Vimal Mohanan, smart buildings product specialist at ABB, discusses how to control, analyse and optimise your smart building…and save money in the process.

Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of global CO2 emissions – so it’s vital to find ways to make them more energy efficient. We all understand the benefits posed by smart building technology, but cost is often a barrier.

Fortunately, technology can optimise your building’s energy use, promote safety, and cut costs. It can achieve energy savings of up to 20 percent. It is also a tactic that helps to secure sustainable building certifications such as BREEAM or the new NABERS rating scheme for the energy efficiency of buildings in the UK, which enable building owners to earn higher rents.

It’s about choosing smart technology that makes a building more energy efficient while also maximising your return on investment (RoI). As an example, ABB’s i-bus KNX system is projected to cut energy consumption by over 15 percent at The New Development Bank (NDB) headquarters in Shanghai. It integrates than 8,000 circuits controlling lighting, blinds and windows and avoids excessive energy consumption through smart control of lighting, HVAC and shading.

A few simple steps and considerations to help you make the most of smart building solutions.

Structure your wiring

Wiring is a major point of difference between a traditional building and a smart building. Cables in a traditional building carry power but smart buildings also require communication to support systems such as KNX. Although wireless solutions exist, it makes a lot of sense to hard wire data connectivity into the building by installing structured wiring during construction or refurbishment.

This will futureproof the building for the small extra cost of wiring that includes power as well as a bus communication line. This bus line carries the control signals for devices like movement detectors, harmonious lighting, automated heating, and shutter management

One way to imagine this is if you have one switch at your house’s front door that simultaneously shuts all the blinds, turns off the lights, and puts the heating on standby. This reduces any manual human input that might waste energy.

The main benefit of structured wiring is that it future proofs a building by providing flexibility to add new devices over time, or to extend and possibly repurpose buildings altogether. Installing structured wiring reduces costs over the lifetime of the building.

The Casa Capace apartments in Sydney show how this works. They were developed to support independence for people living with disabilities. Residents use a smart phone to control HVAC, lighting, electric doors and TVs. They can also adjust the height of kitchen counters through the app and in future could add living aids such as hoists.

Integrate devices

Interoperability is another key consideration. This enables connection of devices from different manufacturer. However, sourcing devices from a single vendor will ensure that they can be integrated quickly and easily as they’re designed to work together seamlessly. This minimises connectivity issues, achieving a “plug-and-play” approach that will save you time and money.

Meter and monitor

Smart systems can also help you pinpoint which appliances in your building are using excess energy so that you can target efficiency improvements.

Devices like ABB M4M meters and circuit monitoring systems help by acquiring, storing and analysing data to give you the insight to take action – resulting in savings of up to 30 percent. A typical control unit can connect up to 32 separate meters and 96 sensors. This scales up in larger buildings by connecting multiple units.

Automate systems

Working alongside a building’s automation system, a building management system (BMS) allows you to programme functions like heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lights and blinds. Traditionally, these can be set to come off and on at specific times.

However, an intelligent BMS like ABB Cylon, goes beyond this by finding ways to save energy without affecting comfort on a 24/7 basis. It uses real-time input from sensors to adjust systems automatically – switching off HVAC and lights when a rooms are empty, for example. By connecting it to online weather forecasts or external temperature sensors, you’ll have even more responsiveness, with lighting, shading and HVAC optimising comfort

A smart BMS will also monitor equipment performance in real-time, raising alerts to a building manager’s smartphone or laptop so they can identify and resolve issues quickly. This reduces downtime and operational costs, and saves energy too.

The BP1 estate in Canary Wharf, for example, uses an ABB Cylon Unitron BMS across various office buildings, light railway station, and banqueting and shopping centres. With a total of 16,200 devices across the site’s 92,900 square metres, the BMS saves energy and has helped the facility achieve an “excellent” BREEAM rating.

A look to the future…

Over the last year, there’s been growing interest in the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) in the smart buildings market. Solutions under development will enable buildings to “think” on their own with little intervention from humans, further optimising and streamlining energy usage.

Another important trend is the wave of refurbishment and repurposing of existing buildings. ABB is working on projects that will see industrial and residential buildings being retrofitted with smart solutions for optimal energy use.

It’s never too late to optimise. The adoption of smart technology is a crucial step towards achieving energy efficiency and sustainability goals. By analysing, controlling and upgrading building systems, you can benefit both the planet and your pocket.