What is a Building Automation System? January 17, 2017 | Alex Richardson

A Building Automation System is a digital system that operates the controls of a building from a central hub. The software at the heart of this type of system operates using a logic algorithm to manage controls according to direct inputs and preset conditions, giving rise to the term “smart building”.

A Building Automation System, or BAS as it is commonly abbreviated, networks and controls almost every major element of a space. A short list of systems automated in the typical smart building might include the following:

  • Lighting and other electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • HVAC systems
  • Fire alarms and other emergency systems
  • Elevators and other mechanical systems
  • Surveillance cameras and other security systems


What is the purpose of a Building Automation System?

When it is being used correctly, a smart building is greener, more user-friendly, and less expensive to operate than a regular building.

Some of the ways that this works are obvious. A BAS can be configured to reduce heating or cooling use after tenants go home for the day, for example.

Other uses are a little bit more sophisticated. A modern BAS in a building equipped with digital sensors can learn use patterns to predict when a room or unit will be out of use and adjust HVAC use accordingly. In large buildings, a BAS can be configured to stagger its daily powering-on program in order to reduce peak load, and as a consequence, energy bills.

Large retail spaces often employ light sensors to detect the level of sunlight entering from rooftop windows, allowing their BAS to adjust their interior lighting use accordingly.

Experts in building automation are finding new areas for resource savings all the time by making use of increasingly sophisticated logic algorithms, better metering and sensors, and novel building design techniques.


What isn’t a Building Automation System?

It’s pretty common for a BAS to be used in conjunction with some form of smart metering or energy management software, but they are not the same. By itself, a BAS provides building management staff with the tools to control a building, but no information about what is going on in that building.

This can still be useful: A smart building doesn’t need sensors to be programmed to turn off the lights overnight, for example.

To really get the most out of a BAS though, it is important to invest in a diverse array of smart meters and sensors to detect resource use and other relevant data points in real time. The more access a BAS has to data, the better it can fine tune resource allocation in the building throughout the day.


What are the benefits of a Building Automation System?

A modern BAS equipped with appropriate meters and sensors conveys benefits in three main categories: comfort, financial, and environmental.

Comfort Advantages

In terms of comfort, the most obvious benefit from a BAS is temperature regulation. By automating HVAC systems, a BAS can help to avoid frigid and sweltering mornings in the winter and summer, respectively, by powering up temperature control systems before anyone arrives and turning them down after everyone leaves.

Building Automation Systems are also sometimes used to regulate the amount of fresh air that is allowed into a building or to maximize the ratio of natural-to-electric light.

Financial Advantages

A correctly used BAS will generally pay for itself over time in lower utility bills alone. According to one estimate, simply monitoring occupancy and allowing the BAS to adjust HVAC use accordingly results in savings between 10 and 30 percent. Reductions in peak load and other energy use benefits serve to further decrease utility costs.

An automation system can also help to optimize the use of heavy pieces of equipment, increasing their lifespans and providing more indirect savings.

It is also important to factor in property value increases. Properly managed smart buildings are more comfortable and more environmentally friendly, making them more desirable for certain tenants. This often results in a significant bump in property value.

Environmental Advantages

While environmental advantages don’t generally accrue to the building owner directly, as noted above, they can serve to make a property more desirable. Many owners also have a personal interest in maintaining a portfolio of energy efficient buildings.

Buildings operating a BAS tend to have significantly smaller carbon footprints. A building that also includes smart metering for use with its BAS can also use that data to validate its energy usage for regulatory agencies. This opens to door to certifications like ENERGY STAR, Tenant Star, or LEED.

About The Author

Alex Richardson is a staff writer at Aquicore. He writes about green policy, energy efficiency, and innovation that affects commercial real estate. Alex.Richardson@aquicore.com.