Building automation involves the automatic control of various major aspects of a building’s facilities, including:
- Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC)
- Security and alarms
- Energy management
and other services.
Building automation management refers to the systems which operate and maintain these functions. This type of system is also known as a building automation and control system (BACS).
What are the Objectives of a Building Automation System?
The idea is that a centralised building management platform, especially one based on smart technology, will be able to improve building efficiency, reduce operating costs, and improve safety.
We are entering the era of the smart building, in which a building automation system enables a building to optimise its performance and services intelligently.
Whereas most buildings constructed in the 21st century will include some form of building automation system, it is the development of the internet of things (IOT) that is driving innovation in this area.
This, plus the rollout of 5G technology, is set to revolutionise how building automation works, and expand its range of capabilities significantly.
Along with improving efficiency and security, the systems that control smart buildings will make them much more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
With energy consumption, the intelligence of smart buildings will mean that they can adjust to the needs of their users.
For example, where there are areas of a building not in use, the heating and electricity will automatically switch off, or drastically reduce its output.
This is significant for sustainability, as buildings account for nearly half of the UK’s primary energy use.
The Components of Building Automation
Building automation requires various components, including:
- Output devices
- Communications protocols
- Terminal interface.
Sensors are devices to track things such as temperature, humidity, number of room occupants, lighting levels and other values. Sensors will transmit the data they gather to centralised controllers.
Controllers act as the brain of the BACS. They collect data from sensors and send commands to air conditioning units, security alarms and other connected devices.
Output devices such as relays and actuators will then act on the commands they receive from controllers. They can reduce or increase heating in various areas of a building, or dim lights in unused offices, for example.
The communication protocols represent the languages the system uses to monitor the building’s conditions and control its individual components. Common protocols include BACnet, Konnex (KNX) and Modbus.
The terminal interface is how users interact with the building automation system. Here, they can access information that lets them monitor the condition of the building and, where necessary, override its settings manually.
This interaction is critical, as it enables a general level of control but also provides essential information for troubleshooting and addressing issues to do with the building’s efficiency.
Normally the terminal interface will be presented as a type of dashboard, and a good terminal interface will be designed to be intuitive.
Functions and Facilities
The core functions of a BACS are:
- Maintaining control of the building’s environment
- Running its systems according to occupancy and energy demand
- Monitoring and maintaining the performance of systems
- Alert users and occupants where necessary.
The system will control various building facilities, such as:
- Air conditioning
- Electrical systems
- Security and surveillance
With smart buildings, there is increased refinement of automatic controls of these functions and facilities.
One example is predictive maintenance, which smart building technology can incorporate into building management systems.
What Are the Benefits?
There are key benefits to building automation, including overall efficiency, energy savings and enhanced security.
But building automation also makes buildings far more adaptable for future use. It provides an excellent overview of changing usage for building managers.
Currently, the world of work is changing and the legacy of the pandemic is likely to be a demand for many office spaces to be more flexible and to be able to easily repurpose themselves.
In the face of changing work patterns, automation and the emergence of the smart building offer better ways of building management.
How Do You Design a Smart Building?
The process of implementing the technology necessary for building automation can vary in length and complexity.
Approaches to this will depend on the individual building’s age and layout. But one thing that is necessary is having the right hardware and fittings in place that will support an automated management system.
These include bespoke, specialist components for controlling HVAC, lighting, energy and mechanical systems.
It’s important to get the concept right from the start, obviously, but it’s also critical to ensure the basics are in place upon which to develop an efficient, 21st-century building automation management system.
Get in Touch
For more information about building automation components, please contact us. We’ve got a specialist team of helpful, qualified engineers on hand, to advise you on installation solutions.