The Power of a Building Automation System

Building automation is at its core a way to make the building run as safely and as efficiently as possible. Without an automation system, every system in a building runs independently of everything else. This is not only impractical and inconvenient, it’s also not very cost effective. The bottom line is that abulding automation systemor “BAS” is the only way to monitor all of the systems in your building at once to make sure they’re all working together.

How Does Building Automation Work?

A buildingautomationsystem monitors all of the mechanical, safety, security, and HVAC systems in a centralized network. It allows you to see your building’s performance as a whole and make necessary adjustments to increase efficiency.

There are a few components that everyautomation systemhas in common:

1) Sensors

Sensors collect information. From temperature to room occupancy, sensors are kind of like the eyes of an automation system. The “see” everything and relay the information so that adjustments can be made.

2) A communications system

This is the programming that allows all the sensors and devices to talk to one another. It’s how information is collected and adjustments are made throughout the whole automated system.

3)Output devices

These are the components that make the changes suggested by the gathered information.

4) User Interface

This is the human component where the user can see all the data collected on all of the systems in thebuildingand changing settings when needed. This type of equipment usually includes a physical interface that can be used in the building as well as mobile access through a cell phone or tablet. There’s a lot of value here as it saves a lot of time. Rather than having to go around physically turning off lights or changing the thermostat temperature in all the empty rooms in the building, it can all be done quickly and easily with the push of a button.

What Can an Automation System Do for a Building?

The immediate benefits are evident almost immediately. An automated building makes almost every maintenance and facilities management task automatic. That said, the benefits don’t stop there. It’s important to look into what an automation system can do for a building over time. They are a big investment but, particularly for larger buildings, they do pay off financially in the long run. Here are some of the things anautomation systemcan do.

1) Lower energy costs

An automated system provides energy management by monitoring room occupancy and adjusting heating, cooling, and lighting levels accordingly. It also considers the outside environment to make adjustments as well. These controls mean that heating and cooling won’t be running when they aren’t needed, like when the conference rooms are empty or once everyone has gone home for the weekend.

2) Identifies systemic problems immediately

It’s not unusual for days to go by before someone picks up on a problem in the heating system or an electrical issue. Plus, it can take more time to figure out exactly what and where the problem is. Immediate notifications from an automated system can help locate and diagnose the problem faster. This means quicker repairs and potentially extending the life of thebuilding’s facilitiesby preventing wear and tear.

3) Create a more comfortable environment and increase productivity.

The automated system keeps the temperature just right and can even improve air quality by optimizing ventilation. Employees will be happier and more comfortable at work.

4) Keep the building as environmentally friendly as possible.

Energy consumption decreases which reduces the overall carbon footprint of the building.

What Specific Actions Can an Automated System Take?

Now that you know how it works and what it can do for a building, let’s look at some of the specific things these systems manage.

  • Turn heating, air conditioning, and lighting on and off automatically either on a set schedule or by monitoring the environment and making adjustments
  • Adjust the flow on outdoor air coming in which contributes to air quality and temperature fluctuations
  • Control electrical devices like vending machines, printers, copiers, and computers through the power grid and put them on a schedule or cut back supply when they’re not in use
  • Immediately report issues in the building like an elevator being stuck or a fire door being opened
  • Alert emergency services in the event of a fire or some other event occurs
  • Close down areas of the building when emergencies occur, like automatically closing fire doors or locking certain areas of the building
  • Provide security services by monitoring and recording everyone entering and leaving the building
  • Provide up to the second reports about what is going on in all the systems throughout the building at all times.

The Downsides

As we’re shown, there are plenty of great things about building automation systems that make them an excellent investment. That said, there are also some disadvantages.

The first thing to realize it that these systems are really expensive. Yes, they will probably pay for themselves over time, but it’s still a huge upfront investment to make. Plus, building owners aren’t always sure what they need and can end up getting a system that is unnecessary for their building and paying way too much for it.

Another issue is one that’s becoming more and more common: getting stuck in a service contract. Just like your cell phone or cable provider, the companies that provide service lock you into a contract. While you might get a deal on the initial service or even installation, check into what long term costs are. These systems need frequent servicing and upgrades. Paying too much for them could eliminate some or all of the overall savings you were hoping to get in the long run.

Alternatively, a building owner may choose to keep a technician on staff to handle some of these issues as they arise. While this is more convenient, it’s also a cost that you wouldn’t have without the system. You’ll also have to make sure that anyone on the maintenance staff is trained as to how to cope with repairs and how to work with the system.

To conclude, despite a big up front investment, a BAS can improve energy efficiency and save you money on both human capital and costs and can go a long way toward saving the planet. We truly believe that smart building are a worthy investment for any property manager.