Building Automation Systems Get Smart


According to our recent report on building automation systems, the market for building automation controls today totals over $75 billion per year. There’s still room for growth, however, not just in developing regions but even in North America and Western Europe. Automation systems and controls relating to HVAC and lighting are not always required by code, but they can play an important role in maintaining high levels of energy efficiency. As LEED certifications soar (recently passing 2 billion square feet of commercial certified space worldwide) and organizations look to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions, such controls are one of the key enabling technologies that achieve high levels of energy performance in buildings. Although some of this growth is due to the increasing stringency of building energy efficiency regulations, such as the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which will require all new construction in Europe to achieve nearly zero-energy levels by 2021, much of the investment in building automation controls will be voluntary, as companies aim to improve energy efficiency in their building portfolios.

At the same time, building automation systems are becoming more intelligent. Increasingly, controls are not designed to be “set and left” but are connected to a building management system (BMS) that continuously monitors data streams from building controls and feeds them into energy displays that help facilities managers and other decision-makers gain visibility into how their buildings are performing. This is enabled by the convergence of IT with building controls, a process that, despite arriving later to the building industry than to other industries like telecom, is now transforming the way energy is managed in buildings. Controls were originally imagined as standalone devices that would to some extent take control of building energy out of occupants’ hands to “make sure the lights got turned off.” The new wave of intelligent controls, ironically, aims to put control over controls back in the occupants’ hands, albeit under the guidance of sophisticated BMS and building energy management systems.

These advances in building automation technology are occurring just as demand for higher levels of energy efficiency is rising. As a result, Pike Research expects the market for building automation systems to grow to $146 billion in 2021 – a near doubling of the market today. Much of this growth will come from rapid construction activity in China, where 2 billion square meters of new space are added every year, and where much of that new space will integrate sophisticated controls over time. The fastest growth categories will be those that relate directly to energy efficiency, such as lighting controls. As these devices are rolled out, they will usher in a new generation of intelligent buildings that are less expensive to operate and easier to manage than ever before.

Article by Eric Bloom, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. Energy Efficient, Within 1 DAY, in Existing Buildings

    Many of the new building these days are equipped with an Energy Management System (EMS) to withstand government energy efficient laws. By controlling and monitoring air condition and lights it is ensured buildings are run at most optimum condition with minimum waste of energy resulting in lower electric bills.

    There is however a problem with older buildings that to do not have these EMS system. These buildings, which are the majority of buildings worldwide, suffer from high wastage of energy due to air condition and lights left power on over night or sometimes even over the holidays. It is very common to drive at night, during late hours, over schools and office buildings and see many lights are left power on. This energy waste phenomenon results in larger electric bills for the owner and increase value of carbon emission, polluting the environment.

    Companies like Honeywell, Schneider Electric, Johnson Control and EkonControl came with new wireless building management systems that can be installed in existing building in a very short time by simply replacing the old thermostat (and light switches) with a new network thermostat to communicate wirelessly with control system that can control and monitor the whole building in a very efficient way. Using these EMS systems ensures the building’s owner large saving on electric bill within very short period of installation so return on investment is very quick.

    The amount of savings is mainly depends on how often the employees at the building forget to power off the air condition. In schools, for example, it is well known problem that lights and air condition are left power on overnight so in this case the savings will be over 50% reduction on the electric bills. In cases where employees are more ‘civilized’ (they power off the air condition and lights 100% of the times the room is left unoccupied), the power savings will be around 5% mainly because the system can lock the thermostat on optimum set points ensuring the compressor work less time and hence reduce energy.

    This kind of EMS/BMS system is most relevant for commercial buildings such as Schools, Hospitals, Large Cooperate Offices, Museums, Government Offices, etc. where there are over 30 thermostats and light switches spread over few floors where it is more difficult to control manually.

    Since most of these new systems are plug & play, it can be installed by any professional electrician or by the building maintenance.

    The software of the building management system is already embedded inside the master controller so user only needs to give each module (thermostat or light switch) an address and give each unit a name on the graphical user interface in the same manner of adding a name in smart phones.

    Most of these EMS/BMS systems have schedule weekly times in which user can setup group of air condition and lights to go on or off at particular times.

    Moreover, user can create working groups to activate few air conditions and light loads to a certain pre define condition by 1 press of a button.

    In few of these systems it is even possible to lock group of thermostats on a certain optimum set point so it cannot be changed manually, keeping the set point at energy save conditions.

    Utility payers expect to see reduced electric bill from the time the system start running.

    Author: Ofer Glezer,

    CEO of EkonControl.