With a constantly growing emphasis on green technology and reduced energy consumption, the future of building automation controls will focus on giving building owners and managers a technology-driven, hands-on approach to managing facilities and monitoring consumption.
Building and facility managers are constantly looking to reduce energy consumption and operating costs, which can be realized by well-maintained, interactive, and connected building automation systems.
Due to the growth of the Internet of Things, improved wireless networking connections, and stronger data networks, it has never been easier to access building automation systems remotely from any device.
Internet-connected equipment and user-friendly interfaces will make it easier to control all aspects of a building, such as lighting, HVAC, and water consumption. When paired with up-to-date technology and software, it will be even easier to be efficient by monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
As building automation technology continues to grow, so will the demand for a constant and reliable Internet connection. Buildings with Internet-reliant building automation systems will require online capabilities built directly into the infrastructure. Most likely, it will require a strong subnetwork devoted to keeping systems online and accessible.
In modern architecture, built-in networking features will allow new devices to stay completely separate from other building networks to remove any concerns about security breaches involving the building’s environmental controls’ information systems.
Advanced building automation controls will change the way owners manage their properties’ consumption and efficiency by allowing easier monitoring. There are several ways to monitor a building for efficiency. This could start with simply tracking utility bills through Portfolio Manager by Energy Star, to more involved means, such as Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD), which uses software to provide facility managers with performance updates every 5 to 15 minutes, or fully-managed Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx), which helps keep buildings tuned with constant feedback from the end devices.
These monitoring systems provide an effective way to immediately address any issues that could affect energy consumption and long-term performance.
Eventually, KPIs will need to become standardized to provide easier usage. Currently, there are several models for KPI benchmarking systems, but eventually, one standardized system needs to be in place to create a basic, universal way to measure performance.
Depending on the role of the person utilizing the report, different metrics mean different things. More importantly, the metrics actually hold different meanings to different people. For example, a Chief Financial Officer may want to see the building’s performance in dollars per square foot, whereas an energy manager may want to see a dashboard featuring common energy units, such as thousand BTUs per square foot.
Performance indicators are essential to determine how and when to use energy to provide the most efficient usage, as well as how and when to respond to utility curtailment opportunities. These opportunities can be used to save money or take advantage of utility rebates.
When monitoring is coupled with a building automation system, facility managers are able to make instant adjustments to ensure their buildings are working efficiently and in the most cost-effective way possible.
As facility managers use monitoring data, they are able to effectively predict when heating and cooling is necessary, when to turn on lighting, and when to keep their facilities dark. By being able to manage these factors, they can ensure that they are using their building automation systems to effectively use resources to optimize savings.
When coupled with high-performance equipment, modern building automation systems allow managers to easily monitor and control the HVAC, lighting, security, and water systems remotely from any device, such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
While most top-of-the-line building automation systems are seen as too expensive, or only necessary in larger facilities, eventually the cost of this technology will become affordable for all building owners—commercial or residential. Small buildings, which are typically less than 10,000 square feet, will see similar benefits as installations connected to larger facilities, which are typically 1 million square feet or more.
Along with performance, building automation systems will revolutionize maintenance and repairs by allowing internet-connected equipment to self-diagnose and send specific messages to repair and maintenance contractors when it experiences problems. Eventually, contractors will be able to pick up parts that need to be replaced before examining the units in person.
As demand for connected building automation controls grows and the technology advances, the prices for hands-on systems will come down and be affordable for facilities of all sizes. In the residential market, building automation controls, such as the Nest system, will become more affordable and easy to install for homes of any size.
With the current trends in artificial intelligence (AI) assisted marketplace devices, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Apple HomePod, users can adjust lighting, temperatures, and schedules from anywhere, just by saying a few commands aloud. These capabilities eliminate the need to learn complicated programming languages or logic schemes just to use the scheduling features inherent to your thermostat and lighting equipment.
In commercial and industrial facilities, advanced systems to accommodate larger facilities will drive the price a little higher. Depending upon the facilities’ needs, systems could drop as low as $1,000 to $2,000 per point for these types of properties. The largest variable is still the network infrastructure that may or may not require new wiring. As these devices and control points become wireless, the network infrastructure needs only go as far as an access point, and may not need to be wired to each sensor or device.
While prices drop, so will the need for special training to realize the full functionality of building automation systems. Simplified dashboards, combined with voice-driven, basic artificial intelligence systems, will make it easy for anyone to operate a building automation system with little to no operational training.
Established control companies will need to adapt to the changing marketplace, as small-scale competition will quickly rise up to meet the new challenge. Controls contracts are going to become much more service-related than just hardware-related in the near future as the demand continues to balloon.
Wireless controls and building automation controls will eventually become much more common, as building owners and managers begin to view them as an investment. Ultimately, these systems will help increase efficiency while decreasing operating costs and driving consumers toward more energy-conscious consumption.