Building automation has evolved over the past thirty years. At first, building automation usually consisted of motion sensors, light timers, dawn/dusk detectors for exterior lights, and programmable thermostats for HVAC. Years later, security doors with RFID badge access started to become more common. RFID systems started to be tied into building security and even fire systems to ensure the system knew when people were still in the building during an emergency and where they were located. Most recently, ethernet security cameras, sensors and HVAC controls became common as power-over-ethernet and the internet-of-things devices exploded onto the market. These devices often now include software to detect fires, security issues, and safety hazards.
Trends today include more efficient HVAC systems with heat recovery and advanced zone controls to limit heating and cooling to the areas of the building that are in use at that moment. What’s next for building automation? With more remote staff, automation systems will begin to generate data based on weather forecasts, utility costs and predicted occupancy. These determine when it is more economical to shut down parts of the building or encourage more staff to work remotely. The cost of lighting and HVAC in most office buildings is significant – shutting down whole areas of a building for days at a time offers huge benefits.
Another improvement will be for flexible office and work spaces where RFID badges will be used to store individual preferences for lighting, temperature and include features for ambient music or noise functions. This will create premium experiences for those that use these flexible work environments. Systems already exist in larger facilities that use wide area RFID tags and multiple antennas to identify and locate users in a cafeteria. They can use their badge to pay for their short-order cooked meal and then it is delivered to them wherever they sit down afterward. Don’t assume building automation adds cost either – many systems pay for themselves while also increasing building value and security.
If you have any questions about building or facility automation, contact Director of Engineering Design Tom Gilmartin, PE, LEED AP, at (716) 592-3980 ext. 124 or [email protected].