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How IAQ Monitoring Optimizes Commercial Buildings Through Building Automation

Now, more than ever, indoor air quality management is crucial for creating a safe, healthy space for living and working. As recent developments like the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated, we need innovative solutions that drive improvements in building wellness and efficiency. 

As one of these solutions, building automation is swiftly becoming a staple of modern buildings worldwide. Just how does building automation work? What are the benefits of implementing building automation? How can indoor air quality data boost wellness and efficiency through building automation? 

We’d like to take this article to discuss building automation and the crucial role that air quality monitoring can play in building automation. Without further adieu, let’s get into building automation!

Building Automation Overview

Building automation is certainly a complex and fascinating topic, one that we won’t be able to fully elucidate in the space of one article, but let’s first define some terms and provide an overview of building automation for context before diving into air quality monitoring specifically.  

What Is Building Automation?

Building automation systems (BAS) are smart, interconnected networks of hardware and software that monitor and control building systems and services. Building automation systems link the functions of previously disjoint systems, like the HVAC, lighting, security, and alarm systems, into one integrated network. 

Additional terms used for BAS are building management systems (BMS), building management and control system (BMCS), and direct digital controls (DDC), though each of these terms have somewhat different meanings.

Components of Building Automation Systems & How They Fit Together

Building automation systems contain many devices operating within a hierarchy. A basic breakdown of this hierarchy contains three levels: field, automation, and management. 

Image via publications.lib.chalmers.se

Starting from the ground-up, the first level is the field level. This level contains all the input and output devices that monitor and control the building. For example, air quality sensors, actuators, sprinklers, and smoke detectors would all be included in the field level, as they physically control or sense building conditions. The field level is followed up by the automation level, which contains the advanced controllers that regulate the field devices. 

The top level is the management level. This level includes all devices that manage or monitor the BAS and interact with personnel and the Internet. Devices within this level include web servers and workstations. 

Building automation protocols

Building automation protocols are sets of rules that dictate how systems communicate, much like a language. Protocols are like the glue that holds these systems together; they enable disjoint systems to exchange data within one network. Some common examples of building automation protocols are:

What Role Does Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Play in Building Automation?

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of building automation, let’s discuss how indoor air quality monitoring fits into BAS. 

Within the hierarchy we described above, indoor air quality monitors are situated within the field level. These devices collect data and physically monitor the conditions of the building, acting as an input device. Indoor air quality data is then communicated to other components of the BAS through a protocol like BACnet where the data can drive changes in the HVAC system. 

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Air quality data can help the building automation system adjust ventilation rates through opening or closing dampers in different rooms. 

There are several ways air quality monitoring can be leveraged in a BAS, depending on the air quality parameters you’re monitoring. For example, demand controlled ventilation (DCV) is a common application of carbon dioxide data. Because building occupants exhale carbon dioxide (among other gases), carbon dioxide data collected by air quality sensors can estimate occupancy. BAS can minimize ventilation rates when occupancy and CO2 levels are low to save on energy and boost ventilation rates during high-occupancy periods to ensure high productivity levels and performance. 

For additional applications of indoor air quality data in BAS, we recommend checking out our article here, which details several cases where particulate matter, TVOC, ozone, and thermal comfort sensors can help create a more energy-efficient, healthy building through BAS. 

What Are the Benefits of Building Automation Systems With IAQ Monitoring?

Now to answer the question: why invest in building automation with IAQ data?

The main idea of building automation is working smarter not harder, increasing efficiency without sacrificing comfort and security. With support for BACnet/IP, real-time, continuous air quality data can be seamlessly integrated into building automation systems such as:

In the context of indoor air quality monitoring, building automation can: 

  1. Save on energy costs - One of the most significant benefits of building automation lies in energy savings. Changing the environmental conditions inside the building based on IAQ sensor input ensures that, when the building is unoccupied, building systems are running at minimal levels, which reduces the building’s overall energy use. 
  2. Reduce environmental impact - As we stated above, building automation reduces overall energy usage while maintaining healthy air quality conditions in the building. Not only does this energy usage reduction mean lower energy bills, but the environmental impact of the building is likewise reduced. 
  3. Boost wellness - Indoor air quality and occupant wellness are fundamentally linked; better air quality will improve employee productivity and health. Incorporating continuous air quality monitoring into a BAS ensures that building occupants are breathing better consistently, which won’t necessarily happen with IAQ spot testing. 

In addition to the three benefits above, integrating IAQ monitoring into building automation can also help you comply with energy codes and work toward building certifications. For example, LEED has an indoor air quality component which awards points for implementing continuous carbon dioxide monitoring. 

Your Powerful Building Automation Solutions: The Sensedge and Sensedge Mini

Kaiterra’s Sensedge and Sensedge Mini deliver accurate, reliable IAQ data that you can use to optimize your building automation system. Equipped with sensors for particulate matter, TVOC, CO2, temperature, and relative humidity, Kaiterra’s commercial air quality monitors can maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system, eliminating energy waste while simultaneously ensuring a safe, healthy interior environment.

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Kaiterra’s devices feature flexible connectivity options to fit any project, seamlessly integrating into your building automation network through:

  • BACnet/IP
  • Modbus
  • Cloud and local MQTT

To learn more about the Sensedge and Sensedge Mini, contact our team below:

Get a demo now

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Kaiterra is a global company on a mission to end air pollution. We make air monitors that empower people to make small changes in their everyday lives and help with researchers, NGOs, and governments around the world to end air pollution at the source.