Industry 4.0 is here—the world around us is connected, automated, and filled with data. Remember the days before our smartwatch collected data about our activity and location during the day? Even my infant son wears a smart sock that provides my husband and I with data on his oxygen levels and heartbeat, analyzing those elements to measure his sleep quality each night.
These connection points in our daily lives provide us with data that helps us to make better choices—going for an extra walk during the day or choosing a more suitable bedtime. Buildings are no different—from doors opening and closing to lights going off and on—these data points help us to understand how buildings are occupied and utilized each day, and how much energy is being used to operate the building.
According to The US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, commercial buildings utilize 35% of the electricity used in the US1. When we create a baseline and understand how a building is used, we can then take action to improve how we use energy in a building. Connecting your building doesn’t need to be complex, these five considerations can help you to have a conversation with a controls provider, like Trane, to design a system to meet your needs:
1. What are your goals and what will you need to measure and control?
What are the goals for your building or business operation? Indoor Air Quality, commonly referred to as IAQ, or Decarbonization, reducing energy use and emissions, are trending across the industry. There are many parts of a building that can be measured—such as occupancy, humidity, and CO2. When you understand temperature and can sense something like occupancy, and your HVAC equipment and lighting system (if integrated) can take action to adjust and run more efficiently for the building’s needs. If IAQ is a concern in your building, sensors can help to detect variables like humidity to adjust how much outside air is needed in the space to increase comfort without sacrificing efficiency.
2. How will you connect your building?
After you’ve decided on the goals for your building, the next step is HOW to connect your building. You can think of this connection point as your building’s smartwatch. If you have a small space with only a few zones, a web-connected smart thermostat may fit your needs. If you have a medium to large building or a more complex building, a building automation system—commonly referred to as BAS—would better fit your needs. You can also use a mix of smart thermostats and BAS if you are responsible for multiple buildings. It’s important to choose a solution that will give you the flexibility to change and grow, provides a secure remote connection to your building, and utilizes standard open protocols such as BACnet. Cybersecurity is another important consideration when connecting your building. Other connection points to consider include:
- Sensors throughout the building can help us to understand if a room is occupied, has a comfortable humidity level, or even safe by detecting CO2 levels. Zone sensors help us to understand the temperature of the space.
- When selecting HVAC equipment, it’s important the equipment has a connected unit controller that utilizes standard open protocol, such as BACnet. A connected unit controller allows for the building automation system to control your HVAC equipment based on data through the building.
3. How will your building’s system control and equipment controllers communicate?
Now that you have your building and its components connected, how do you want all the controllers in the building to speak to one another? Wireless communication is a reliable and flexible choice that allows all parts of the building to speak to the building automation system without wires. Wireless communication is an easy way to make sure your building is future-proof. Wired communication, MSTP or IP, is another option that involved physical wires that connect equipment controllers to the BAS. IP communication can provide faster data speeds for large complex control systems.
4. How will you manage your building?
What’s the purpose of your building being connected and communicating if you can’t get a good view of it all? A building management system—commonly referred to as a BMS-- can help you to get a good picture of all the happenings in your building or portfolio of buildings. Dashboards and reporting make it easy to recognize trends in the data you are collecting. It’s important to choose a building management system with secure remote access so you can access your BMS from virtually anywhere, even on your smartphone. It’s useful to select a BMS that has standard user interfaces and graphics to decrease the amount of training needed to operate and make it easier for service providers to access.
5. What actions will you take for your building?
Now that you have a baseline and view of your building’s operation, it’s time to act! Our building automation system (BAS) platform, Tracer SC+, comes with operational excellence built-in—meaning years of building expertise and optimization algorithms are included out of the box, finding ways for your HVAC systems to run more efficiently, automatically. Additionally, as building system and user needs scale to larger and more complex Building Management System (BMS) needs, Tracer Ensemble provides a BMS with cloud-based flexibility and reliability. Our experts are also here to help you find ways you can meet your goals, such as decreasing your building’s energy footprint—from lighting upgrades to Trane Intelligent Services, Optimization Services and Energy Performance contracts.
The baseline is just the beginning. Contact us today to learn more about getting connected and making a difference for your building and the world.
1. About the Commercial Buildings Integration Program, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy