Understanding Proprietary vs. Non-proprietary Building Automation Systems

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Building automation systems (BAS) are complex systems encompassing both hardware and software needed to maintain security, control lighting, regulate temperature, and many other functions required to run your building efficiently. 

They’re also a significant investment, and choosing one for your business is a decision you want to get right from the start. 

One of the most critical choices you have to make when selecting a BAS is whether to install a proprietary BAS or a non-proprietary BAS. This choice will affect your immediate investment, your future expansion options, and your maintenance and service costs for years to come, so it’s essential to understand both options and make a fully informed decision.

We’re here to help you do exactly that. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between proprietary and non-proprietary building automation systems, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type of system.

Full disclosure — experience has shown us that non-proprietary BAS are almost always the best choice if you’re looking for a new system. With that said, we’ll give you the facts on both options so you can decide for your business. 

What Are Proprietary vs. Non-Proprietary Building Automation Systems?

Proprietary building automation systems, also known as closed BAS, comprise hardware and software from one company or manufacturer. Closed BAS do not allow communication or integration with equipment or technology from other companies.

In contrast, non-proprietary building automation systems, often called open BAS, are built using equipment and controls from multiple manufacturers. In an open system, all software and devices are designed to integrate with other system components regardless of the manufacturer.

Proprietary BAS Pros & Cons 

Since we’ve established the fundamental difference between the two BAS, let’s dig into the details and take a look at the unique advantages and disadvantages of proprietary BAS systems.

Pro: Single Point of Contact for Repairs & Upgrades

For proprietary BAS, you always know who to call for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades — the system manufacturer or their authorized service vendor. This single point of contact can seem like an advantage for busy facility teams.

Pro: Fewer Upfront Decisions 

Proprietary systems manufacturers usually offer a selection of pre-configured systems, reducing the number of decisions you have to make about components, configurations, etc. 

Con: Vendor Lock-In

The exclusivity of proprietary systems often leads to frustrating vendor lock-in because you have little or no choice of service plans and technicians. Even if your system manufacturer’s designated service team performs poorly, you can’t choose another vendor because no one else can work on the closed BAS.

Con: Lack of Customization

Proprietary BAS have very few customization options, meaning you can end up with an expensive system that doesn’t meet your specific needs. 

For example, you might choose a pre-configured system that’s a good match for your security needs but falls short on HVAC controls — and spend the next decade wishing you had purchased a system optimized for all your needs.

Con: Limited Upgrade & Expansion Options

Open BAS upgrades and expansions are difficult (and expensive) for two reasons. 

First, you’re limited to the software and equipment available from the original manufacturer. And second, proprietary system components aren’t always backward compatible. 

As a result, you may intend to upgrade a small part of your system but be forced to do an extensive upgrade or complete replacement instead because the manufacturer’s new equipment isn’t backward compatible with the rest of your system. 

Con: Potential for Higher Maintenance & Repair Costs

Maintenance, repair, and replacement costs for proprietary BAS are sometimes higher due to the lack of vendor competition we mentioned previously.

Non-Proprietary BAS Pros & Cons 

Now that we know the ins and outs surrounding proprietary BAS, let’s take a look at the various pros and cons of non-proprietary BAS. 

Pro: Highly Customizable

Because non-proprietary BAS components are built to be interchangeable and widely compatible, you can mix and match software and equipment to create a custom system optimized for your specific business needs. This leads to better performance and much higher long-term satisfaction.

Pro: Expansion & Upgrade Friendly

Non-proprietary hardware and software makers also design with future flexibility in mind. You can seamlessly combine old and new components from different manufacturers — meaning you can upgrade and expand your system whenever and however you choose.

Pro: Vendor Choice

No vendor lock-in here. Any qualified service technician or vendor can work on an open BAS. You get to choose your service provider based on price and performance instead of the manufacturer’s mandate.

Con: More Building Management Team Involvement 

In our experience, the only disadvantage of non-proprietary BAS is that they require more involvement from your building management team in the initial purchasing decision and in matters such as selecting the best service technician. When compared against the many advantages of open BAS, that’s not such a bad tradeoff.

Conexus Leads the Way in Non-Proprietary Building Automation Systems

At Conexus, we specialize in helping our clients find, design, build, and maintain non-proprietary building automation systems. We work hard to make sure the systems we build give clients precisely what they need with no unnecessary features — or expense.

As a result, we’re more than just a building automation vendor. Over our decades in business, we’ve become trusted facility management partners for the companies we work with. We build our systems with ROI in mind — we only do work we’re confident will meet your needs and justify your investment.

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