What is a Building Automation System?

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Controlling costs and security are hot topics these days. Building automation systems have much to do with those topics. In this lesson, we'll take a look at this with respect to building automation.

The Can't Be Everywhere Problem

Have you ever wondered how building owners keep their costs in line? A building is an expensive undertaking to be sure. But how do they control things like utility costs, or ensure that everyone is safe? Surely, one or more security guards are not enough.

If you consider a building like the Empire State in New York, with its 102 floors, you quickly see the problem. Even with personnel on each floor, you couldn't keep track of everything that's going on, let alone monitor utilities and such. Fortunately, it isn't required because there are tools available that can help. Those tools fall into the category of building automation.

What is a Building Automation System?

A building automation system is a system, or set of systems, that provide automated control and monitoring within a building. Control is centralized, meaning that these systems can be monitored and adjusted from a small number of stations located throughout the building. As an example, think about the thermostat in your home. These days, most are programmable: They allow you to adjust things like zones, temperatures within a zone, multiple time-of-day settings, heat, and air conditioning. Building automation is similar, just on a larger scale. Their purpose is to provide a comfortable, consistent environment, ensure the safety of all occupants, and reduce energy costs.

What Aspects of a Building Does Automation Control?

Building automation controls a number of key systems within a building. These systems include:

  • Heat - automatically keeping the temperature constant, reducing internal temperature during off-peak hours.
  • Lights - automatically turning lights on at certain times, and turning off lights after certain hours.
  • Ventilation - automatically switching out internal air, and ensuring proper air movement throughout the building.
  • Air Conditioning - automatically keeping the temperature constant, letting internal temperature rise during off-peak hours.
  • Building Access - automatically controlling access to various parts of the building, including doors to important rooms, and logging activity.
  • Security/Monitoring - automatically scanning for unauthorized access, and maintaining monitors for security cameras.
  • Fire/Smoke alarms - automatically monitoring the building for issues with fire and smoke, alerting the appropriate people, and logging incidents.
  • Internal Communications - automatically providing access and control to internal communications systems like intercoms, and phones.

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