Building Automation Systems are widely used in commercial and industrial buildings as they provide better control and management of building systems mainly the HVAC system, as well as optimize energy use with the goal of reducing energy costs. Over the years, the BAS industry has advanced rapidly with the development of protocols like BACnet. Today’s BAS are engineered for their ease of use and more power to control multiple building systems from a unified platform. In this article we take a look at what a building automation system can do for you and its various benefits.
Building Automation System
Building automation system is the unified platform for the automated controls of a building’s HVAC system, lighting, security and other systems throughout a building or multiple buildings. A BAS works with the goal of increasing building energy efficiency and lowering maintenance costs of a building. Additionally, building automation system is an energy management system that helps property managers and building owners bring down energy costs by efficiently controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning of a building while ensuring occupants’ comfort.
How does building automation system work?
BAS is basically integration of mechanical, electrical systems and equipment with microprocessors that communicate with each other and are sometimes connected to a computer. Moreover, the controllers and computers in the building automation system can either be connected to the internet or remain as a separate system for local peer- to-peer controller networks. Additionally, the BAS controllers themselves do not require a computer to implement the control tasks as the controllers come with their own inbuilt processors.
Every building automation system is composed of a set of common components including:
Sensors — These are devices which measure various aspects of a building such as CO2 output, temperature, humidity, or even the number of occupants in a room through occupancy sensors. The sensors transmit the data to a central controller.
Controllers — These components are basically the brains of the BAS as they process the data received from sensors and send commands on how the system will respond.
Output devices — These carry out the commands from the controller and include relays and actuators. For example, these can increase or decrease temperature in a particular part of the building, turn off lights in unused spaces, or turn on the air conditioning at a scheduled time.
Communications protocols — The BAS uses a specific language that can be interpreted by the system’s individual components. Two of the most widely used communication protocols in BAS are BACnet and Modbus.
Dashboard or user interface — This is basically the platform or interface users utilize to interact with the BAS. It displays information so that building managers and owners can monitor the condition of the building, alter control settings and so on.
In a conventional automated building there can be several building automation systems controllers for different types of air conditioning and heating equipment. However, BAS is not just limited to HVAC system and can include lighting, security, fire alarms and so on. Depending on the industry, equipment, building size and various other factors, the BAS engineer needs to choose the appropriate BAS system.
Here is a list of functions an efficient Building Automation System can perform:
Scheduling various building systems
Building automation system allows building managers to create routine schedules for enhanced comfort of occupants and maximize energy savings. For example, start heating on before occupants arrive, turning off lighting systems in offices after office hours and so on.
Energy monitoring system
An efficient BAS will have the ability to monitor energy usage in a building, including serve as an energy meter for various utilities such as electricity, gas, water, hot water and so on.
Triggering and sending alerts
BAS can enable setting up trigger points that allow alerts to be directly sent to building personnel via text or email for necessary action to be taken. For example, triggers can be set up for humidity levels, CO2 output, number of occupants and so on. When the operator receives the alert, actions can be implemented for corrective measures that would restore system efficiency and increase occupants comfort. This can also be used for fault detection and prevent costly repairs.
Optimize building systems
BAS works to regulate and optimize various building systems including the HVAC system. For example, it can optimize airflow from external sources which in turn regulates indoor air quality, provides optimal temperature and enhances user comfort.
Integrate adaptive learning
Today’s advanced building automation systems can be integrated with IoT and AI which allows adaptive learning. This provides enhanced performance of building systems and reduces utility bills. For instance, adaptive learning enables the system to compare indoor temperature to outside environment conditions and turn off or on the HVAC system or set proper temperature as required without any human intervention.
Since HVAC systems are major energy consuming building components, an efficient building automation and controls system provides full HVAC monitoring, even remotely through HVAC monitoring apps. It can let you know when an HVAC unit is running in both heating and cooling and help you cut down utility costs.
Provide historic data
Modern BAS offers a repository of useful building analytics data that facility managers or building managers can use to optimize efficiency, identify energy saving scope and cut down costs.
Although the main goal of BAS is to improve system efficiency, reduce costs and increase occupants comfort, over the years it has become an essential component in running and maintaining building systems efficiently and smoothly. As old technology becomes obsolete, it is important to upgrade the building automation and controls to ensure it is up to date with newer software. Connect with A-TECH Engineering Ltd– a leading building automation system and controls provider in Toronto and find out how we can transform your building into a smart and energy saving building for tomorrow.
Most people assume that air pollution is prevalent only outdoors whereas indoor air pollution can be just as detrimental to health. In fact, studies have clearly shown that air pollution can be 2 to 5 times worse indoors than outdoors and can result in a myriad of health problems. Indoor air pollution is particularly of great concern for schools as children as well as teachers, staff spend a large chunk of their days inside where poor indoor quality not only affects their health but also hinders productivity. In addition, children are more susceptible to the negative effects of poor indoor air quality as they are still in a developing stage. In this article we delve deeper into what good indoor air quality is as well as discuss the importance of indoor air quality in schools.
What is indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality also known as IAQ generally refers to the air quality within a building and its surroundings.
According to EPA, good IAQ management includes:
Controlling airborne pollutants to a minimum level
Introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air through ventilation
Controlled temperature and humidity
In addition, outdoor air pollution also affects indoor air pollution as it circulates inside the building.
Why is indoor air quality important for schools?
Many schools consist of old building structures, often not serviced or maintained properly. In addition, over time, outdated HVAC systems contribute to poor indoor air quality as it not only loses efficiency but also accumulates biofilms, germs, mold and dust. This poor air quality affects both the health of students, teachers and staff and also impairs the learning ability of children as well as reduces productivity. Good IAQ is an essential part of a healthy indoor environment and can greatly support schools in achieving their main goal of educating children.
What causes poor indoor air quality in schools?
Indoor air pollution in schools can result for various reasons such as:
- Inefficient HVAC systems providing poor air circulation
- Chemicals from pressed wood and other VOC materials
- High moisture, humidity and mold growth
- Outdoor pollution from adjacent parking lots or surrounding areas
How does it affect the children and other school staff?
Poor indoor air quality in schools can result in a plethora of short-term and long-term health problems in both children and other school staff including:
- Headaches, dizziness, tiredness
- Increased allergic reactions
- Asthma and other respiratory illnesses
- Risk of covid-19 spread and transmission and other airborne diseases
In some rare cases, indoor air pollution can result in fatal health conditions such as Legionnaire’s disease or carbon monoxide poisoning
A recent study revealed that 1 out of every 13 school going children suffers from asthma. Moreover, there has been overwhelming evidence that exposure to indoor air pollutants such as dust particles, molds can exacerbate asthma. These pollutants are present in large numbers in school premises. In addition, it has also been revealed that exhaust fumes from school buses and other vehicles also contribute to asthma and other respiratory illnesses. All of these negatively impact not only the health of building occupants but also performance of students and teachers alike.
Impacts of poor indoor air quality on children’s learning ability
Poor IAQ can increase health problems and lead to increased absenteeism. Studies have shown asthma is a leading cause of children missing school frequently.
Studies have also shown indoor air quality directly affects children’s learning ability and poor IAQ reduces it.
In addition, it can also deteriorate and reduce lifespan of school equipment and structure itself, resulting in chance of schools to be closed and creating a negative branding image of the school.
How do you know that your school has IAQ issues?
Indoor air pollution can be tricky to determine as over short-term it does not readily produce any observable impacts on health and environment. However, if you notice children or staff continuously having allergic reactions such as coughing, sneezing, showing signs of fatigue, lacking in concentration, conjunctivitis and so on, then the problem could be poor air quality. Since every child is different, indoor air quality is likely to have varying effects on individuals and one group of students may be more vulnerable than others due to various health conditions. Usually children suffering from asthma, respiratory illness, and a weak immune system are more prone to the effects of indoor air pollution as their symptoms are likely to be aggravated by air pollutants.
Also, since the children are at the development stage, they are more vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality than the adults. They are more susceptible because they inhale more pollutants per body weight than adults due to higher breathing rates which is why indoor air quality is of paramount importance in schools.
How to improve indoor air quality in schools?
Here are some of the easy and cost-effective ways you can improve air quality in schools:
Improving ventilation – Make sure the building has ventilation systems running throughout the school period and rooftop exhaust fans as well as air handling units do not have any obstructions to airflow. Keep windows and doors open when it is nice outside to let in the fresh air.
Have an efficient HVAC system – HVAC system is an essential component to ensure good air quality in schools. Make sure you regularly service and maintain the HVAC system by professionals to ensure it is operating properly. It will not only improve ventilation but also reduce your utility bills.
Invest in HVAC monitoring app– With HVAC monitoring app, you do not have to remember to schedule servicing and maintenance of your school’s HVAC system. You can get real-time updates, receive instant alerts and take preventive steps to ensure the system is running smoothly.
Prevent microbial and mold growth – One of the leading contributors to indoor air pollution is microbial and mold growth. You can invest in CO2, temperature, and humidity monitoring to ensure the levels are optimal to prevent microbial and mold growth. It will also enhance occupants’ comfort and improve performance of children in school.
Keep your classroom clean – To fight indoor air pollution, it is necessary to make sure your classrooms and other school spaces are cleaned regularly to prevent dust and other pollutants build up which deteriorate indoor air quality. Steer away from using chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution. In addition, you should also make sure the building surroundings are cleaned regularly as outdoor pollutants can affect indoor air quality as well.
With these steps, you can ensure a healthy environment and improve indoor air quality in schools, thus helping children have a better health and learning environment. If you suspect your school has indoor air quality issues, connect with A-TECH Engineering Ltd. – a leading HVAC contractor based in Toronto for a free indoor air quality assessment today and find out how we can improve air quality of your school.