The Smart Buildings Academy Podcast | Teaching You Building Automation, Systems Integration, and Information Technology

The weekly podcast where Phil Zito discusses topics related to building automation and provides useful tips and action packed examples to help you better understand building automation.
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The Smart Buildings Academy Podcast | Teaching You Building Automation, Systems Integration, and Information Technology








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Now displaying: 2018
Jun 18, 2018

What’s the difference between an application port and a switch port?

How do you avoid bandwidth constraints and dropped BAS packets?

If you are planning on having a career in building automation, these are just a few of the challenges you will face. IT networking is becoming a required skill for BAS professionals. But, outside of our IT course, no one is teaching what BAS professionals need to know. And that is why in this week’s episode of the Building Automation Monthly Podcast we will be discussing:

  • How BAS devices use the network to communicate
  • The different parts and pieces of a BAS network
  • The three things you must understand to avoid network issues
  • Why you must start learning IT now to futureproof your career

Ports and Wires

  • The one model that makes sense of IT networking (4:20)
  • What is the physical layer of networking? (5:55)
  • How you can mess up BAS networking and how to avoid it (7:20)
  • The different networking devices in a BAS network (8:30)
  • How unmanaged switches are different then managed switches (9:25)
  • Why physical and logical topologies matter (11:15)
  • The two types of ports that you need to know (12:20)
  • When to use access links vs trunk links (13:25)
  • Why you must embrace the discomfort of speaking like an IT person (15:35)
  • The one thing you need to learn about how wired communication happens (17:40)
  • The effect of speed on BAS network bandwidth (23:35)
  • Why we need to focus in on our networks wiring (26:25)
  • The three things we need to remember about wired networks (27:30)
Jun 11, 2018

How would you setup 1,000 BACnet/IP devices? Would you know what to ask IT? Would you know how to troubleshoot these devices if something went wrong? How would you support all these devices?

The amount of BACnet/IP devices being installed is increasingly daily. Unfortunately, the understanding and knowledge of BACnet/IP is not!

That’s why in this episode you are going to learn BACnet/IP. By the time you finish this episode you will:

  • Understand the top questions to answer when designing and deploying BACnet/IP networks
  • How BACnet/IP devices are unique and the little know nuances to installing BACnet/IP devices
  • The 5 questions you must be able to answer on every new BACnet/IP installation
  • The most common problems with BACnet/IP and how you can easily troubleshoot it.

Listen to the episode below.


  • What is different with BACnet/IP (1:50)
  • How the lack of IT knowledge is keeping you unsuccessful (3:45)
  • Why the lack of IT training options is holding back the BAS industry (4:50)
  • The impact of large-scale BACnet/IP networks (6:30)
  • How BACnet/IP communicates (7:45)
  • The two stacks of BACnet awesomeness (10:15)
  • The two BACnet addressing schemes (12:40)
  • How do broadcasts work in BACnet/IP (15:25)
  • Why the BBMD is the most useful part of BACnet/IP (16:40)
  • How to add new BACnet/IP devices (19:20)
  • The step-by-step process to adding new BACnet/IP devices (20:15)
  • The top questions you need to ask when working with BACnet/IP (22:25)
  • How to easily deal with an IT group that won’t give you static IP addresses (25:10)
  • Common BACnet/IP troubleshooting strategies (26:45)
Jun 4, 2018

Have you ever wired up a BACnet MS/TP trunk and it just wouldn’t work?

Or for whatever reason, the MS/TP trunk was crazy slow, and the customer was getting upset by slow point data?

If this sounds familiar you’re not alone. Early in my career BACnet MS/TP was super confusing. I didn’t know how to make sense of it. And learning BACnet MS/TP was made even more difficult by the lack of knowledge about MS/TP that was available.

That’s why in this episode we are going to dive into BACnet MS/TP. By the time you finish this episode you will:

  • Understand the top issues that can cause your BACnet MS/TP trunks to fail
  • What the most important BACnet MS/TP settings are and why you should care
  • My five-step process to ensure that your BACnet MS/TP integrations go flawlessly
  • The most common problems with MS/TP and how you can easily troubleshoot them.


  • What makes up BACnet MS/TP (1:50)
  • How daisy-chains make BACnet MS/TP work (3:55)
  • Why manufacturers have different device limits (4:30)
  • The secret of the MS/TP token (5:30)
  • The single most misconfigured MS/TP setting (7:15)
  • How MS/TP is addressed and why it matters (8:15)
  • State machines and tokens (10:30)
  • How your device Masters MS/TP (12:45)
  • Ending your MS/TP trunks (15:40)
  • How to integrate new BACnet MS/TP devices (17:05)
  • Solving problems with bad MS/TP trunks (22:00)
May 28, 2018

BACnet is a protocol that confuses many new BAS professionals. Heck, if we’re honest with one another it confuses many senior BAS professionals as well. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve helped several manufacturers build their BACnet stacks and worked extensively with BACnet in the past.

In this three-part series, we are going to explorer how BACnet works.

In the first episode of this series we will discuss:

  • A general overview of what BACnet is and why it matters to you
  • The two most important BACnet physical architectures that you must know
  • How BACnet communications are changing and what you must do to keep up
  • Why not all BACnet services are created equal and which ones you must focus on

An Overview of BACnet

  • The foundations of BACnet (2:40)
  • Common objects in BACnet (4:25)
  • Objects inside objects inside objects? (6:15)
  • How properties describe objects (8:40)
  • Two physical architectures that transport BACnet (13:40)
  • The most important MS/TP trunk properties (15:30)
  • MAC addresses and BACnet (17:00)
  • Why we need to know more about how BACnet/IP works (19:15)
  • What is BACnet/IP? (21:30)
  • How do you communicate to other BACnet networks (23:10)
  • The five BACnet services you need to know! (25:00)
May 21, 2018

Is optimization some complex secret hidden throughout the ages and handed down to a select few “experts”?

Or is optimization something we all can learn?

In this episode we will discuss:

  • The two-steps you must take prior to executing optimization strategies
  • Five commonly used optimization strategies for your BAS
  • Tips and tricks you need to know before implementing an optimization strategy

Optimization Strategies for Your BAS

  • Two things that you must do before every optimization project (1:10)
  • The art of sensor calibration (1:55)
  • Ensure your end devices can control HVAC systems (4:20)
  • Using load to reset your airside system’s SAT setpoint (6:35)
  • Two methods for calculating load for your airside resets (9:07)
  • Optimizing your waterside systems through load-based resets (11:50)
  • Methods for calculating waterside load (13:15)
  • The danger of using OAT to reset your central plant setpoints (16:15)
  • Using space load to reset pressure setpoints (17:40)
  • The three ways to calculate load within your spaces (20:10)
  • How to deal with spaces that aren’t accurately controlling (22:15)
  • Strategies for controlling your economizer (24:05)
  • Moisture and its effect on economizer control (26:55)
  • Why the location of your DP sensor matters (29:15)
  • Why the 2/3rd’s of the longest duct rule may not be a good idea (30:45)
  • The effect of DP on your pump’s operation (32:47)
May 14, 2018

Depending on what "expert" you talk to there are over 60% of the buildings within the United States that are not "optimized". But what does that even mean?

What is an optimized building? Throughout my career, I've seen well-meaning folks damage their building's HVAC and BAS systems in the pursuit of optimization. That's why I'm tackling this topic. The reality is optimization does not equal energy savings. You could achieve "optimization" by simply making sure all the different BAS you have are tied into a single user interface.

So how do you deal with optimization? That is what we cover in this episode of The Building Automation Monthly Podcast.

In this episode we will discuss:

  • What optimization is
  • How to avoid damaging your building during optimization
  • Why you need to avoid retro-opto-commissioning
  • My five-step process for optimizing your building automation system

Here's a timeline breakdown of what we cover in the podcast:

  • What is optimization and what isn't optimization (2:50)
  • The upstream and downstream effects of optimization (4:55)
  • Why how you optimize is more important than why you optimize (6:50)
  • The dark side of economizer optimization (9:00)
  • The two places you need to be careful when doing math (8:00)
  • How to protect your code from the janitor operator (9:20)
  • Why learning the art of systems thinking is so important (10:55)
  • Retrocommissioning and optimization ARE NOT the same thing (12:40)
  • The danger of retro-opto-commissioning (15:20)
  • The five-step process for optimizing a BAS (19:00)
  • Why you need to have SMART goals for your optimization projects (19:45)
  • Why socializing your optimization strategies is the dumbest thing you can do (23:25)
May 7, 2018

Learning logic blocks? How do you do it? Why should you do it? And why should you even care? 

Good questions!

If you want to be more than just someone installing thermostats and pulling wire then you need to learn how to program. And what do 90% of the BAS manufacturers have in common? They use graphical programming. 

In this episode we will discuss:

  • Common Logic blocks
  • How to interpret sequences to code
  • Code layout and design strategies
  • The secret to fast coding

Buckle up this will be one intense episode!

Apr 30, 2018

Have you ever wanted to learn how to program a BAS?

In the latest episode of the Building Automation Monthly Podcast we discuss how BAS programming works and how you can go about learning to program HVAC with your BAS programming software.

  • Understanding the why behind your programming actions (1:15)
  • Why your mentality determines if you can program (5:00)
  • The traditional way of learning to program (5:30)
  • The questions you need to ask yourself before programming (6:55)
  • Is your program user dependent or user independent (9:55)
  • What is programming? (12:07)
  • How DDC controllers enabled us to write programs (13:00)
  • Do you really understand inputs and outputs (15:50)
  • How your choice of variable type will determine the safety of your programs (22:05)
  • The two ways of programming BAS (25:00)
  • Five steps to programming success (27:52)
  • The reason you must write your boolean logic before your analog logic (30:40)
  • Why following the sequence line for line is a recipe for disaster (33:55)
Apr 16, 2018

Have you ever wondered how you control central utility plants? Or how to sequence multiple chillers in a decoupled loop?

If complex central utility plant control is something you'd like to better understand then you are in the right place. 

In this episode of the building automation monthly podcast we discuss the control and sequencing of complex central utility plants. We will cover:

-How chilled water systems work

-Control strategies for complex central plants

-The 4 different methods for staging on and off chillers


Apr 9, 2018

Do you work with VAV boxes?

Have you ever wondered why you can't maintain a space's temperature setpoint even when all the "controls" seem to be working?

If so this episode is for you. In episode 110 of the Building Automation Monthly podcast, we discuss how to effectively control a space. This episode takes a deep dive into the topic of space control and covers:

  • How air changes work
  • Strategies for preventing supply fan failures on startup
  • The importance of understanding standards
  • How ventilation works and the importance of min and max flow settings
  • And much, MUCH more
Apr 2, 2018

Does reading a building automation control sequence feel like deciphering hieroglyphics?

Having a solid understanding of building automation control sequences is critical for your building automation career. 

But how do you learn control sequences? What makes a good control sequence? 

How do you understand what a control sequence is telling you to do when it's all mixed up and indecipherable?

It doesn't have to be this way. In this three-part series, we will unpack what control sequences are and how to interpret them.

Mar 26, 2018

How do you "do" systems integration. In the final part of this three part series I talk through how to "do" systems integration. I take you step-by-step through 3 of the most common system integration tasks that you will encounter.

Mar 19, 2018

Have you ever had a BAS integration project that just seemed to linger on forever? No matter what you did to close out the project the punch list just kept seeming to grow?

If so you're not alone. In this episode, I walk through the five questions you need to answer before you start any BAS integration project.

Mar 12, 2018

If you needed to tie to different building automation systems into a new front-end how would you do it? 

Now don't just give me the answer of I would use BACnet. How would you actually do it? 

What system would take charge?

Would you remove the other BAS's servers? 

Would you write to each systems points at different priorities? 

What even is systems integration?

That is what my new series What is systems integration seeks to address. In this episode, we unpack what the three most common types of integration are and the gotchas you need to be aware of.

Mar 5, 2018

Over the years I've seen some crazy control sequences. And during this time I've picked up some good tips and tricks to help me deal with these scenarios.

In this episode, I am going to walk you through 3 of my best tips for dealing with Control Sequences. If you've been looking for a way to take your knowledge of Control Sequences to the next level then you'll want to check out this episode.

Feb 26, 2018

Have you ever stopped and thought about why we control systems the way we do?

Folks often ask me, "Phil, what is the number one thing a BAS professional needs to know".

Without any hesitation, my answer is Control Sequences. At the time I'm writing this I've had the honor of helping dozens of managers and owners of BAS companies create effective training programs for their employees. Without question, the number one course that these managers and owners are looking for is a training program that discusses control sequences.

Why is this?

This is because understanding control sequences is core to every other BAS function, bar none. That's why I'm starting a multi-week series where I will be discussing control sequences. This is the first episode of the series and in this episode, you will learn:

► What control sequences are and where they reside
► The three-step process for working through control sequences
► Why focusing on sequence flow is critical to success
► How to understand a sequence no matter how complex it is

Feb 19, 2018

Every day millions of buildings are operated. But not via a BAS. 

No, these buildings are operated manually via timeclocks, hand/off/autos, and 2x4's. 

The reality is we have failed these buildings. We have failed to adequately educate and inspire these buildings operators and owners to invest in a BAS.

That stops today!

In this episode I layout 6 reasons why a BAS is needed. I am arming you with 6 compelling reasons why your customers, managers, or maybe even you yourself need to invest in a BAS.

Specifically, you will learn:

► You can't run a building without a BAS
► You are shortening the life of your equipment without a BAS
► You are paying more to condition your spaces without a BAS
► You can't provide your tenants control without a BAS
► You need more manpower without a BAS
► You will have trouble getting people to come to a building without a BAS

Feb 12, 2018

Have you ever wondered what makes a building automation system work? In this episode I lay out the key principles that you need to know in order to have a solid foundation of building automation knowledge.

Feb 5, 2018

In this episode I talk with Ryan Hughson of Optigo networks about the major changes that are happening in BAS networking. Ryan and I discuss:

► What OT and IT networks are

► The big changes to BAS networking and how to address them

► Why the differences between IP and Serial Bus field controllers matter

► And much more

Jan 29, 2018

In this episode, I recap what BAM is about, how the podcast got started, and I look at some of the most listened to episodes in the first 100 episodes. 

Jan 15, 2018

How do you go about scoping, designing, installing, and programming controls? 

This is the most common question I receive, every day. And rightfully so.

Look, there's tons of amazing vendor training out there that teaches you how to use their tools to "do controls" but at the end of the day folks are still struggling to understand what parts they need, how much time they should budget, and how they begin the process of "doing controls". If this sounds like you then this episode is for you! 

In this episode, I'm going to teach you how to analyze 3 common HVAC systems from the perspective of a controls designer. We wll look at:

► The BAS parts and pieces needed for VAV, AHU, and Chillers
► How to determine what labor to allocate and what steps to take during the install process
► The one simple trick that will save you up to 40% on install labor
► Why writing your own programs from scratch is a recipe for disaster and what to do instead
► And much, much, much more!

Jan 8, 2018

Can you learn new things from an old building? In episode 98 of the Building Automation Monthly Podcast, Andy Marsh (Build Pulse) and Phil Zito (Building Automation Monthly) discuss how to use analytics in “aged” buildings. If you’ve ever thought, “Man I’d love to take advantage of analytics and technology to improve my building, but I can’t because it’s to old” then this episode is for you! In this episode we unpack:

► How using analytics is no longer limited to brand new buildings or cash rich businesses

► The most common efficiency issues in a building and what you can do about them

► Why calculating the ROI on optimizing your BAS isn’t as hard as you think

► How to manage the change that comes with adopting new building automation technology  

► What the cloud and cyber security have in common (it’s not what you think…)

Jan 1, 2018

Goals! It's that time of the year again. The time when millions of people around the world are creating goals to change their businesses and their lives. 

Here at Building Automation Monthly we also have goals. And in this episode I am going to take you through the exciting things that we have planned for 2018. 

I'm also going to do something I've never done before. I'm going to share some very personal information about an issue that I struggle with that is affecting my personal and business life.

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