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Preparing for the Future of Building Automation Systems

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Clint Bradford

Buildings are no longer simple brick-and-mortar structures for living and working. Modern buildings are designed to improve comfort for occupants while optimizing energy spend. As the concept of smart buildings gains acceptance across the globe, there is an increasing need for building automation systems (BAS) designed to meet the complex needs of intelligent buildings. 

In the past, a BAS was primarily deployed to automate HVAC functions. Indeed, the phrase “building automation system” was often used interchangeably with “HVAC control system”. However, a smart building is more than just automated HVAC functions and actually includes access control, lighting, energy management, temperature regulation, and a vast range of other functions. As a result, a BAS is being increasingly used as a single-pane-of-glass user interface for command and control of multiple building operations to improve efficiency and detect vulnerabilities in an interconnected system of equipment. How does this shift affect the future of building automation systems? The answer lies in some of the latest technology trends and the growing demand for sustainability.          

Redefining the Future of Building Automation Systems

Technologies like IoT, machine learning, and new connectivity capabilities have a critical role in shaping the future of building automation systems. With building owners and facility managers focusing heavily on improved energy efficiency and cost savings, features like advanced fault detection and diagnostics, energy analytics, and grid integration are becoming critical features. Some of the most important trends that will influence the future of building automation systems include:       

Introduction of Consumer IoT Technologies

Consumer IoT devices such as smart alarms, security systems, thermostats, and home appliances have gained steady popularity in recent years. Though we have seen unprecedented adoption of these advanced, interoperable IoT devices in the smart home market, they are not yet widely used on a commercial scale in smart building management. Introducing consumer IoT technologies, especially in HVAC systems, in commercial buildings will allow both building owners and occupants to have more control over indoor environments and receive detailed insights on temperature, humidity, and indoor air quality.       

Inclusion of IP-Based Devices

Integrating a BAS into a building does not necessarily mean additional cabling. A future-focused BAS can offer enhanced scalability with the inclusion of new equipment into the building network without laying more fiber or Cat6 cables or reprogramming individual devices to create room in IP address ranges. IP-based building automation, HVAC, lighting, and other building operations can be standardized with decentralized control facilitated by sensors and actuators, through existing IT data cables. Laying fewer cables simplifies installation and upgrade of the automation system, which can significantly improve both long and short-term ROI. The inclusion of more IP-based devices in BAS also eliminates operational challenges such as incompatibility of devices and automation systems, costly reprogramming, and the time-intensive process of laying cables.     

Software As A Service (SaaS)

As many building owners and property managers know, proprietary building automation communication protocols or platforms can prevent you from taking advantage of the competitive market and lock you into a manufacturer for longer than you’d like. This is primarily because service, support, and upgrades can only be provided by licensed dealers of the platform. The introduction of open BAS platforms leads to improved flexibility via open application programming interfaces (APIs), and open communication protocols between equipment for data transfer for monitoring and analysis. This translates to increased scalability and competitive pricing. 

Now, the future of BAS is cloud-hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. This shift from dedicated BAS proprietary platforms to open platforms to SaaS-based solutions reduces operational costs as building owners do not need to maintain costly software or hire application-specific programmers. SaaS makes it easy to predict the monthly operational budget without committing to service for the long run. The ease of deployment of a SaaS-based, cloud-hosted BAS platform also allows for simple integration of new building equipment, deployment of new features, and automatic upgrades via the cloud. Additionally, SaaS-based BAS solutions offer remote access and control to contractors without visiting the site. 

Increased Usage of Indoor Air Quality Sensors

During a global public health crisis, indoor air quality across commercial buildings is a major concern. With healthy buildings becoming a priority, indoor air quality sensors will be heavily relied upon to determine the cleanliness and safety of indoor spaces, and new technologies will provide opportunities for improving indoor environments. By installing demand-controlled ventilation systems, carbon-dioxide sensors, and other advanced equipment, you can create meaningful strategies for increasing air quality even in spaces with highly variable occupancy. In the coming years, air quality sensors in BAS will not only be used to monitor indoor air quality but also make automated changes in HVAC systems based on air quality readings.                 

New Standards for HVAC Configurations

Future designs for HVAC systems will be heavily influenced by new configuration standards, such as the Wired Certification Guidelines and the WELL Building Standard. Though there is no national energy code or standard across the U.S., reference standards for commercial building energy efficiency, such as ASHRAE, set minimum equipment efficiency and design requirements for HVAC systems, which are major contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The development of new standards for HVAC configurations will lead to cost-effective and energy-efficient improvements. 

Implementation of Climate Impact Goals

As governments and private businesses increasingly recognize the adverse impact of GHG emissions by commercial buildings, state governments are implementing climate impact goals with a focus on low-carbon architecture. The passing of Local Law 97 by the New York City Council, for example, is an ambitious plan to reduce 40% building-based carbon emissions by 2030. Such climate impact goals are expected to spur future innovations in building automation systems, both for new HVAC systems and those that must be retrofitted to comply with carbon emission limits.

While multiple trends will transform building automation, they have a common thread: data analytics. Intelligent data analytics in a building automation system offers a high-level overview of entire operations across the building with actionable insights on energy consumption, system performance, and proactive maintenance and repairs. As such, increasingly sophisticated analytics are already becoming an inseparable part of future-focused BAS.          

Analytics is The Way Forward for Building Automation Systems

Intelligent analytics is the future of building automation systems. In the coming years, data analytics is expected to expand the capabilities of smart building technologies, spurring further advancements in building automation systems and equipment standards while minimizing the environmental impact of commercial buildings.

For building owners and facility managers, an advanced analytics platform like onPoint Analytics is critical to realizing the potential of smart technologies in BAS. Using complex machine learning algorithms, onPoint collects, organizes, and analyzes real-time data derived from your BAS to identify any operational inefficiencies in the interconnected network of equipment. The platform can alert you to excess energy consumption and equipment vulnerabilities by comparing the current data flow with historical data and detecting anomalies, offer pragmatic suggestions to improve performance, and automatically make operational adjustments.

The right analytics platform opens up vast opportunities for refining operations, improving energy efficiency, and reducing costs. It can make buildings smarter and safer. And it can help your building become more friendly to both occupants and the world around them.

To learn more about how onPoint can improve the existing building automation system installed in your building, register for our monthly webinars. Or contact our analytics team to get more information about our robust building analytics platform.

 

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