With the impressive array of consumer technology available today, it should come to no surprise that buildings are jumping on the trend. New technology is quickly becoming a staple in building operations than ever before, unifying building systems so that they can be monitored and run for a central location by a building staff member, or by residents themselves with smartphone or iPads.
“Unit integration means combing multiple subsystems together,” says Mark Goldman, president of Sound Components, a Coral Gables-based company that designs, sells and installs automation systems. “HVAC would be one subsystem, lighting control could be one, audio distribution could be another, security cameras could be another. So it’s putting all those things together on one unified interface. So the user will have one unified interface to view all of the different subsystems.”
“We have 4.6 million customers throughout Florida; we’re the largest utility provider in the state since 2009. We have been upgrading the electric grid and that includes intelligent smart meters in residences and commercial buildings throughout the state and the integration part of it is what we are improving,” says Florida Power and Light spokeswoman Kathleen Hinsdale. “With our smart meters, residential and commercial customers can log onto an energy dashboard. With this dashboard, the customer will be able to see how and when they are using energy. The dashboard is our way of putting the power back into the hands of the customer to inform them and educate them on how and where they are using electricity and hopefully make smart choices about energy usage. Our goal is to complete that by 2013,” she says.
“Intelligent buildings typically tie together multiple, disparate systems,” says Rawlson King, communications director of the Continental Automated Buildings Association, a 20-year-old international industry association, composed of about 350 corporate members. CABA is dedicated to the advancement of intelligent home and intelligent building technologies. “In fact, it can be argued,” says King, “that intelligent buildings transcend integration to achieve interaction so that previously independent systems work collectively to optimize building performance, including monitoring comfort levels, security systems, energy systems and operations.”
Integration and interaction are what drive intelligent buildings. But what does that mean, and how does it work?
“Building automation systems and building energy management systems”—BAS and BEMS, respectively—“are designed to provide centralized oversight and remote control over heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and other building systems,” King explains. “In simple terms, a BAS is a programmed, computerized network of electronic devices that are employed for control and monitoring of systems. It primarily aims at optimizing the performance, start-up and maintenance of systems and greatly reduces the interaction of mechanical subsystems in a building. BEMS basically performs the same functions as a BAS but varies more in capability and functionality.”
“In an era of volatile energy prices and increasing concern over climate change, the need for the innovative application of technology has become highly acute,” says King. “Buildings with integrated intelligent building technologies can save thousands and even millions of dollars in energy by delivering heating, cooling and lighting more efficiently. Intelligent buildings are increasingly using solar walls to capture energy from the sun, ventilation systems to recapture and reuse heat, insulation strategies that enable better climate control, high-efficiency lighting systems that enhance illumination with less electricity and automatic systems that control building services based on activity.”