Imagine walking into a building where the environment adjusts to your comfort without manual intervention. The lights, temperature, and even the elevator system seem to anticipate your needs. This isn’t a scene from a sci-fi movie; it’s the reality of modern commercial spaces, thanks to Building Automation Systems.

What is Building Automation?

A Building Automation System (BAS) is a network of intelligent, connected devices that control and monitor the building’s environment. The system makes automated changes to enhance the comfort of occupants, optimize energy usage, and manage building operations effectively. Serving as the central nervous system of a commercial property, BAS incorporates various subsystems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and security to work in harmony.

What is an example of a Building Automation System?

Let’s say you own a high-rise office building. A BAS in your property could involve occupancy sensors that detect the first employee’s badge swipe in the morning. Responding to this, the system gradually powers up the HVAC system to a comfortable 72 degrees. It also deactivates the overnight energy-saving mode for the lighting and sends the elevator to the lobby in anticipation of more arrivals.

As the building becomes more occupied, the heat from the occupants warms the building past 74 degrees. Recognizing that the building is reaching a temperature most would consider too hot for comfort, it kicks on the AC briefly during the hottest point of the day. It also identifies empty conference rooms and turns the lights off or dims them.

All in all, the BAS makes your building more comfortable and efficient by immediately responding to changes throughout the day.

BAS vs. BMS: Is there a difference?

Navigating the world of building automation can sometimes feel like trying to understand the difference between ‘tomayto’ and ‘tomahto’. Within the industry, you’ll often hear Building Automation Systems (BAS) and Building Management Systems (BMS) tossed around like they’re two sides of the same coin. And here’s the inside scoop: they pretty much are. While some folks might dive into the nitty-gritty, arguing the technicalities, the reality is that these two terms are used more or less interchangeably in the day-to-day operation of buildings.

Even big players in the BAS space use these labels interchangeably. Schneider Electric says “A BMS is also referred to as a building automation system (BAS).” Ericsson tries to cut through these labels by calling their building management system an “Indoor Manager.” Even Science Direct uses these terms interchangeably on their main Building Management Systems overview.

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How do automated building systems work?

Think of an automated building system like a well-oiled machine where every part knows its job. It’s a web of gadgets and software that talk to each other, deciding when to turn on the air, dim the lights, or secure a door. Here’s the lowdown on how these smart systems make buildings more efficient and comfortable.

Sensors are the eyes and ears of a BAS. They’re on the lookout for changes in temperature, light, or movement. When they pick up something, like a room filling up with people, they send a signal to the controllers.

Controllers are the brains of the operation. They take the info from the sensors and make decisions. If a room gets too warm, the controller’s like, “Let’s cool it down a bit,” and signals the actuators.

Actuators are the hands that get things done. They’ll adjust the air conditioning, dim the lights, or lock a door, doing the actual work to keep everything running smoothly.

Communication is key in this system—everything’s connected through a network with software to manage it all from a central computer or a smartphone app.

Types of commercial building automation

Commercial building automation comes in many flavors, each designed to make life easier and more efficient. A few common types of building automation include:

  • HVAC control systems: A BAS can adjust HVAC systems based on current occupancy and the outdoor environment creating an ideal indoor environment at all times. It can also cut your HVAC energy costs by up to 50% according to a study published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
  • Lighting control: Smart lighting systems ensure lights are on when and where they’re needed, saving energy and improving the tenant experience.
  • Security and access control: These systems keep unauthorized occupants out of restricted areas and allow authorized occupants to navigate your building seamlessly.
  • Building component monitoring: With sensors to measure the performance of building components, a BAS can notify you of needed maintenance before a major failure.

Using ProptechOS partners, you can set up an automated system to leverage your data insights. Start with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ to control all of your building systems. Then, you can use Siemens’ Navigator to assess the energy efficiency of your current operations and find ways you can improve. Finally, you can connect both of these tools to ProptechOS’ Workflows to automate actions with EcoStruxure based on the insights derived from Navigator.

The benefits and usefulness of BAS

Implementing a BAS into your commercial property brings real and measurable benefits such as:

  • Energy savings: Automating your building systems improves their efficiency which lowers your utility bills and your carbon footprint. According to Suruchi Dhingra, a Research Manager at Transforma Insights, building automation systems can cut your building’s energy consumption by up to 20%.
  • Increased comfort: BAS keeps the temperature and lighting on-point for all of your occupants to ensure everyone stays comfortable in your buildings.
  • Better security: With automated locks and surveillance, you can proactively adjust occupant access based on changing credentials.
  • Maintenance alerts: BAS can flag when something’s not working right, so you can fix it before it becomes a big problem.
  • Data and insights: These systems collect data on how the building is running, which can help you make smart decisions about maintenance and upgrades.

Smart buildings are the future

Envision a building that’s not just a structure, but a dynamic hub that intuitively caters to the needs of its inhabitants. Smart buildings represent the evolution of property management. They seamlessly integrate technology to enhance the efficiency and comfort of indoor spaces. These smart buildings are becoming so common that the smart building industry is expected to achieve a 15.8% annual growth rate over the next 10 years.

Who needs an automated building management system?

An automated BMS is an essential tool for a wide range of stakeholders including:

  • Business owners: Enhance your workplace with a BMS that dynamically adjusts to meet your operational needs, offering a superior environment for clients and a productive atmosphere for employees.
  • Property managers: Oversee your property portfolio with greater ease and efficiency. A BMS provides streamlined operations, ensuring consistent performance and tenant satisfaction across all properties.
  • Educational institutions: For schools and universities, a BMS is vital for creating an optimal learning environment. It maintains comfortable temperatures, improves operational efficiency, and ensures facilities are secure, contributing to the overall safety and focus of the student body.
  • Healthcare facilities: In healthcare settings, where reliability and precision are paramount, a BMS helps maintain critical systems that support patient care, from regulating clean room environments to monitoring life-support systems.
  • Retailers: Retail stores can create the perfect ambiance for shoppers while also enhancing security measures after hours. A BMS enables energy-efficient operations and provides a welcoming shopping experience tailored to customer behavior.

Getting started and scalable solution

To get started implementing building automation, follow these quick tips:

  • Begin incrementally: Opt to modernize systems progressively. Address the most pressing needs first, such as updating an outdated HVAC system, and build from there.
  • Plan for growth: Select a BMS that offers modularity and scalability. This ensures that as your needs evolve, your system can develop alongside them without needing a complete overhaul.
  • Choose the right partner: Collaboration is key. Partner with a provider that understands your vision and has the expertise to bring it to fruition.
  • Leverage insights: Utilize your BMS’s rich data to make evidence-based decisions that result in cost savings and performance optimization.

Are you looking to simplify the management of your commercial properties, enhance energy efficiency, and create a more comfortable environment for occupants? ProptechOS is designed to serve as the central nervous system for your building, uniting all your Proptech tools into one cohesive platform. This allows you to incorporate all your current building technology while setting you up to seamlessly adopt emerging technologies. Get started with ProptechOS for free today to see how integrating your Proptech solutions can enhance your operations!

Dr. Erik Wallin

Chief Ecosystem Officer, and founder of ProptechOS and RealEstateCore is recognized as a leader in Building Operating Systems (BOS) and making the buildings of the world smarter. He holds an MSc and a Ph.D. in Media and Computer Science from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Read his full bio and information here.