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May 28, 2018
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 a bulding automation system or “BAS” is the only way to monitor all of the systems in your building at once to make sure they’re all working together.
A building automation system 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 every automation system has in common:
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.
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.
These are the components that make the changes suggested by the gathered information.
This is the human component where the user can see all the data collected on all of the systems in the building and 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.
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 an automation system can do.
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.
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 the building’s facilities by preventing wear and tear.
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.
Energy consumption decreases which reduces the overall carbon footprint of the building.
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.
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.