Even as building automation systems (BAS) become increasingly utilized in larger commercial buildings, they are often overlooked as an option for small- and medium-sized commercial facilities. In some cases, it is because they are perceived as too expensive or complicated for this application.
According to the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), only about 10 percent of buildings in the United States use a BAS or central controls to manage building systems. Buildings that do use a BAS are typically greater than 100,000 sq.ft., but more than 90 percent of buildings in the United States are less than 5,000 sq.ft. or between 5,000 and 50,000 sq.ft.
Building automation provides an ongoing connection and visibility to how the building and its systems are performing — for both building owners and contractors. Contractors can leverage building automation to drive more business by providing improved service and insight to building owners down the road. New options in BAS technology such as wireless technology make it now more effective to manage all types and sizes of buildings more intelligently and efficiently, optimizing business performance.
Contractors can leverage building automation to drive more business by providing improved service and insight to building owners down the road.
Options for Light Commercial Applications
There are numerous options to consider for controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in light commercial buildings. Three general categories of technologies available are programmable thermostats, Web-enabled thermostats and simplified building automation. Each of the technologies should be evaluated when considering a solution for light commercial buildings.
- Programmable thermostats are easy to install and offer low hardware costs. However, conventional thermostats are individual units that cannot be integrated with other devices or building systems such as lighting and security. Units are programmable, but each unit must be manually adjusted when changes are needed.
- Web-enabled thermostats can offer interoperability but are often largely focused on residential automation proprietary controls rather than commercial building open, standard protocols. This can limit the ability to integrate it with other HVAC systems, or other types of systems such as lighting and security. Also, this technology is similar to programmable thermostats, in that each schedule for each piece of equipment must be adjusted individually.
Simplified BAS solutions available on the market are built on platforms that support traditional open standards for commercial applications.
Simplified BAS solutions available on the market are built on platforms that support traditional open standards for commercial applications. This makes integration easier; so multiple building systems such as HVAC, lighting and security can be managed and adjusted via one single interface through the BAS. These systems can offer a range of functionality and control, including customizable alarm notifications, 365-day scheduling, area control, and optimal start and stop features. Available BAS technology also enables the utilization of energy management solutions, for a link to additional services that make it easier to monitor building data and gain insights into building performance and usage to drive better service and improvement efforts.
BAS Benefits Drive Efficiency
Among the numerous options, BAS systems provide an easy-to-use single point of control for multiple building systems and zones, so building owners and managers can run their buildings smartly and more efficiently. Available BAS solutions also allow remote access to these control capabilities, for Web-enabled access to building systems from nearly anywhere.
HVAC rooftop equipment is becoming more advanced with new technologies, which helps optimize performance and significantly improve the bottom line.
HVAC rooftop equipment is becoming more advanced with new technologies, which helps optimize performance and significantly improve the bottom line. Taking advantage of these high-efficiency, variable-speed technologies in rooftop units is made easier with advanced building controls. This helps drive savings and allows building owners to get the most out of the new technology in rooftop units.
Simplified BAS solutions also provide greater insight and enable access to a wealth of data regarding what’s happening in a building. For contractors, this additional connection to the building and its systems provides an opportunity to act as a proactive partner in maintaining and servicing the building — for faster troubleshooting and efficient resolution of issues. Contractors can get remote building access — with customer permission — that allows them to see issues or problems prior to a service visit, so they can prioritize service work for the most critical issues and come prepared with any necessary parts for maintenance. A BAS also enables contractors to receive email alarms and alerts, so they can notify customers of issues before they impact occupant comfort.
Utilizing wireless communication technology with a simplified BAS solution can shorten the installation cycle and help keep projects on track and on budget — putting this type of building technology within reach for more facilities. It also offers greater flexibility for the future, as technology and capabilities change.
When designing building systems for small- to medium-sized buildings — whether for new construction or retrofit projects — consider the benefits that wireless technology can provide. Affordable first costs and simplified and faster installation for a smoother construction process make wireless technology for building controls a good option in many types of buildings.
Beyond the installation benefits, wireless technology also offers easier problem-solving, life-cycle savings, and future flexibility, providing the ability to easily add or move devices as building needs change, since there is no need to run wires between devices.
Beyond the installation benefits, wireless technology also offers easier problem-solving, life-cycle savings and future flexibility, providing the ability to easily add or move devices as building needs change since there is no need to run wires between devices.
The reliable and cost-effective wireless technology available today helps put building automation within reach for more building projects. BAS systems using wireless technology offer reliability and flexibility, and help enable many intelligent building solutions that can improve performance and efficiency.
Consider a Simplified BAS
Thanks to wireless communication and technology advancements, building automation is a feasible and affordable option for small- and medium-sized commercial buildings. While programmable thermostats often offer lower first cost, simplified BAS options can help improve building performance and improve efficiencies in the long term.
A simplified BAS solution provides greater efficiency and more responsive building control — even remotely — for building owners and managers. Automation also enables access to a wealth of building data for owners and contractors, for ongoing insight into what is happening in the building that drives better service and improved building performance.
Installing a BAS with wireless technology can put improved performance, energy saving strategies, and more proactive monitoring and service within reach for more buildings.
Melissa Schumann is the product manager for Ingersoll-Rand's Trane Tracer™ Concierge™