From Home Automation to Building Automation

From Home Automation to Building Automation

When we think of home automation, or domotics as it is often called, we think of smart thermostats, motion sensor controlled lighting and automated heating and ventilation systems. It can be defined as the use of one or more computers that control basic home functions and features automatically and sometimes remotely.

My imagination wanders when thinking of my dream autonomous home. Imagine a disco button that sets the mood right or a toaster that gives bi-minutely updates of how brown your bread is getting by streaming a live video feed straight to your phone! I know I’d like to live in a home/world like that.

All gimmicks aside there are some truly helpful features of automating the functions of your home. However slow the adoption of such technologies are in the common home, we are definitely headed in that direction. How effective is home automation? Are there stats out there that may sway you to automate thy home!?? What exactly are the savings of home automation?

The savings happen on 5 fronts;

Indoor Climate

Close to half of your home’s energy costs are associated with heating and cooling (EIA). Unless you’ve already invested in a great programmable thermostat or taken the plunge with a Wi-fi model, it’s highly likely your HVAC system isn’t reaching its efficiency potential. The system probably runs constantly when you’re gone, heats/cools room you don’t often use, and depends on you to adjust the temperature throughout the day. These are all characteristics of inefficient heating and cooling. Automated temperature control and zoning capabilities heat and cool only rooms that are occupied and reaches the desired temperature much faster — improving HVAC system performance and reducing your heating and cooling expenses.

  • About 39% of the energy used by the average home goes towards heating and cooling. Source
  • The Nest Learning Thermostat typically shows savings of 10% to 12% on heating costs and 15% on cooling costs.Source
  • Nest estimates that smart thermostat owners save an average of $131 to $145 per year. Source
  • Other smart thermostats can save customers an average of 23% on their combined heating and cooling costs. Source

Electric

Leave the room, turn it off! This is something you very well tell your children (and remind yourself!) all the time. Rummaging through remotes, climbing stairs or trekking across the house to your home theater to do so isn’t top priority — you’re busy, we get it. What if we told you that with smart home technologies you’ll never leave a light, TV or other appliance running longer than necessary again? Strategic placement of occupancy sensors and motion detectors does the work for you, so you can spend your time and energy doing something else.

Lighting

Lighting is another area in your home that’s extremely inefficient. Not just when you leave the house and forget to flip the switch, but when you’re home and moving about from room to room. Depending on what types of bulbs you use, electricity cost fluctuates, but so does operating life — both of which affect energy costs. Timing-based automated technologies, like lighting control, can be optimized on a schedule so lights instantly turn on when and where you need them, and turn off without thought. What’s more is that you can use dimmers to reduce wattage and output to save energy.

  • Using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is one of the most energy-efficient ways to light your home. LEDs use only 20% to 25% as much electricity as traditional light bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. Source
  • Dimming your lights, which you can do with smart lighting, will extend the life of the lightbulbs and save you money as well. Source

Water

Water consumption is a major source of energy in homes. Smart shower heads and touchless faucets are just several new technologies that help you cut back. Kitchens and baths are the first places you may think of when it comes to saving, but outdoor water use is a big factor. Per the EPA, nearly 1/3 of your water consumption is outdoors, and about 50% of it is wasted. Just like lighting and home security is controlled by a single device, smart irrigation systems work similarly to stop waste and save money. Newer models even react to real-time weather so you don’t have to give it a second thought.

Insurance

Beyond energy savings, automated technologies can reduce home insurance costs. Although insurance companies are in the business of paying claims, they also want to prevent them and mitigate loss. They understand home automation lessens the incidence of claims due to fire and water damage as well as theft. Automated systems with security features, smoke, flood, carbon monoxide and other detectors may make you eligible for a generous discount on your home insurance policy. Some insurance companies offer up to 20% reduction in premiums for such systems.

These aspects combined make for a solid argument for home automation. At this point in time the initial capital investment to install domotics is too large for most. However, as these technologies become standard and newbuild projects have these products baked in by design the demand will grow and adoption will be more widespread. It is interesting to think about how this will evolve. I believe that what is happening to smart homes is basically a precursor to what will happen to buildings. If each apartment in a block is connected to some sort of home automation platform, why not connect each apartment to a building-wide automation platform?

 

Building Automation

The commonly known definition of Building Automation is “A building automation system that includes a comprehensive and coordinated control of one or more major system functions required in a facility.”

 

Home automation is more a subset of building automation as most functionalities are shared. They do however use different protocols and technologies, i.e. they don’t really speak the same language.

The way I see it, if it were applied to residential buildings (which it rarely is), is that building automation monitors the collective data produced by each apartment’s domotics to further improve the entire building’s efficiency. It is however, not widely used in residential buildings, more so in office buildings where the majority of the building is out of use for 16 hours of the day. For example, nowadays in France around half of the available desks in an office building are unused because of teleworking. Just saving 10% on the space needed for workplaces in a 10,000-m2 office can save as much as € 1,000,000 per year, so the use of office space needs to become flexible. Secondly, the productivity of the employees can benefit through a well-adapted working environment, ensuring comfort, clean air and good lighting conditions. And thirdly there is asset management. With a smart BMS you can optimize the building control.

“European households account for around 68% of the total energy use in buildings.”

Buildings account for 41% of primary energy consumption in Europe. 85% of that is used for heating and cooling and the remaining 15% is electrical energy. Source. The latest figures that I found on the share of energy use between residential and non-residential is from 2009. European households account for around 68% of the total energy use in buildings. source. With these statistics in mind coupled with the ongoing urbanization, where living in apartment buildings will become the norm, we can safely assume that building automation will be applied to residential buildings in the coming years.

“Home automation is here and its going to stay, its only a matter of time before the same techniques are applied to the whole building.”

The difference between applying building automation to commercial space and residential buildings is that each apartment is mostly privately owned. The majority of the building is not shared so integrating building automation tech can only be fully effective if the inhabitants agree to be connected to the other apartments and to the building. Its only as effective if the inhabitants are willing to share information about how much they use.

I do however feel like there is a shift happening in apartment block construction. I have seen more and more projects popping up where there are shared facilities or communal spaces. These projects put more focus on building a community of people that have their own private space but still agree to share communal areas such as the garden, kitchen, gym, etc.

 

Projects such as these may be a potential market for building automation that would benefit each inhabitant. Building automation will undoubtedly become more important as higher levels of automation are essential for maintaining the profitability of buildings. Controlling the operating costs of all buildings and ensuring competitiveness of buildings is important in areas where tenants have other options for residence.

 

 

As is always the case with these blog articles, we like to finish off with a ‘advertisement’ for what we are doing with our company, Bao.

For those who don’t know, we have developed a product that aims to tackle the increasing prices of residential construction and hefty environmental impact of the sector as a whole. Our product, SAM, is a prefab unit that contains all the building utilities needed in an apartment as well as the kitchen and bathroom. We basically place and install all the utilities (electricity, water, heating, ventilation, domotics) in just 3 days. Our website explains it all in some more detail.

Our product is essentially the brain of a living space. Now what can you achieve if you connect each brain together? What value can you provide to each individual inhabitant or to those that own the building itself?

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