BACnet Interest Group Europe Celebrates 25 Years

Many years of successful engagement – today over 120 members

This year, the BACnet Interest Group Europe (BIG-EU) turned 25. The organization celebrated its anniversary and 25 successful years at the ISH trade fair in Frankfurt (March 13–17, 2023).

The BIG-EU was founded on May 14, 1998, when more than 40 representatives of building services companies, universities, and industry organizations from the USA and all over Europe met to discuss the establishment of a European organization for the further development and dissemination of the BACnet standard.

Group photo at the founding of the BIG-EU in 1998. © M. Stahl

Important impulses came at the meeting from Mike Newman from the USA, also known as “Mr. BACnet”. Mike Newman, who unfortunately passed away in 2020, is considered the spiritual father of the BACnet protocol (ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 135-1995). When he took over the operation of an energy management system at Cornell University, Ithaca NY in the mid-1970s, he found that all the building automation companies were starting to offer DDC equipment, but none of them could communicate with each other. A quote: “I began to wonder who was working on a standard protocol. It was clear to me that the lack of a standard would eventually be a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of DDC technology.” At that time, when IBM introduced an integration protocol “FACN” for their sites, Mike Newman contacted ASHRAE in late 1986. This was the impetus for standardization work in ASHRAE Working Group 135. The resulting ANSI 135 protocol was trademarked as “BACnetTM” from 1992 and has been the worldwide ISO standard 16484-5 since 2004.

Mr. BACnet” Mike Newman at the 10th anniversary of the BIG-EU at Light + Building 2008. © Hans Kranz

17 participants then founded the association BACnet Interest Group E.V, initially also known as “BIG”, on May 14, 1998. Founding members were the companies Alerton (USA), Elektrowatt (Landis & Staefa, Cerberus), Honeywell, Johnson Controls, CA Computer Automation, IfR Institut für Regelungstechnik, Kieback+Peter, Regin Technology (Sweden), Siemens AG ATDIGTA, Trane, EIBA (Belgium), FH Dortmund (Department of Communications Engineering), Gimelec (France), Planungsgruppe M+M, Schneider Electric (France), Triple S (Austria), VTT Building Technology (Finland) and BUS-House (Switzerland). The overview shows that the BIG-EU was well anchored in the industry from the very beginning.

The first three-member Board consisted of President Nils Meinert (Landis & Staefa), Vice President Karl Heinz Belser (Honeywell) and Treasurer Volker Röhl (Johnson Controls). All members of the first board have remained loyal to the association over many years and have supported it with their commitment. Karl Heinz Belser, for example, served as a Board member for 24 years and as president of the association from 2020 to 2022.

The first BIG-EU Presidium (from left to right): President Nils Meinert (Landis & Staefa), Vice-President Karl Heinz Belser (Honeywell) and Treasurer Volker Röhl (JCI). © M. Stahl

Immediately after its foundation, the BIG-EU started with a variety of activities. In 1998 it participated in the Building Performance Congress in Frankfurt, in 1999 there was a first BACnet Symposium, in 1999 the BIG-EU was represented for the first time with a booth at the ISH and in 2000 at the Light + Building. This was followed by many other trade fair participations throughout Europe. At the same time, programs for education and training were started. An important regular event is the BACnet Plugfest. Here, participants from many different building automation suppliers from all over Europe meet and test their newly developed BACnet products for interoperability. All these activities contributed to a fast and continuous increase in membership.

Already in 2004 the first own journal of the BIG-EU was published, the first issue of the BACnet Europe Journal. In the meantime, the BACnet Journals are available in three versions: The bilingual (English/German) BACnet Europe Journal has already been published 39 times, the French BACnet France Journal 15 times and the English BACnet Middle East Journal 11 times.

Important for the dissemination of the BACnet standard and its further development are the technical committees and working groups. The Technical Working Group actively participates in the BACnet Committee and in the BACnet working groups of ASHRAE. It deals with extensions to the BACnet Standard, the development of testing, listing and certification, technical questions from users and developers, and qualification measures. The Marketing Working Group is responsible for communication at trade fairs, symposia and in the media.

AMEV/BIG-EU is composed of representatives of the public sector, the BACnet Interest Group and engineering and planning offices and has as its topic the ISO-16484 requirements in the German market. OPC UA Mapping aims to develop ideas and specifications for an interface between the two technologies OPC UA and BACnet. Still very young is the Facility Management Technical Committee, founded in 2022, whose focus is on the operation of buildings and on the topic of “BACnet and Facility Management”. Another current topic is elevator integration with BACnet.

Today, the BIG-EU has over 120 members. They are looking forward to another successful 25 years with their organization, the BIG-EU.

In his welcoming speech, President Thomas Kurowski (Siemens) recalled the founding of the BIG-EU – also in Frankfurt. © BIG-EU
The celebration of the BIG-EU’s 25th anniversary on 14 March was the meeting point of the building automation industry at the ISH. Many veterans of building automation and former functionaries of the BIG-EU met for blue anniversary muffins and more. © BIG-EU
BIG-EU Board Member Tobias Plath (Johnson Controls), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Frauenrath (FH Aachen), BIG-EU President Thomas Kurowski (Siemens) and BIG-EU Head of Office Hans Symanczik at the presentation of the BIG-EU Award (from left to right). © BIG-EU