Real estate is considered one of the last two industries (along with manufacturing) to get digitized and automated. However, with stricter sustainability requirements emerging, and evolving consumer expectations around technology, convenience, and greenification, it’s become increasingly important for building owners to start digitizing and automating their properties.
From the ability to toggle ventilation settings based on demand, to motion-controlled lighting. From real-time energy monitoring to pre-emptive fault detection, buildings with modern automatic control systems can do a lot on their own.
What (Really) is Building Automation?
Building automation can be defined as the automated monitoring, supervision, and optimization of different machines and processes within a building. E.g., a ventilation automation system that integrates with the HVAC, senses changes in building atmosphere, and toggles the ventilation settings accordingly. Or a smart lighting system that uses motion detection to turn lighting on or off. Or a security automation system that can lock the entire premises with the single click of a button.
Building automation solutions can have software and/or hardware components. They can integrate either directly with the device via an interface, or use data produced by sensors to trigger their business logic.
What Should You Automate in Your Building?
There are many systems and processes which you can automate within your building. Here are our top 5:
Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) solutions account for 39% energy consumption within office buildings. This is primarily because they are run on manual settings, usually set at the start of each day. In some older buildings, these settings may not change for weeks. This would mean that even if the weather/occupancy changes drastically during a day/week, the ventilation will not get accordingly adjusted.
So, let’s suppose, at the start of a sunny day, the HVAC is set to run on full throttle. At noon, it starts raining and the temperature decreases significantly. However, since nobody manually changes the HVAC settings, the ventilation will keep running at max speed. Similarly, if a manual HVAC isn’t turned off at night (when the building is empty), it will just keep pumping fresh air into an empty building.
The aforementioned is why HVAC automation is usually the best first step in building automation. Modern HVAC optimization software (like ClevAir) feed off the slightest of changes in occupancy, indoor and outdoor temperatures, and weather forecast to reprogram a building’s ventilation system in real-time.
Related article: The Benefits of a Smart Ventilation System
Lighting is another major consumer of a building’s energy at 25%. It’s very easy to forget turning the switch off after a meeting, or while leaving a room. We are all guilty of it. However, with smart, motion-controlled lighting, this ceases to be a problem. Lights will only turn on when someone is within an area, and automatically turn off when it’s empty. Not only does this make everyone’s life more convenient, it also ends up saving a lot of energy. Some lighting automation solutions also provide smartphone applications to toggle switches remotely.
3. Appliance Monitoring and Fault Detection
Arguably the worst thing for any building owner is downtime. Not being able to entertain guests, buyers, employees, or tenants, because of a broken building equipment can be detrimental for a building’s business and reputation. This is where automated appliance monitoring and fault detection can save the day.
Appliance monitoring solutions aggregate data from different machines within a building, and learn distinct patterns about their functioning. Using these patterns, they are not only able to report the health statuses of different devices, but also make informed predictions about potential faults and malfunctions.
4. Energy Monitoring and Management
Energy monitoring and management solutions should be a no-brainer for any building. Not only do they help cut back on the energy costs, they are also crucial in our fight against climate change, especially since buildings consume more energy than any other sector. These solutions allow you to track energy usage, compare it with historical data, and make predictions about the future.
Security automation systems usually consist of CCTV cameras, intrusion detection systems, and smart locks. They can detect and raise alarms if someone tries to trespass, lock all the entry and exit points within a building in case of a breach, and give you remote control over locking/unlocking your building.
Why Bother with Building Automation?
There are many benefits that building automation systems guarantee. Here are a few:
1. Save Money
From HVAC automation and smart lighting saving a lot of energy-related costs, to automated fault detection preventing downtime-related losses, the potential to save money via building automation is immense.
2. Get Ahead of Your Competition
Building automation can enable your property to deliver more value to its users, propelling you ahead of your competition. Tenants prefer your building because it’s more energy-efficient, and hence, in line with their own ideologies of sustainable living. Customers love to shop within your building because the temperature is always optimal, courtesy your HVAC automation system.
3. Deliver a Better Indoor Experience
Fresh air and a moderated climate allow you to deliver a healthy indoor experience, making people fall in love with your building.
4. Help Fight Climate Change
Buildings without any energy regulation are among the biggest threats to our planet’s future. So yes, it’s profitable to invest in automated energy management, but it’s also a social responsibility.
5. Avoid Downtime
Pre-emptive fault detection can help you reduce, if not avoid, downtimes caused by faulty machinery. No more surprises! Instead of waiting for equipment to stop working, know beforehand which machine could potentially malfunction and when. Use this information to plan maintenance windows efficiently, and prevent any major disruptions in business.