Understanding Your HVAC System: Building Pressure Monitoring & Control
Part of the job of a building automation system (BAS) involves monitoring and adjusting how a...
In 1979, Purdue University held a workshop called The Dynamic Response of Environment Control Processes in Buildings. One of the most lively areas of discussions involved how emerging computer technology could curtail energy usage—a topic that was both new and urgent. In the US Department of Energy’s report on the workshop, we find this prescient statement:
There are some people… who believe that comfort and energy may be simultaneously optimized through the use of operating strategies which consider the dynamic characteristics of comfort, the built structure, and the environmental control system.
Over forty years later, the means to reduce energy usage while keeping occupants comfortable has arrived.
Technologies about which engineers could once only dream are now reality for modern environmental control systems in buildings. These systems harness the power of the Internet of Things and analytics software to enable better decision-making and dynamic automation. The result is smarter, healthier, and more inviting indoor environments.
In a smart building, a central building automation system (BAS) controls all systems connected to it, including those that regulate the indoor environment. The HVAC system is the centerpiece of this environmental control system, managing indoor air quality (IAQ) and thermal comfort (TC). Meanwhile, smart lighting systems impact visual comfort (VC).
IAQ, TC, and VC are all vital components of indoor environmental quality (IEQ). With smart technologies, you can continuously monitor and improve these parameters in your building.
How exactly this happens can vary depending on your preferences.
What constitutes optimal lighting often comes down to individual preference. As a result, some level of manual control is usually necessary. However, smart lighting systems learn what users prefer and can make automatic adjustments in anticipation of their needs, minimizing reliance on manual intervention and improving the consistency of VC. Many modern lighting systems can also mimic daylight or otherwise modulate lighting quality to promote occupant VC.
IoT technology is an inexpensive way to monitor building systems and collect environmental data. Internet-connected sensors, actuators, and controllers act like a network of nerves and are key elements of environmental control systems in buildings. However, raw sensor data has limited use. An analytics platform is necessary to make data meaningful and provide the information you need to make smart choices.
Adding analytics to your BAS and creating custom rules gives you virtually unlimited control options, such as:
An analytics platform with machine learning (ML) capabilities will also improve its responses over time. As the dataset expands, automatic adjustments become more accurate, precise, and useful. Meanwhile, facility managers gain greater insight into building performance and the ability to take targeted action to improve comfort and efficiency.
Natural ventilation and mechanical shading have long been basic components of indoor environmental controls. Forward-thinking developers and building owners are now using advanced environmental control systems in buildings to improve IEQ even further. Controlled air exchange is an excellent example.
Controlling air exchange from one side of a building to another helps adjust temperatures without air conditioning or heating. Using sensor information and your building’s ventilation system, you can redistribute cooler air to warmer parts of the building throughout the day. This strategy can also help you maintain comfortable humidity levels, as both air conditioning and heating affect moisture levels.
Sensor-driven shading can also have a significant effect on IEQ. A 2019 study on the impact of shading devices on TC found that effective shading:
However, permanent shading may not give you the best results. Building owners who implement dynamic shading that changes in response to real-time conditions will reap the greatest benefits.
Unifying building systems and adding smart technologies to your BAS is the best way to create a powerful environmental control system. With an advanced, ML-driven analytics platform at the center of this system, you have the insight, control, and automation opportunities you need to manage comfort while optimizing efficiency—both today and in the future.
Clint Bradford writes about problems encountered and solutions delivered during our smart building project process.