Recent years have seen a growing trend for smart buildings equipped with Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS). The adoption of BACS offers multiple advantages such as the reduction in building energy consumption, improvement of the quality of life of occupants, and integration of renewable energy systems by providing flexibility to the connected energy grids. Innovative policy initiatives related to building automation currently exist or are under development to support next-generation systems that reduce CO2 emissions. According to Glenn Weinreb, CTO, Manhattan 2, the goal is to reduce fossil fuel use, reduce energy consumption, increase comfort, and reduce cost.
BACS aims to complete autonomous control of an entire facility. It involves a deft use of computer networking of electronic devices designed to monitor and control the mechanical, security, fire, lighting, HVAC, and humidity control and ventilation systems in a building or across several campuses.
In a BACS-regulated utility, building climate is kept within a specified range; rooms are lighted based on an occupancy schedule, performances, and device failures are monitored in all systems along with malfunction alarms. As opposed to a non-controlled building, automation systems reduce building energy and maintenance costs considerably. It offers you a considerable amount of data related to the performance of your building, and with this resource, you can establish a truly intelligent or “smart building”.
What does BACS stand for?
The term BACS encompasses centralized systems that monitor, control, and record the functions of building services. When monitored and controlled by a reliable BACS, buildings tend to maintain their environment more efficiently to reduce the environmental impact and energy costs.
BACS comprises centralized and interlinked networks of hardware as well as software, which are designed to monitor as well as control the environment in various facilities, including commercial, industrial, and institutional bodies. In the course of managing their building systems, the automation system aims at optimizing the facility’s operational performance and the building occupants’ comfort and safety.
Usually, BACS are established in new buildings or as adopted as replacement of an outdated control system in a renovation endeavor.
Main functions of BACS
- Exercising control of the building’s environment.
- Operating systems in sync with occupancy and energy demand.
- Monitoring and correcting the performance of systems.
- Providing for sound alerts
- The facilities that may be controlled by a BACS system include mechanical systems; plumbing; electrical systems; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC); lighting control; security and surveillance; alarms, and lifts.
Gradually, the concepts of BACS has come to incorporate technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to manage smart buildings efficiently.
How does BACS function?
Sensors, controllers, output devices, and dashboards are the main protocols of a BACS-regulated system.
While sensors measure values such as temperature, humidity, lighting levels, room occupancy, and so on, controllers analyze the system’s response from the collected data, using algorithms that apply logic and send commands. Output devices are used to carry out commands from the controller. Then we come to the dashboard that facilitates user interface for data reporting and interaction with the BACS system.
Building automation, in general, starts with the control of systems in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) domain. Among them, lighting control goes a long way in optimizing building performance. And the most-talked-about is heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems that come with a host of equipment. These include chillers, boilers, air handling units (AHUs), roof-top units (RTUs), fan coil units (FCUs), heat pump units (HPUs), and variable air volume boxes (VAVs).
Other systems that can be controlled and brought under a complete automation system include power monitoring, security; closed circuit video (CCTV); card and keypad access; fire alarm system; elevators/escalators, plumbing, and water monitoring.
Various types of “controllers” rely on “sensors” to provide input data. They effectively manage hardware devices mounted to equipment or hidden under the floor or in the ceiling and portions of the network.
The journey of BACS
Today wireless technology, characterized by direct digital control or DDC devices, is beginning to replace traditionally wired building infrastructure.
But it was not so earlier when control systems were pneumatic (air-based), generally restricted to controlling different aspects of the HVAC system through devices such as controllers, sensors, actuators, valves, positioners, and regulators. In the 1980s, analog electronic control devices provided a quicker response as well as higher precision than pneumatics.
However, the automation system in the real sense became possible not until the advent of digital control devices in the 1990s. However, in the absence of established standards for digital communication, the automation system was not “interoperable” or capable of connecting to products from various manufacturers. The late 1990s and the 2000s witnessed the introduction of “open” communication systems.
How to manage BACS?
Though you require a properly trained in-house staff to manage the operation as well as the maintenance of building automation systems, controls professionals or dedicated controls contractors ranging from mechanical, electrical to multi-functional system integrators handle system design as well as the initial installation. Later on, these controls professionals can educate your in-house staff to self-perform services.
Latest BACS trends
The following are the latest trends in building automation:
Wireless is undoubtedly one of the most growing trends right now. As it begins to replace traditionally wired infrastructure, wireless technology makes use of sensor-type devices. While a pneumatic control system can make way for a DDC system, strategies can be worked out for pneumatic-to-DDC bridging too.
Wireless functionality provides the flexibility and ease of installation when building new systems and modifying old ones. Connecting automation to the cloud is more straightforward, as well as more effective.
Different systems in buildings, generally, have been their own separate closed blocks, with their interfaces and zero communication with external systems. Gradually, automation is now starting to get fully integrated into the same network with other systems such as fire alarms, access control units, elevators, etc.
In the future, smart buildings, people, traffic, and city infrastructures will eventually all communicate with one another leading to a smart city in a true sense.
Embracing low-carbon control systems
Today is the trend for multi-story green buildings that rely upon energy, air, and water conservation methods. These buildings use low-power D.C. devices usually integrated with power over Ethernet wiring and have sophisticated ventilation and humidity monitoring systems.
An automation system can contribute significantly to a building’s ability to earn acclaims such as the EPA Energy Star or the LEED certification.
Environmental consciousness and the hope for a better tomorrow are driving the development of smart buildings that are embracing the elements of the efficient, low-emission world. But care should be taken that low carbon systems cost less than traditional non-automated systems, or if they cost more, they must compensate the users by consuming less energy.
Focus on usability
As customers have become more demanding, the building automation industry has begun to focus on the usability of products. Cryptic user manuals, poor user interfaces, endless text menus of the past have given way to seamless user experience paving the way for effortless functionality.
Open control platforms
Big data, open databases, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and energy optimization are some well-developed applications. Still, they need to be brought to open source and open platforms to benefit owners, designers, professionals installing the systems, and the building engineers responsible for their operation. Open source code provides us with many new opportunities for developing increasingly better applications in building automation with open minds.
The system should be accessible, supported, and competed within the free market with both the product and platform designed to communicate with other systems via open protocols and standards. Overcoming current proprietary controls, a freely distributed, openly licensed, an open system can help in reducing costs, time, and difficulties during design and construction. It can enable developers and building managers to build the system that achieves the design intent while ensuring long-term flexibility in maintenance as it is supported and maintained in the free market.
There is an increasing preference for open protocol monitoring & control systems as developers, owners, and end-users seek a system that suits their needs while benefitting from an open, competitive environment sustained by the participation of suppliers and service providers.
BACS Market Scope
The BACS market is primarily driven by the use of industrial buildings, commercial buildings, and residential buildings. A recent ‘Global Building Automation and Control Systems Market Report’ offers decisive insights into the overall building automation industry along with the market dimensions and evaluation for the duration 2020 to 2029. According to this report, the global building automation and control systems industry faces a period of immense economic and technological challenges, which, if handled successfully, will end up transforming the world we live in.
The report identifies key market players, including ABB, Honeywell Building Solutions, Siemens Building Tech, Schneider Systems Services, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency, Legrand SA, United Technologies, KMC Controls, Distech Controls, Crestron Electronics, Ingersoll-Rand PLC, Hubbell, and Robert Bosch GmbH. The report states that North America is dominating the building automation and control systems market due to the presence of global players in the U.S., besides growing organization sizes and increasing application areas of building automation and control systems. Europe holds the second position in the worldwide market. In contrast, Asia-Pacific has emerged as a fast-growing market, thanks to the growing economy of Asian countries like India and China.