Facilities management is a complex job. It involves not only the buildings’ upkeep but also managing employees and handling the various tasks that need to be done to ensure everything is working properly. It can be a daunting task for an organization with limited resources and staff. This is where automation comes in.
The building automation market is set to surpass a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% by 2031. With the popularity of cloud-based amenities providing solutions to organizations of all sizes, adding automation to your facilities can offer multiple benefits – the biggest being huge savings on your utility bills and a considerable step towards sustainability.
The use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation has made it possible to monitor and control a building’s environment more efficiently. With the help of IoT, the capabilities are increasing by leaps and bounds. From air conditioning to ventilation and electricity, to water supply, buildings are becoming smarter about how they use energy and other resources.
Read on to learn more about building automation and how FMX can integrate your BAS into your organization’s facility scheduling and room booking structure.
What is building automation?
By definition, building automation connects multiple functions which would traditionally require manual intervention, such as unlocking doors or controlling room temperature, into a network that can be handled automatically when certain conditions are met (or manually from nearly any internet-connected device in the world). The physical computer-based control design that manages the automated environment is called a building automation system (BAS).
According to an expert contributor to Automated Buildings magazine, the first building automation systems – considered direct digital control (DDC) – were developed in the 1970s. These systems were usually stand-alone and focused on a single application like controlling lighting or window shades.
Before the turn of the century, building automation as we know it began to surface. It was driven by the thought leadership of multiple industry changers who sought to use data management as a key facilitator in promoting human comfort and energy efficiency.
More recently, the development of more complex systems has rendered the inaugural BAS obsolete. We’ve entered an Operational Technology Era that combines different subsystems with an overarching control strategy – driven by artificial intelligence, web applications and IT-based approaches – to meet multiple goals simultaneously. Essentially, it opens up the possibility of a fully “smart building” that requires almost zero human interaction.
Examples of building automation
Building automation can benefit all industries, from non-profits to religious organizations, government bodies, major corporations and more. The use cases for this technology are limitless. Some of the most common examples include the following:
- A retail store uses building automation systems to regulate temperature levels so customers are comfortable while shopping.
- A hospital uses a control system to monitor indoor air quality so patients are breathing clean, safe air, which aids in speeding up recovery.
- An office space uses it to regulate light levels to match the amount of natural sunlight in the room, making the area optimal for productivity.
There are multiple systems in a facility that can be controlled by a BAS. These include:
- HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) uses sensors to detect and regulate a building’s temperature, humidity and air quality.
- Air handlers: Air handlers can also be automated along with the HVAC system to ensure proper function and prevent malfunctions.
- Lighting control: Set sensors or timers to turn lights on or off when someone enters a room or at a scheduled time. Voice commands can also be used in some settings to change brightness and other lighting characteristics.
- Security: With building control, doors can also be set to unlock and relock according to a schedule. For example, the building owner of large retail stores will time the locks (and lights) according to their opening hours. Cameras can also be automated to start recording when movement is detected nearby.
Today, automation systems are found in many different sectors, but they’re especially prevalent in schools, where they’re used to control climate, lighting and security. Many educational institutions have automated their HVAC systems with the help of technologies like programmable thermostats and zoning. They have also centralized their lighting by using light sensors or daylight harvesting technologies (tech that can monitor the amount of natural light in a room and alter the artificial brightness accordingly).
With student safety being a searing topic across the country, video cameras can also be used for surveillance and security – and schools could even use facial recognition software for identification purposes.
The benefits of building automation
Buildings swallow a lot of energy. In fact, 40% of the country’s energy consumption is by residential and commercial buildings, as noted by the Alliance to Save Energy.
The main purpose of building automation is to help reduce energy consumption in buildings by optimizing the use of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and electrical power.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that automated buildings can save as much as 29% in energy usage, which can amount to thousands of dollars annually.
For larger community buildings with a central heating or air conditioning system, it can be greatly beneficial to heat or cool only the rooms that need it, and to schedule the systems to turn on or off ahead of time for optimal comfort based on when the rooms are expected to be in use.
Other benefits of building automation include the following:
Systems can be programmed to turn off in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Automation can also be connected to security systems, alerting the proper authorities when there’s an unauthorized intruder.
Beyond energy consumption, the overall efficiency of a building’s systems can be improved through automation. When one system is working better, all those connected will also be set up to run more smoothly.
When repetitive tasks are taken off the to-do list of employees, important duties can be prioritized. For example, a BAS can let the right people or software know when an office needs cleaning or maintenance work must be done.
Not having to be present to turn on the lights or unlock the door is not only a huge convenience to building operators, such as the custodial staff for an afterschool hours event, but it’s ideal for those using the room as well.
Although it hasn’t been proven to lengthen the lifespan of the user, automation can limit overuse, thereby keeping equipment and systems operational for longer and reducing downtime.
The challenges of building automation for larger facilities
There are some challenges with building automation in larger community settings. For example, many older buildings haven’t been designed from the ground up in a way that makes them appropriate candidates for automation. This means retrofitting an existing facility can potentially be very expensive and time-consuming.
In addition, when trying to automate a building that frequently accommodates a greater number of people, it’s important to consider how it will affect those users. Using a school as an example, automation could potentially affect student learning and safety. The amount of maintenance that will be needed to keep everything running smoothly should also be a consideration.
What's the role of PoE in building automation and smart buildings?
Power over Ethernet (PoE) transmits electricity over an Ethernet or USB cable. It can support the IP-based infrastructure of an automated building. PoE devices can be plugged into an electrical outlet to power other devices connected to the same outlet.
Designed to work with a variety of instruments like IP cameras, access points, wireless routers, and video surveillance equipment, PoE converts AC current into DC current, which can then be used to power the building automation system.
It creates a more intelligent infrastructure that can control and manage a wide selection of devices, making a BAS even more efficient, effective, and productive.
Why should I care about building automation in my facility?
For larger, community-based organizations, the amount of money spent on annual upkeep adds up. These resources can be better spent offering new activities and services to residents. Automation reduces monthly and annual expenses and presents new opportunities for organizations to grow and prosper.
With the right tools to integrate your automation, you can enhance your facilities and promote efficiency and energy savings even further with valuable analytics.
Why integrate FMX with your building automation services
It’s possible to save an average of $66,000 yearly by integrating your BAS with FMX. You can automate your lighting, HVAC, and more to coordinate your organization’s event schedule all from within FMX. The temperature and lighting system can be adjusted automatically before and after events, and work orders can be created and technicians dispatched after a BAS alarm is triggered.
Easily decrease utility costs and increase the comfort of your guests or attendees with easy integration into our scheduling software. Taking repetitive tasks and responsibilities off your staff’s to-do list will save time and open the door to a more cohesive, effortless work experience. When it comes to efficient facilities management and event booking, rental, and scheduling, FMX is your first choice. We easily integrate with BAS systems such as Tridium Niagara, Trane, Siemens, Johnson Controls, Automated Logic, and Delta.
Want to learn more about integrating your BAS into FMX?
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