Businesses can turn to an array of sensors and data analytics platforms to enhance energy efficiency and optimize building operations.
A smart building typically looks like a regular building, with bricks and glass windows, but at the heart of a smart building are sensors that drive building automation.
Internet of Things sensors and devices monitor HVAC and lighting, motion, humidity, electrical controls, access control and video security. The data from those sensors then feeds a variety of controllers that can help IT and operations staff automate building management.
As the General Services Administration notes, smart buildings lead to “greater tenant satisfaction, reduce energy cost and environmental impact, and decrease operational inefficiencies.”
Smart buildings are a growing market. According to ABI Research, the market for smart building solutions will grow at a 32 percent compound annual growth rate over the next eight years to create $2 billion in software and services revenues by 2026.
David Eye, a senior consulting engineering architect at Schneider Electric, notes that in the past, building management systems did not monitor factors such as how many people were in a room or entering a building, or other, more granular aspects of a building’s operations. Now, with intelligent building management systems, sensors can gather information on everything from the types of gases in a room to the level of light entering a building and movement in a room.
Businesses are using smart buildings, and the technologies that enable them, to drive operational efficiencies and ensure they have reliable sources of energy.
Smart Building Technology: Types of Smart Sensors That Collect Data
Smart building sensors come in all different types and flavors. Some are integrated sensor packages that have several sensors inside of them to measure temperature, humidity, motion and the number of occupants in a room.
These sensors then send data to controllers over a variety of wireless protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee.
Those controllers can then be set up to keep climate within a certain range, for example, or to run the lights based on an occupancy schedule. They may also monitor systems performance and alert facility managers to potential problems or system malfunctions.
Here are four key technologies of smart building automation systems:
- HVAC: Smart HVAC controls help limit energy consumption in unoccupied building zones, detect and diagnose faults, and reduce HVAC usage, particularly during times of peak energy demand.
- Smart lighting: Smart lighting includes advanced controls that incorporate daylighting and advanced occupancy and dimming functions to eliminate overlit spaces.
- Smart plugs: Smart plugs are network-connected plug controls that automatically power on and off, with key value in eliminating overnight standby loads.
- Automated system optimization: ASO uses advanced technology to collect and analyze building systems’ operational and energy performance data and to make changes in operations based on external factors such as occupancy patterns, weather forecasts and utility rates.
How Smart Building Data Is Aggregated and Analyzed
Businesses that deploy smart building solutions can take two approaches to aggregating the data they collect from sensors.
One is via local software for one building, in which data is aggregated in a database solution such as Microsoft SQL server. Using this method, operations teams can perform their own analysis and plot trend lines for energy usage, building occupancy, temperature and other factors.
Another approach is analysis through a Building Management Platform. Data from different sensors is aggregated and put into an online app backed by artificial intelligence. Such a tool could tell IT or building operations staff that it might be more energy-efficient to run every light at 50% brightness, than some of the lights at full brightness.
The Benefits of Smart Building Technology for Businesses
How a business uses and benefits from a smart building solution is entirely dependent on their priorities. For some it is all about operating buildings efficiently via the least amount of watts per occupant. For others, they are looking to maximize customization and comfort for occupants. Smart technology enables businesses to quickly pivot between priorities as needs change (more relevant in 2020 than recent history).
Some organizations are looking for guaranteed energy savings via upgraded building automation systems. Measuring and verifying savings upon implementation is an integral piece towards proving project impact to satisfy stakeholders.
Ultimately, smart buildings can enhance the user experience, increase productivity, reduce costs and mitigate physical and cybersecurity risks.