Press Releases

Robo-Buildings

Putting the “Auto” in Automation

Sep 01, 2017

by Kevin Callahan

The large office building where my dentist is located has a front door with a sign that reads: “Automatic door: push button to open.” If you have to push a button to open it, is it truly automatic?

In some ways, today’s building automation systems (BAS) are like that door.

No doubt BAS have simplified and automated many aspects of building systems – from HVAC to lighting, access control, even landscape irrigation – but the true promise of automation is still emerging.

At the simplest level, facility pros set a schedule in the BAS, and the system turns things on and off as needed – that’s automatic.

At a more sophisticated level, building managers are using their BAS to monitor building systems and understand operating trends that help them know where energy is being wasted. And, to ensure continuous operations, especially in critical facilities, they rely on their BAS to sound an alarm when something goes out of whack – say an air handling unit that begins operating outside spec and needs to be repaired or replaced.

In these latter two scenarios, because a human has to notice something is wrong in the building and take action to fix it, the BAS is like the door to my dentist’s office building. A human has to adjust the HVAC set points to save energy or to write a service order for the failing air handling unit. That’s not automatic!​

But… Truly automatic BAS are on the way. As artificial intelligence is becoming more wide spread, and available at an attainable cost, look for more fully automated BAS in the next three to five years. Using artificial intelligence built into the BAS, rather than just sounding an alarm that lets a human know they need to turn off a failing unit, adjust a building system, call a service tech to fix a problem, etc., many of those actions will be automated. This doesn’t mean robots roving the building fixing things – at least not yet! – but rather, the BAS taking remedial action. So, assume a chiller goes out of spec, the BAS could adjust the set points to ensure continued comfort for the building occupants, and send a service request to make the specific fix needed.

Such a BAS puts the “auto” in building automation, and ensures the BAS is not like the door to my dentist’s building saying “push button to operate.”​




Kevin Callahan is a product owner and evangelist for Alerton, Lynnwood, Wash., a Honeywell business specializing in building management systems. He has 40 years of experience in the building control technologies field, including control systems design and commissioning, product development and user training. Contact him at kevin.callahan@alerton.com​.​​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​​​