How Building Automation Makes a Building Smart

How Building Automation Makes a Building Smart

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Automation and control plays a large part in making a building a smart building, so it can be confusing to see where Building Automation Systems fit into the picture.

  • Smart buildings are structures that use automated processes to control a building’s operations. This includes HVAC, lighting, fire alarms, security, power metering, and more.
  • A Building Automation System (BAS) is a centralized, control system that monitors and controls a building’s facility systems such as mechanical, electricity, lighting, plumbing, HVAC, and water supply.

The BAS has been around for a long time, since the invention of the thermostat. Most buildings have a thermostat, and it’s one of the simplest controls to use. The central control shows you what the current temperature is set at, and if it feels too hot or cold, you can adjust the temperature directly from the control. The thermostat is classified as an automated control because once you set it, the system will execute commands to reach the desired temperature. But does a thermostat make your building a smart building?

Most buildings will have a BAS, but the broad term BAS includes older generation technologies that fall short of classifying as a smart building. Think of an analog thermostat versus a Nest Learning Thermostat. The analog thermostat will show you what the temperature is set at, but it can’t show you what the current temperature is, and there is no guarantee that any changes to the settings will be executed. On the other hand, the Nest learning thermostat can tell when you are home, be controlled from your mobile phone, and integrated with other smart home technologies. The gap between the capabilities of these thermostats can be applied to the different Building Automation Systems that exist in buildings today.

Given this analogy, it is imperative to keep in mind that smart buildings are not about the most cutting edge facilities and greenest energy sources. Smart buildings are about the ability to easily access and understand a building’s data.

BAS are hardwired into buildings, so once a building has been constructed it is capital intensive to change and update. As a result, the Internet of Things (IoT) has stepped in to help bypass the expensive BAS upgrades by providing data overlay with cost-effective wireless sensors and controllers.

Revisiting the thermostat analogy, when a building is upgraded with an IoT overlay, it is congruent to a Nest thermostat connecting to an analog smoke detector and making its data accessible in a single platform, where systems can be controlled. In summary, BAS combined with IoT upgrades allow older buildings to become smart buildings.

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