Why Building Automation Needs to Be Part of Your New Project from the Start

people planning building automation for new project

A well-optimized, cohesive building automation system (BAS) should be integral to any new capital project. Successful building automation reduces energy costs and consumption, makes the handoff to facilities operations easier, prevents future operational issues, and makes systems more reliable. 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nearly 15% of the total CO2 emissions come from the building construction and building operation sectors. These sectors also account for nearly 1/3 of global energy consumption. In order to create a sustainable future and reduce energy costs, there must be efforts made to save energy and reduce emissions during these operations.  

That’s why we recommend building automation be an integral and upfront part of all new construction projects. Let’s take a look at some of the most important reasons. 

Managing energy costs & consumption


Your building’s heating and cooling systems will arguably be your most significant energy consumers. It’s essential to incorporate a fully automated system from the start of the project to help manage energy consumption over the life of the building. Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, research labs, and other high energy consumers often need to optimize and retrofit their existing systems. With new construction, however, these systems can be intelligently automated when they’re installed, which saves time and money down the road. 

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial buildings will likely use 29% more energy for air conditioning alone in 2050 than in 2020. Hospitals and medical facilities also use a substantial amount of energy, much of which goes into air handling and HVAC. According to Business Energy Advisors (BEA), ventilation in hospitals accounts for 19% of their energy use, and cooling accounts for another 21%.  

A study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found that proper building automation can reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings by 29%. It reduces energy consumption and minimizes your carbon footprint, which is particularly important for buildings in New York City that need to comply with Local Law 97 (LL97) emissions guidelines. Under LL97, buildings over 25,000 square feet, including manufacturing spaces, hospitals, and office buildings, must meet new energy consumption guidelines and reduce emission standards by 2024 or pay a carbon penalty. Establishing an efficient BAS is now more critical than ever.

To optimize heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) systems, you must fundamentally shift how you think of building climate control. Instead of implementing a few temperature sensors and individual thermostats or operating the entire building in an assigned seasonal mode, a fully integrated system includes inputs from temperature and humidity sensors inside the building and advanced control algorithms that will apply only the needed energy to the system. 

In other words, instead of simple closed-loop control where context is limited to the needs of the local space and the capacity of the equipment serving it directly, a smart system will consider the demand of all spaces, and resulting energy from all utilities to determine the most efficient and practical means to satisfy environmental requirements.


Simplifying the handoff to facilities operations


Once construction is complete, a fully functioning BAS also reduces pushback from facilities operations staff, simplifies the handoff to facilities, and reduces future requests for system improvements. Automating as many of the building systems as possible during project design and commissioning takes some pressure off your future overall maintenance strategy and makes it easier for staff to maintain the building.

Instead of an ad hoc patchwork system, thrown together as stop gap measures during operation, a fully automated system gives staff the flexibility to change services as the need arises and stay in compliance with new and existing building codes. An automated system, clear schematics, and comprehensive documentation describing how the building operates are key deliverables. Critical setpoints, alarms, and other alerts are designed and configured from the start, and the justifications behind these setpoints and alarms are also clearly defined upfront. 

With automation, these critical setpoints and alarms are designed upfront to be monitored on-site or remotely. Remote monitoring allows additional flexibility with building staffing once the building is commissioned. With building automation fully integrated from the start, staff will also be well-trained in how everything works and better prepared to handle emergencies if they arise. 

building automation expert in boiler room

Preventing system failures & increasing reliability


Building automation can help predict and prevent system failures. System failures are usually just costly inconveniences for many kinds of residential and commercial buildings. For more sensitive facilities, however, such as hospitals, life-sciences, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and research labs, a system failure can be dangerous to patients and employees and cost millions in repairs, parts, and damaged products and research. 

By fully automating your building system at the onset of the project, you will be empowered to predict and prevent equipment failures in real-time by looking at trends across the entire system. Facilities operations staff will be able to plan ahead to perform critical repairs before an unexpected shutdown costs valuable time and money. 

Health monitoring and control signals from each group of sensors and controls can detect leaks in the heating and cooling systems, higher-than-normal startup currents, equipment status, pressure drop across filters, and other such components. This can be used to trigger routine maintenance and detect small problems before they grow. 

Consider the tubes in a building’s boiler. Over time, they become fouled with deposits, reducing the efficiency of the system. Without costly disassembly, this can be a complex problem to detect. With full building automation, however, changes in the thermal performance of the fluids can be detected and logged. Boiler cleaning can be paired with other routine maintenance if those temperatures start to drift, minimizing total downtime.

Industrial processing plants already use similar control strategies to manage their processes; why not apply them to your building?


Meeting & maintaining compliance standards


Building automation can help you meet environmental building standards, qualify for rebates, and maintain compliance. As we mentioned before, one of the most important considerations for new building compliance in New York City is LL97, which requires larger buildings to reduce their carbon footprints. 

Although fines don’t go into effect until 2024, and many buildings won’t face penalties until 2030, it’s much easier and less expensive to make the building energy — and carbon — efficient during the construction process than to invest in a complicated energy reduction project only a few years later. While other building owners will be investing in redesigns and new equipment, new buildings constructed to comply with LL97 will be well-positioned to avoid penalties. 

Fully automating these systems can also improve safety at the facility. Interlocks to prevent unauthorized access, status signals to warn operators of unusual operating conditions, and other such control and monitoring devices can be added to a building automation system. A fully-integrated BAS can detect a loss of steam pressure from a boiler, monitor and alarm on pipe heaters (heat trace), and so on. 


Does your project need building automation services? 


A well-optimized BAS reduces energy consumption, improves reliability, and reduces overall costs. Most large buildings benefit from a cohesive BAS and hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and laboratories can be made safer, more reliable, and more energy-efficient by having a proper automation system. 

If you’re starting a new project, reach out to Enica today. A member of our team will be happy to review your project’s unique needs and discuss the potential benefits of building automation.