Find out how commercial building automation improves operations for employees, visitors & building managers all while conserving energy.
As the technology improves and becomes more widely available, building owners and managers are quickly adopting commercial building automation systems. There are a few reasons why these systems are becoming so popular—especially for large-scale developments. One of the major reasons that these systems are being adopted is due to greater awareness of environmental concerns and energy conservation initiatives. Now more than ever, governments are offering incentives for companies that can decrease their energy consumption and output of pollutants. In the near future, it is expected that governments will require that businesses take steps to minimize environmental harm.
In this article, we’ll be introducing building automation systems (BAS), discussing how they work, looking at some use cases, and exploring how these systems can improve to make them suitable for any property and any business. Let’s find out what makes building automation so exciting for the future of building management and environmental conservation!
What Does Commercial Building Automation Mean?
Commercial building automation may seem like a complicated concept, but in practice, it simplifies building management
Commercial buildings will require automation soon.
Building automation is a wide-reaching subject that covers every aspect of building operations. For our definition today—however—we’re going to keep it simple. Building automation is the practice of automating, monitoring, and controlling every system within a building. Using sensors and other smart devices placed strategically throughout the property, BAS systems gather data and make intelligent decisions and predictions based on that data. Using the information pulled from the hard-wired or wireless network of sensors, the BAS can intelligently control building systems without any human input. The two different types of automation systems—wired and wireless—can perform the same functions. The choice between using Power over Ethernet (PoE) wires or Internet of Things (IoT) wireless technology comes down to the property itself. While PoE is often the preferred method for new developments, IoT is preferred for renovation since the installation process is less invasive.
Now that we know what building automation is and a bit about how it allows building systems to communicate with each other, let’s take a look at a few examples of beneficial applications.
Which Building Systems Can be Automated?
BAS systems easily control several internal operating systems at once
Optimize security using automation.
If you haven’t personally encountered BAS systems, you are probably wondering which kinds of internal building systems they can operate. Let’s take a look at and find out how businesses can apply these automations to their existing building systems.
- HVAC – BAS systems can regulate temperatures, save energy, and offer data on how businesses can conserve energy on heating and cooling.
- Electricity – BAS controls and reports on energy usage.
- Lighting – Using sensors, all building lighting can be controlled automatically.
- Security – Essential devices like motion detectors and cameras can be easily integrated and automatically controlled.
- Plumbing – Using sensors located in the plumbing system, the BAS can predict maintenance and monitor water usage.
By automating these systems and getting constant data reporting, businesses benefit in a variety of ways. First—and arguably most importantly—buildings can operate more efficiently. The more automation capabilities a building has, the less room there is for human errors. Often, these systems can predict when maintenance is required and can even prevent costly breakdowns.
By relying on data reporting for automation, BAS systems can pinpoint how to use building resources most efficiently. In practice, this saves businesses money and plays a big part in achieving environmental sustainability goals.
It should also be mentioned that automated buildings make life easier for employees and visitors. For example, automated HVAC systems ensure that spaces are kept at the ideal temperature without having to mess with a thermostat. Occupancy sensors can also be installed to adjust the temperature based on the amount of body heat in a room. Overall, these features offer a wide variety of benefits for businesses that implement automation.
What Makes Up a BAS System?
BAS systems require several layers of operation to achieve the impressive results we’ve just discussed
Several layers of technology create a network of devices.
We’ve just gone over some of the ways that a BAS is used within commercial development. However, we still need to discuss how exactly the BAS can achieve these impressive results. The answer is in the different layers of the operating system. Let’s take a closer look at the layers required for full building automation to get a better understanding of how a BAS can monitor and control complex building systems.
- Layer 1 Application – The first layer we’re discussing is the application layer of the BAS. Sometimes referred to as a server, this is the layer that building managers interact with most often. The application layer is where the data pulled from the building systems is clearly displayed. Using visual cues, the application layer communicates any errors or predictive maintenance alerts.
- Layer 2 Supervisory – The supervisory layer is what collects the data from the different devices and consolidates it for the application.
- Layer 3 Field Control – This layer processes the data directly from the individual sensors and then automatically makes adjustments to the systems.
- Layer 4 Input/Output – The input/output layer deals with the individual devices placed around the buildings. These can include heat sensors, plumbing sensors, motion sensors, and other smart devices.
How is Commercial Building Automation Used?
Building automation can be applied to many different industries for better operations
Retail stores massively benefit from automation capabilities.
Now that we know how commercial building automation works, let’s take a look at some real-life examples of how these systems improve operational efficiency for different industries.
Using building automation for retail spaces creates a better, more intuitive experience for both employees and customers. Retail stores can easily regulate temperature and lighting even in constantly changing environments. Not to mention, retailers can take advantage of the massive energy savings allowed due to building automation.
Since healthcare facilities are often complicated and require very highly regulated, building automation is the perfect fit! By implementing sensors and creating automated systems, healthcare facility operators go from complex to streamlined. BAS systems are also capable of minimizing the spread of airborne diseases via HVAC controls. Using occupancy sensors and advanced ventilation systems, healthcare facilities can detect when there is a higher than normal occupancy and automatically turn on ventilators. In a post-COVID era of healthcare, these implementations have gone from beneficial to essential for all kinds of facilities.
Warehouses & Distribution Centers
BAS systems can drastically improve operational efficiency for large buildings like warehouses and distribution centers. In general, the larger the property, the more operators will benefit from automation. This is especially true for warehouse lighting and waste disposal. Since large warehouses require so much interior lighting to make the space safe for all workers, businesses can save up to 25% on their lighting costs per year.
Waste disposal is another opportunity for businesses to use automation to save money. All too often, energy in the form of labor and fuel is wasted on waste removal. Using sensors, BAS systems can notify waste management employees when disposal centers are full. In practice, this saves time and energy by only having waste management workers pick up trash when absolutely necessary.
What is Preventing All Commercial Properties from Implementing Automation?
While BAS systems have a lot of benefits, there are a few factors that prevent them from being universally implemented
Automation still has a way to go before universal adoption is expected.
Despite all of the advantages of having a BAS system over an old, outdated operating system—there are two big reasons why these systems are not ubiquitous among all commercial buildings. The first reason is due to cost. For many businesses, the cost of installing a BAS system is simply too high. This is especially true for medium or smaller properties that do not have the upfront capital required to upgrade to a BAS. The good news is that automated devices are becoming more affordable every day—especially IoT devices.
The second reason that many businesses are hesitant to implement BAS is due to the complex installation process. It can be initially difficult to transition from an older operating system to a BAS. In many cases, the BAS system needs to be designed from scratch to suit the unique features of each building. This adds time to onboarding and also drives up the cost of installation.
While these systems do have a few drawbacks, the benefits ultimately outweigh the cost and complexity of implementation. Commercial building automation is the key to maintaining high-quality intuitive building operations while cutting costs and conserving energy. The more quickly these systems are implemented, the faster businesses will be able to achieve their sustainability goals and minimize environmental impact.