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Building Automation And Control Systems

One of the levers to successful decarbonization includes energy efficiency in both existing buildings and new construction. Even small improvements in building operations and energy consumption make a difference.

Building automation and control systems

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Our subject-matter experts regularly publish blogs on building automation-related topics that matter to you, from digital buildings, to cybersecurity, energy efficiency and more. New blogs are added monthly.

A Building Automation System (BAS), (also referred to as a Building Management System or a Building Control System), is a system that controls various electric, electronic and mechanical systems throughout a building.

It is a distributed control system that integrates different types of building systems together into one centralized location. Building automation systems are primarily utilized to control the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in a building, but are also used to control lighting, security and other building systems.

BAS works as a computer networking system that monitors and controls a range of other electronic and mechanical systems. It provides a means for these disparate systems to communicate across platforms, software and languages.

As of 2014, more than half of the large-sized buildings in the U.S. (buildings that are larger than 100,000 square feet) are controlled by BAS. Studies have shown that in the past ten years, building automation systems have demonstrated a range of energy savings. This range runs from no energy savings to a savings of greater than 30%. It is estimated that the savings is even larger with older buildings or buildings that have not been maintained well.

No doubt about it, building automation systems are the way to go in the future. As businesses, organizations and industries face increasingly greater demands to ensure the comfort of their customer as well as provide service efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, then well-integrated BAS is necessary. Such systems reduce costs, increase efficiency and ensure comfort. Looking toward quality BAS can only be a wise decision that will benefit your organization in the long term.

Another key benefit of building automation is that it resolves the long-standing competition between more comfort versus more efficiency. With reams of new data, you can make informed decisions about how to best reduce or eliminate energy waste. For example, if rooms are unoccupied, you can turn the lights off or reduce HVAC output until the occupants return. And when they do return, occupants gain greater control over their living spaces via app-based room controls. The result is lower costs and greater comfort.

Well in the simplest terms a building automation system is a system that automates many of the tasks that are required to run HVAC. Yes, I know, why is it called a building automation system? Why don't they just call it an HVAC control system?

A building automation system utilizes a control system to automate the control of various building systems (mainly HVAC). The BAS provides a user interface that allows the end user to adjust the control settings, view the system status, and detect any potential issues related to building system performance.

Life safety is the ultimate purpose of any building system. At the end of the day if a system negatively impacts life safety then that system needs to be overhauled and fixed. Life safety quite simply is making sure that the health and well-being of building occupants are protected.

It could be something as simple as turning a fan on when a wall switch is flipped. Or it could be as complex as controlling a wall of individually regulated fans (fan wall) based on the average of several different pressure sensors. Ultimately it doesn't matter, it all follows the pattern of:

The branch line will act as a control signal to a device, like an actuator, and will regulate the amount of main line air that is entering the actuator. This is how the actuator is controlled.

Analog control systems used to be quite prevalent but are slowly disappearing in favor of digital and electromechanical controls. You still see them in some situations mainly on ceiling mounted unit heaters and radiant heater coils that line the windows of buildings.

This resistance then causes the control device (valve, relay, etc) to react. This is a really simple description but the reality is that these systems are really simple. Often analog systems are combined with electromechanical systems.

DDC is also known as direct digital control is the primary control system utilized today. When you talk to folks who have worked in the BAS industry for a long time they tend to define time periods by pre-DDC and post-DDC.

From a technical perspective, DDC control systems have a CPU, known as a microprocessor and a series of digital inputs and outputs. They are typically powered by 24 volts Alternating Current (AC) but they can also be powered by direct current voltage.

DDC controllers will typically have some sort of communications trunk to facilitate communications between the field controllers and a centralized supervisory device. The main communication standard used by DDC controllers was and is RS-485 (which is a twisted pair 3 or 4 wire cable).

However, there are newer communication designs that are being used for DDC controllers. The two most common communication designs are wireless, and hard-wired IP (which has 3 different design patterns itself; ring, bus, and daisy chain).

I often tell the folks I work with that I believe the future of controls is a world where 80% of projects are smart equipment and the rest are IoT devices like Arduino or Raspberry Pi boards with a common programming language.

We are getting to the point where there really isn't much more you can pack into a controller. Think about it, once the controller is wireless, which is my preferred approach, you will have freed yourself from all physical constraints except for power cabling.

The end devices and field controllers will be smart enough to identify where they are and what system they should connect to. The BAS professionals job will switch from being focused on the physical installation of systems to being focused on IT systems like databases, analytics, and system integration.

Is it unreasonable to think that we could take all of the knowledge we have around building systems into a computer program and that computer could analyze the performance of thousands of buildings to "learn" how to best control your building?

I definitely think that is a possibility. But don't worry, we will still need people to install and service this technology and these next generation "building automation programmers" will need to understand IT, programming, and other skills.

Earlier in this guide, I discussed how there are four layers in a modern building automation system. In this section, we are going to take a much deeper look at each of these layers and how they function within a building automation system.

The server will also store trend, alarm, and schedule data in a database. This database can be used for reporting. The final thing the server can be used for is, is for serving up the API for the building automation system.

The supervisory layer is where the supervisory devices sit. Supervisory devices are kind of like your home router. They collect all of the traffic from the field controllers and consolidate this traffic.

These devices serve to manage your communication trunks. Communication trunks allow your field controllers to connect to one another and allow your supervisory devices to collect information from the field controllers.

Field controllers look at data from inputs (temperature sensors, switches, etc) and then control outputs (actuators, relays, etc). BAS companies will use programming tools (usually developed by the BAS vendor) to program these field controllers.

The final piece of the puzzle is the input and output layer. This is where the sensors and control devices exist. There isn't a ton to add here except that you are starting to see IP-enabled sensors that use Ethernet or Wi-Fi for their communications.

Field buses are the way building automation field controllers communicate back to supervisory devices. There are two prominent field buses right now. These are BACnet MS/TP and LON FT-10. These field buses connect field controllers back to the supervisory device using a daisy chain architecture.

Controllers are potentially stand-alone devices that control systems. An example of a system would be an air handler unit or a central plant. These controllers are programmed using programming software.

Free programmable field controllers are able to be freely programmed. I know you're like "thanks, Phil that helps a lot...". Seriously though, back in the day, you couldn't configure a field controller. Nowadays you can log into a field controller and configure it to perform any control sequence you want it to. 041b061a72


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