A Glimpse of the Future: Building Automation

Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices are finding their ways into our homes, making the place where we live “smarter”. In fact, the number of IoT devices are expected to reach 8.3 billion this year and 10 billion next year. And while we develop technologies that allow us to make everything remotely controlled- lighting, heating, and electronic devices- by our smartphones or computers, building designers are beginning to use and integrate building automation into their construction plans. To know more about the future, and the future of smart cities, we need to understand how smart homes and smart buildings work and why they continue to be relevant.


Defining Key Concepts

What is building automation? Building automation is the centralized control of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and other systems in a building. It is controlled by a building automation system (BAS) or otherwise known as Building Management System (BMS). Building automation may mean different things, but the applications of building automation may include:

  • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning or (HVAC)
  • Lighting
  • Doors
  • Security


Many of the mentioned applications are directly related to what people call “smart buildings” or “smart homes” and often associated with advocacies of energy efficiency, power consumption reduction, water waste reduction, and more. Smart homes or smart buildings are also often associated with “green buildings” due to their positive impact towards the environment.


Examples of Building Automation

Smart homes are the pioneers of building automation. With IoT devices like a smart thermostat, where you can control your home’s temperature whether you are inside or outside, awake or asleep, and even schedule the change in temperature, modern houses are becoming easier and more convenient to live in. It is not just about convenience too. Most of the automation are envisioned to reduce negative impacts to the environment, like the wasting of energy that are prevented with the use of automation enabled by data that is gathered by the device.

More than the smart thermostat, we also have IoT devices that allow us to turn on and off regular outlets just by hitting a button on our smartphones. Smart plugs also monitor the energy consumption of our devices, helping our homes become more energy-efficient.


Building Automation at Work

There are a lot of forward-looking buildings that are pioneering in the field of building automation.


Amsterdam’s Edge

Amsterdam’s Edge, is one of them. Touted as the “smartest building in the world” and the “greenest building in the world,” the Edge is an example of how technology can be used in modern society to make lives easier while protecting the environment. The Edge has an app that allows you to “connect” upon waking up in the morning. It checks your schedule, it recognizes your car when you arrive, and it directs you automatically to your parking spot. The app also finds you a desk- because at the Edge, you do not have one- and it tweaks the light and temperature according to your preferences. All this automation increases efficiency in space management and energy consumption, while making people in the building more comfortable while at work. The Edge also has 98.4% sustainability score according to British rating agency BREEAM, the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for projects, infrastructure, and buildings. BREEAM also reported that the Edge has the highest sustainability score it ever awarded, with over 250,000 buildings rated since its first launch in 1990.

The building also has no electricity used from the power grid. Instead, it uses the energy gathered from the solar panels on the roof and the south-facing wall. The Edge also uses geothermal energy, which is an energy generated and stored in the Earth. Two boreholes, with over 400 feet in depth, allow for large amounts of hot water to be drawn up and stored. Their heat are then conserved for use in heating during winter. The Edge is found in Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Vienna’s Aspern Urban Lakeside

Another example of a smart building that uses building automation is the Aspern Urban Lakeside Project. The Aspern Urban Lakeside Project is a 240-hectare project, considered as one of Europe’s largest urban developments. It is dubbed as a “city within the city” with a projected 8,500 housing units to be built, and is forecast to accommodate around 20,000 people. About 20,000 jobs are also estimated to be created within the city, which will concentrate on the fields of service, trade and industry, science, research and education. The project is currently being built in Vienna, Austria by Siemens, and is expected to be completed by 2028.

Aspern Urban Lakeside Project has three automation-focused priorities:

  1. Power Management in Buildings
  2. Low-voltage Power Distribution
  3. Big Data Management in a Dedicated Data Center

By integrating automation into the city, Siemens hopes to develop a system that can successfully link smart buildings together to achieve a working system-level smart metering, energy management, and connectivity, factors that are crucial in a smart city.


Singapore’s Capital Tower

We also have the Capital Tower, one of the first smart buildings ever built. It has an intelligent building automation system (IBAS) that includes high-speed elevators that are equipped with live news and stock market updates and, just like the Edge, an advanced car park guidance system. It also has low-emissivity glass windows, designed to minimize the amount of infrared and UV light that comes through the glass, without minimizing the amount of light that enters the room. This and variable air volume boxes reduces the need for more energy just to cool down the rooms, making the building more sustainable and energy-efficient. The Capital Tower is found in Singapore City, Singapore.


Los Angeles’s Glumac

At the 23rd floor of Aon Center in Los Angeles, Glumac’s office achieves comfort and productivity while maintaining sustainability. This office is the first in the United States to achieve the Net Zero Tenant Improvement Living Building Challenge certificate and was recognized by CoreNet with its Innovative Workplace award. The building recycles and redistributes clean air with its heat recovery retrofit. It also makes use of large windows to flood its rooms with natural daylight. Occupants can also control their own environment with a smart app, improving comfort, reducing energy consumption, and making sure that productivity is achieved.

Glumac’s office in Shanghai is also a good example of building automation at work. It was designed with an open-plan workspace with a bright and biophilic atmosphere, advanced air purification systems, and living green walls to purify the air. Glumac Shanghai is pursuing certification as Asia’s first Living Building Challenge (LBC) project.


Building Automation: Crucial Step to a Smart City

With building automation, environments that are used on a daily basis are ensured to be comfortable without harming the environment. The green efforts are also designed to cut costs, ensuring that comfort does not come at the expense of the company. This increases businesses’ chances of survival, reducing the need to discharge employees in times of crises. Sustainability is also at the heart of building automation systems. With new regulations in various industries, creative alternatives are developed to ensure that environmental standards are met.

Schools are also evolving, adapting building automation systems to make learning environments more comfortable at lesser costs. Hospitals are also looking at building automation to increase patient safety and satisfaction while reducing energy consumption. With Information Technology (IT) integrated into these buildings, more data will be gathered that can be used for studies and make improvements when needed. The path of development- of cities evolving to become smarter- starts with building automation, and it goes nowhere but straight to more comfort at lesser costs, economically and environmentally.

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