place for many years, it may be time for a new one. Interface solutions are often available that let users upgrade their system architecture while keeping many of the existing components. Most vendors want to maintain their legacy products and will work with users who want to keep them.

– It is important to remember that some solutions may defeat the purpose of distributed control because they create a single point of failure on the system. And, some software applications may not be compliant because they depend on the hardware clock in the computer platform. Under these conditions, the PC may need to be replaced. Remember that while most vendors are cooperative about year 2000 problems and see this situation as an opportunity to cement relationships with users, if the price of a solution seems too high, competitively bidding the solution is always an option.

– Other activities to include in the action plan are monitoring the progress of your plan and communicating its progress to all affected employees. There will be surprises. Prepare a backup plan for mission critical processes just in case some of the solutions fail to work.

– Above all, act! Acquire as much knowledge as possible. Organizations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) offer resources and assistance. (See the “More info” section at the end of this article for contact information.) Neither user nor supplier has the capacity to handle all problems between July and December 1999. If you haven’t started, the time is now.