While smart building automation systems have been around since the 1970s, past iterations required manual inputs or were geared to work on obsolete hardware. The 2000s saw the rise of software interfaces for controlling these systems, and more recently these systems have begun to incorporate input from sensors and Internet of Things devices, Meisels says. As IoT and building management converge, building managers will be able to gain greater insights into building operation.
In a modern BAS deployment, “there are networks and sensors, specific controllers that can be utilized together to gain insights and direct changes within the systems,” Talon says. “You drive up and your access badge identifies what parking spot you go to. The elevator takes you directly to your floor, a mobile app tells you what desk, and the lighting and heating there are set for your comfort levels. It’s a really customized experience.”
What Is an Energy Management System?
Energy management systems bring together a number of key technologies with the goal of driving energy conservation and providing cost savings. Such systems “analyze electrical, water, gas and steam meter data to target areas of improvement to reduce overall energy usage,” the GSA spokesperson says. “In some cases, the EMS may be included in the BAS design, or it can operate alone.”
Energy management systems in smart buildings “are those systems that drive energy conservation and help deliver the dual benefits of supporting the environment and providing cost savings,” Meisels says.
One of the chief advantages of a modern energy management system is its ability to be proactive rather than reactive.
As demand for energy rises and falls, “you can use it to respond to changing pressures on the grid — adjusting to meet demand in an automated fashion,” Talon says. “You can also use it for predictive analytics. Instead of always servicing this piece of HVAC equipment in this month at this time, you can leverage the analytics to tell you when service is needed, which in turn creates new operational efficiencies.”
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What Are the Controllers of Building Automation Systems?
Sensors are among the core technology drivers behind building automation. These will typically monitor such systems as HVAC and lighting, electrical controls, access control and video security.
“With smart lighting, for example, you might put in an LED retrofit. Within that, the sensors detect movement or occupancy to turn the lights off and on. They can also track the way people move through a space, which can tell you how often spaces are being used,” Talon says.
The sensors in turn feed a variety of controllers that can help to automate building management. Controllers may be set to keep climate within a certain range, for example, or to run the lights based on an occupancy schedule. They may also monitor systems performance and alert facility managers to potential problems or system malfunctions.
In addition, smart building automation systems will include an IT backbone to tie together the various sensors and controllers. “With any of these systems, the value is tied to the data, so the software and analytics are hugely important,” Talon says. “You also need the networking infrastructure to move that data, so cloud computing becomes a big piece of the puzzle.”
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Types of Building Automation Systems
Like building automation systems, energy management systems rely on sensors and controllers to deliver enhanced efficiencies. Here, the specific aim is to reduce energy use and bring down the cost of building operations.
Meisels describes four key technologies of smart building automation systems:
HVAC: Smart HVAC controls help limit energy consumption in unoccupied building zones, detect and diagnose faults, and reduce HVAC usage, particularly during times of peak energy demand.
Smart lighting: Smart lighting includes advanced controls that incorporate daylighting and advanced occupancy and dimming functions to eliminate over-lit spaces.
Automated system optimization (ASO): ASO uses advanced technology to collect and analyze building systems’ operational and energy performance data and to make changes in operations based on external factors such as occupancy patterns, weather forecasts, and utility rates.
Distributed energy resources (DER): These are energy generation and storage systems placed at or near the point of use, independent of the power grid. Examples include combined heat and power, solar photovoltaics and other renewables, and battery and thermal storage.
While all of this may sound like a lot of moving parts, the government stands to reap substantial benefits through a move to smart buildings. Deloitte analysts say an upgrade of a single component can yield energy savings of 5 to 15 percent, while an integrated approach to smart building systems could help realize 30 to 50 percent savings in existing buildings that are otherwise inefficient.