Electrical EquipmentElectricity 101

Building Automation Systems Networking, Benefits, and Challenges

Building AutomationA building automation system enables various components in a building, to communicate with each other. This enhances living conditions within the space while reducing energy use and operational costs.

A basic building automation system (BAS) can monitor parameters such as the temperature, light, humidity, occupancy and activities levels. Using algorithms, it adjusts the appropriate equipment to suit program levels. Having automatic controls improves internal conditions, making a space more comfortable, safe and secure while reducing energy consumption.

Other features include monitoring the equipment condition, as well as safety or security issues. The system can send alerts or sound alarms when there is a malfunction, risk or threat.

What the building automation system does

  • Enable systems such as HVAC, lighting, security and others to operate on a specific schedule or based on certain parameters. This makes the system more intelligent and increases the level of control and efficiency.
  • Increase the communication and coordination of various components in a building.
  • Detect when a person enters and leaves a room or building. For security purposes, the system can be programmed to send an alert or turn on a camera and direct its feed to security personnel.
  • Monitor HVAC operation and send a notification when the system is running on both the cooling and heating modes. This can help in adjusting the settings to increase energy savings without affecting comfort levels.
  • The BAS can increase safety by detecting dangers such as fire or when people are stuck in an elevator. Alerts are then sent to facility managers or rescue teams. In addition, the system can be configured to turn off equipment that could endanger the lives of occupants.

Components of a building automation system

Building AutomationTo enable the monitoring and control of the various components in a structure, building automation relies on the following basic components:

  • Sensors: Comprised of electronics, mechanical, optical, and chemical, as well as a combination of these. The sensors determine the room occupancy, lighting levels, temperature, humidity, and others. There are both analog and digital sensors.
  • Controllers: These are usually electronics devices that receive and process the signals from the sensors. This provides an appropriate command or output control signal based on the input data. Controllers vary in size and complexity and so do their functions, capabilities and connections.
  • Output devices/actuators: These include switches, relays, actuators, etc. Once the controller processes the input data, it generates the appropriate control signal. This goes through the output device to the respective systems. Output devices act in a way to adjust the electrical, mechanical, security, HVAC and other systems based on the programmed values.
  • Networking and communication: A network, comprised of cables, routers and other devices interconnects all the various devices and systems in the building. The majority of today’s systems are IP enabled and can communicate over the standard data networks. However, there are other commonly used BAS communications protocols such as BACnet, LonWorks, and Modbus, specifically designed for building automation. Standard communication and networking protocols allow devices from different manufacturers to work together.
  • The Dashboard: This can be in the form of a screen or user interface for displaying the BAS data or interacting with the system. The dashboard is usually located within the building, but some have the option of remote access through various devices. This allows facility managers to monitor and control the building conditions from anywhere.


Building automation is the future of energy efficient cities. In order to save our planet’s natural resources, these innovative concepts will continue to expand, incorporating newer strategies as they are discovered.

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