Integrating HVAC, Lighting and Building Automation Systems

The Quest for Energy Efficiency

The main driver for integrating building automation systems is the cost of energy. Prices relatively have fallen compared to the peaks and the spikes that characterized last year’s market, but the expected increase in demand due to stabilizing world economies and the emergence of new markets will most likely push the price of energy towards an upward direction.

Although there were recent new discoveries of natural gas deposits that could boost existing reserves up, as well as new renewable energy projects that focus on wind, solar PV and concentrating PV taking shape and nearly operational, there is still the question of storage and transmission issues. This even gets even more complicated if political agenda is taken into consideration. This and continuing pressures from new clean air policies and carbon emission reduction efforts will make it certain that energy prices will continue to rise substantially in the coming periods – thus increasing the clamor for more energy efficient buildings and establishments.

A Fully Integrated Building Automation System

An effective green building program should start with establishing a fully integrated building automation system that can address all the individual issues and concerns of each building element taken into consideration. Not only that, each of these building elements should first achieve better efficiencies before building planners and project managers even attempt to integrate all these separate systems. A good starting point would be to follow the protocols described in LEED reference guides for new or previously existing building projects.

Energy efficiency initiatives in individual building elements can create significant reduction results, with HVAC and lighting systems at the forefront. Significant and probably the largest savings can be achieved through the HVAC systems with new Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) developed such as demand controlled ventilation in buildings with variable occupancy rates using automated airflow adjustments using carbon dioxide sensors.

At least 35% of the electricity consumed in commercial buildings and establishments come from lighting. Aside from that, the heat generated by lighting systems can also affect HVAC performance, thereby affecting the overall efficiency of the building. For this reason, ECMs focused on lighting are being introduced and implemented including daylighting controls, automatic dimming of non-emergency lighting, and automatic lighting controls based on occupancy using ultrasonic or passive infrared (PIR) sensors.

Although individual energy reduction strategies can be performed for each building element like those described above, integrating all these elements into a unified building automation system will open new doors to even more energy efficiency strategies. A good example is the use of occupancy sensors that controls not only lighting but the HVAC system as well. With integrated systems, energy efficiency strategies will be easier and simpler to implement with even far better results.

Integrated building automated systems are primarily an evolution of earlier protocols of energy management control systems. With an integrated building system, monitoring, recording and controlling all pertinent information needed to operate the building and its substructure can be done from a single workstation. Under this system, operational costs can be well under control and energy saving strategies can be properly implemented, increasing the building’s energy efficiency and paving the way for future improvements to come.