Building Automation Systems: A Cost Analysis

What you don’t know about building automation systems can save you more than just utility costs.  Building owners and facility managers understand how BAS helps to monitor heating and cooling demand and usage, and there is no doubt that the savings is considerable.  For instance, a Building automation system can save .20 to .40 cents on every square foot.  With a building of 75,000 square feet, it can add up quickly.  But HVAC costs are just the surface of what building automation systems can do. Here’s a breakdown of the savings you may be missing:

Costs Saving Breaks with BAS

Let’s begin with the most obvious way to save with building automation systems – running, maintaining and replacing equipment when needed by using scheduling features that BAS systems bring to the party. For example, timers automatically set to increase or decrease indoor temperatures depending upon occupancy whether it’s a high-rise office building or a large university.

Another feature with a Building Automation System is the availability of occupancy sensors that sends notification to equipment to run within the required frequency.  It not only provides a simple ON/OFF mechanism but includes a standby mode to expertly balance energy use with costs and assists with equipment cycling.  For instance, in unoccupied mode the standard temperature might be reduced by 15 degrees. A standby mode might lower it only by three to five degrees, but maintain heating, cooling and comfort for tenants who have gone to lunch or an off-site meeting and who plan to return. With Building Automation Systems, HVAC can be scheduled for lower temps when the building is closed on weekends.

Building Automation Systems and Lighting

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting in commercial facilities account for 20 percent of total energy consumption which makes it the second largest category in energy use. Scheduling lighting needs, both indoor and outdoor, can be accomplished with BAS. Scheduling can be instated that turns off lighting completely and then back on, dimming and even scheduling for daylight savings time, too.  Also consider elevators and escalators which can also be scheduled to be turned off or on depending upon traffic volume.

Other Streams of Revenue with Building Automation Systems

Okay, so we’ve hit upon two areas where BAS systems can improve the bottom line: lighting and HVAC.  What other ways can a building automation system create streams of revenue?  Data gathered by the system can help justify increases and accurately charge tenants when energy demands increase or decrease.  For instance schools rent their auditoriums and other space to non-profits and community groups, and with data analysis, can validate costs to cover energy usage when not used during normal school hours.

Cost and ROI with Building Automation Systems

According to Buildings, the average cost per square foot to outfit a facility with a building automation System (BAS) is $2.30, for a 100, 000 building that would be $250,000.  But time doesn’t stand still and neither does smart building technologies.  The Internet of Things (IoT) with increasingly smarter sensors, controls and data analytics is constantly reducing the cost to retrofit existing buildings.  Again, Buildings suggest that the average cost to implement a building automation system can cost anywhere from $5000 to $50,000.

According to Intel, deployment of traditional BMS costs $2.50 per square foot, but can be as high as $7.50 per square foot.  Return on Investment is high and can take as much as four years to recover which is why building owners are so reluctant to install equipment that can help with energy and operational efficiency. Only 10 percent of commercial buildings in the United States currently using some BMS system, so what can be done with the other 90 percent that continue to waste resources, energy and operational savings?

IoT Devices, Sensors and Controls

The next generation of analytics, sensors and controls will be with IoT technologies that remain connected to any device making it non-invasive, cost-effective and seamless to install.  No specially trained technician is required to do the installation. What’s more, the ‘data’ gathered by these IoT-generated Building Management Systems can be maintained in cloud-based environments with analytics as a services using existing networks.  Even building managers can update and monitor the spaces with tablets and smartphones.

In conclusion, facility and building managers can look to two facilities taking the lead in Building automation systems: hospitals and data centers.  Both facilities require 24-hour operations making them ideal models in cost savings for any facility or commercial building.  Hospitals are required, due to their critical nature to the general public, to focus as well as balance healthcare costs with operating costs.  While data center managers need to maintain optimal performance from mechanical equipment to verify that large computer networks are constantly available and operating efficiently while keeping a handle on costs.