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90 min read

How to Evaluate Building Automation Systems

By Phil Zito on Oct 10, 2022 5:35:00 PM

Are you overwhelmed with how fast the BAS market is changing?

Do you find yourself struggling to keep up with systems and how to evaluate them?

Are you looking for an easy way to consistently evaluate BAS's that is vendor neutral?

If so you are in the right spot. 

Topics: Guides building automation systems Building Controls
15 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Building Automation Careers

By Phil Zito on Apr 20, 2021 7:31:20 AM

I'm often asked "How do I get a job in building automation?" or "What does a career path look like in building automation?". 

Topics: Building Automation System Career
25 min read

The Complete Guide to Building Automation Acronyms

By Phil Zito on Dec 29, 2020 9:15:02 AM

"Do you have a list of building automation abbreviations" is a common request we get here at Smart Buildings Academy.

Topics: Building Automation System
11 min read

How to Build and Run a Building Automation Business

By Phil Zito on Aug 25, 2020 7:00:00 AM

I was on the phone with one of our customers who is trying to grow his BAS business to $20M in revenue by next summer. As he and I were talking he asked me "Phil if you were in my shoes how would you build and grow a contracting business?".

That was an interesting question, I paused and thought to myself, "Man, there are so many different things I would do and so many interrelated areas I would need to cover."

So, I told him this is not a quick answer and that it would take several conversations to really flush out the topic.

He agreed and we set up a reoccurring weekly call to really dissect the topic.

I asked him if he was okay with me turning this into a weekly blog post that I could update as we moved through the calls and he agreed that would be useful to others in the same position.

Topics: Guides
64 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Building Automation Protocols

By Phil Zito on Aug 18, 2020 10:35:08 AM

When I was a tech I realized there was not a good source of information on common protocols. That's why I created this guide. However, if you are in sales, facilities management, or engineering you will still find this guide to be helpful. This guide starts with general overviews and then dives deep into each protocol. Feel free to go as deep down the rabbit hole as you'd like.

[Author's Note] This guide will continue to be updated/restructured in a series of future releases, your feedback is critical to this. 


So without further ado let's get started.



What is a protocol?

A protocol is a set of rules that establishes how systems communicate. One of the best analogies for a 
protocol is that of a language. If you think of the English language it has rules for the syntax and structure of language. It also has object types in the form of verbs, nouns, etc. 

Protocols are the rules that dictate the structure, organization, and function of communication systems.


Topics: Guides Building Automation System BACnet Protocols
50 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Building Automation Systems

By Phil Zito on Dec 6, 2019 6:00:21 AM

BEMS, BMS, BAS, EMCS, and this list goes on and on. Welcome to the acronym-filled wasteland know as building automation. You may be wondering, "What is a Building Automation System?"

Even among "building automation" professionals, there's a lack of consensus around what building automation is. And this is exactly why I wrote this guide.

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand what building automation is.

No matter what your role is when you finish this guide you will understand what a building automation system is and how it works.

Topics: Guides smartbuildings Building Controls
7 min read

Building a BAS Lab

By Phil Zito on Oct 17, 2019 3:30:24 PM

Let's Build a Lab

One of the questions we receive from our students is how to build a practice lab for building automation. In this quick guide, we will discuss exactly what you need for your own lab.

A couple of quick points, we will do our best to keep part numbers up to date but they may change, just send us an email at support@smartbuildingsacademy.com and we will adjust. We focused in on Niagara for this lab for a few reasons:

  • Niagara has a large market share and covers a large audience (I'd also argue it's one of the most difficult BAS interfaces to learn, if you can use it, you will be fine with most other BAS).
Topics: Building Controls
43 min read

BAS Expert shares his 13 tips for optimizing systems

By Phil Zito on Nov 21, 2017 6:00:12 AM

"I’m new to building automation and it’s a bit overwhelming. What’s the first thing I should do?"

More and more, folks who aren’t building automation professionals are being put in charge of building automation systems.

I’ve compiled a list of 13 actions someone with a new or existing building automation system can take to make sure their system is setup to support them. The good news is that with a few actions you can reduce the risk of your building automation system failing.

Topics: Guides building automation systems Building Controls
9 min read

What is Tridium Part 1

By Phil Zito on Jul 3, 2017 6:00:51 AM

I'm proud to say that for several months now this post is the number 2 result on Google Search for "What is Tridium". So if you are landing here for the first time, first off welcome!

The post below is part of a 2 part series that seeks to provide an overview of what Tridium is and what Tridium isn't. At the end of this article, I will provide you some related articles and a chance to learn more about building automation.

Topics: Guides tridium building automation systems Building Controls Tridium
46 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Building Automation Programming

By Phil Zito on May 5, 2017 7:00:51 AM

This post will teach you how to program a Building Automation System. But not in the way you think…

Of all the topics I’ve discussed, this is the one I’ve skirted around the most. I’d been struggling with how to best teach this topic. Not because I don’t know how to program but rather because each company has a different set of programming tools. So therein lies the rub, how do you teach a topic that is unique to each vendor…

Well, after a ton of hemming and hawing (that’s a southern US phrase for y'all that means I was procrastinating…) I decided to ignore the vendor problem and just dive into the basics.


So without further delay...


The definitive guide to building automation programming

Topics: Guides smartbuildings Building Controls
22 min read

The Definitive Guide to BACnet

By Phil Zito on Mar 26, 2017 11:49:57 AM

Topics: Guides bacnet Building Controls
22 min read

The BAS Professional's Guide to Central Cooling Plants

By Phil Zito on Jan 11, 2017 6:00:50 AM

Several years ago I started writing a series about central cooling plants. As I've advanced in my building automation system (BAS) career, I've realized that central cooling plants are one of the most complex systems that a BAS technician will work on.

Topics: Hydronic Systems HVAC hydronic systems hvac cooling systems
13 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Tridium N4

By Phil Zito on Nov 9, 2016 7:00:46 AM

Well, folks, it's time. Time for me to update one of my most popular posts. A lot has happened since I wrote my two-part series on Tridium.

You can click on the links to read Part 1 and Part 2.

I initially wrote the series as a way to solidify my knowledge around Tridium. Little did I know it would become one of my most popular posts and also a top ranking Google search.

Well, a lot has changed since I wrote those articles. Tridium released a new solution called N4 (Generation 4 of Tridium essentially), and to answer a ton of questions I am updating my series.


Topics: Guides smartbuildings Building Controls Tridium
40 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Systems Integration

By Phil Zito on Jul 5, 2016 2:00:19 AM

Systems Integration is a tough topic. I've been planning to write this series for a long time. This series is going to take you from zero to systems integration hero.

In this series you will learn the process I created when I first started systems integration way back in 2008. I've since refined this process to align more closely with enterprise architecture models, but at the end of the day, it's still my same process, just a little bit cleaner :-D

Topics: Guides smartbuildings Building Controls
8 min read

What is Tridium Part 2

By Phil Zito on Sep 10, 2013 10:34:44 AM

In my earlier article, I went through a level review of Tridium. Much to my surprise that what is Tridium article became one of my most read articles and I continue to get e-mails asking me for greater detail.

A few of the questions I receive are:

  • How does a JACE really work?
  • What are the pros and cons of a platform sold through VAR's(Value Added Resellers)?
  • What do I need to know if I am looking into Tridium as an offering?

All of these are good and pertinent questions. As I mentioned in my earlier article Tridium exists as a middleware BAS platform that provides the ability to connect to other systems via API's (Application Programming Interfaces).

Topics: Guides tridium building automation systems Building Controls Tridium