Will we ever see buildings that consume zero energy? We already have. The National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment 4 building supplies 100% of its energy from on-site renewable energy sources with no combustion.
While there’s still a long way to go, there is opportunity in the building automation systems (BAS) market to accommodate green and sustainable features.
Advancements in wireless communication will further promote smart buildings to control inherent systems to reduce consumption from electrical sources, such as lighting and HVAC, and allow remote control. The growth of 5G and other communication protocols will help support building automation.
The University of Singapore building has more than 1,200 solar panels on its roof and a hybrid cooling system to effectively manage energy consumption that is augmented with ceiling fans.
Sustainability encompasses building and commercial facility management and engineering, and it is also an economic boon to building owners who seek ways to reduce hefty utility bills and boost profitability, environmental responsibility and a favorable carbon footprint. There are significant opportunities for the electrical contractor as buildings age.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than half of all buildings in the United States were built between 1960 and 1999. About one-fifth of all commercial buildings were built before 1960.
While many of these buildings have been updated and outfitted with control systems, they are increasingly outdated. Add the push for sustainability, and there appears, by many measures, a robust market for building automation—for both old and new commercial buildings.
According to the researcher TechNavio, Elmhurst, Ill., numbers vary greatly when it comes to the forward prospect of building automation. But they all point to growth. The global building automation and control systems market is expected to grow by $27.83 billion by 2024. Lucrative opportunities abound.
5G and Wi-Fi
According to consultant Frost & Sullivan, Santa Clara, Calif., open communication protocols help building automation systems provide better interoperability and connectivity among connected devices than proprietary protocols. Features such as scalability, networking flexibility and interoperability offer smoother integration of third-party devices to the building automation systems network.
“5G and Wi-Fi 6 will have a major impact on the connectivity of building technologies and are likely to accelerate the growth of IoT. 5G can provide greater accessibility when managing buildings more remotely, and Wi-Fi 6 can provide faster data transfer speed between devices and enhance device performance at low energy utilization standards,” said Harikrishnan Manoharan, senior research analyst, TechVision, at Frost & Sullivan.
“On the other hand, the emergence of IoT in BAS has somewhat blurred the lines of traditional networking standards. Protocols such as LoRaWan, MQTT, OPC-UA, and IQRF remove the need for all the IoT devices to be physically connected to the same network in the BAS and allow limitless connectivity and expansion scope.”
As better broadband and wireless networks become available, there will be a rush to digitize and control building systems. At the same time, cybersecurity will need to be factored into any new adoption of automation—be it cloud computing, IoT network implementations and other technologies—and safeguard tenants and infrastructure from what seems like a growing threat.
Increasing real estate value
A capstone thought that supports the idea that digitization of buildings is onto something new came from Deloitte’s, New York, 2021 outlook for commercial real estate.
In summarizing its research, the report states that “companies could increase the value of their properties by deploying smart building design and maintenance capabilities and offering more relevant services to tenants and end-users. These services include using sensor technologies and predictive analytics to monitor facilities remotely and offer preemptive or usage-driven maintenance activities; or using smart building technologies and 3D visualizations to help landlords assess operational readiness of physical spaces in real time, implement more rigorous cleaning systems, and monitor HVAC systems.”