Property Owners and Facility Managers Must Consider the Relationship Between Automation and Building Codes Early to Discover Worthwhile Opportunities

Wireless technologies have increased as a flexible alternative and allow facility managers to exploit the energy-saving potential of a building more quickly and with less effort.Wireless technologies have increased as a flexible alternative and allow facility managers to exploit the energy-saving potential of a building more quickly and with less effort.

In the U.S., there is no official national building code that applies to all states. On the contrary, this field is highly fragmented, differing from state to state. In addition, local governments can modify the codes they adopt and add their
own standards. However, building codes are binding laws and their legal requirements must be met when the codes are adopted by statute. In May, President Obama committed to strengthen building codes as part of his Climate Action Plan.

Wireless technologies have increased as a flexible alternative and allow facility managers to exploit the energy-saving potential of a building more quickly and with less effort.

Wireless technologies have increased as a flexible alternative and allow facility managers to exploit the energy-saving potential of a building more quickly and with less effort.

The aim, according to “The White House, Fact Sheet: President Obama Announces Commitments and Executive Actions to Advance Solar Deployment and Energy Efficiency”, is to significantly reduce energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings and help to cut CO2 emissions by 230 million metric tons by 2030.

These conditions challenge property owners and facility managers when it comes to newly built properties and existing buildings. The requirements of the different codes and continuously more ambitious goals for energy savings make it increasingly difficult to decide how to meet specific measures. Major questions occur: Which measures result in significant energy savings? Which areas of a building provide the highest savings potentials? What technologies are available today? How can a solution’s sustainability be calculated? How can a successful price-performance ratio be ensured?

For answers to these questions, building-automation solutions have a critical influence. However, a detailed execution of automation is certainly lacking in most building codes. Consequently, property owners and facility managers must make inquiries about variations and opportunities in the automated business. This is a big challenge in existing properties, especially, because traditional automation systems mostly need complex wiring. Not only does this mean elaborate planning but also time- and cost-intensive measures for renovation.

Flexible Solutions

Wireless technologies have increased as a flexible alternative and established themselves well. Here, the sensors, delivering the necessary data and process control commands, can be wirelessly placed in the building at the appropriate points of measurement. Consequently, facility managers are able to exploit the energy-saving potential of a building more quickly and with less effort. In addition, the freely placed components fit into flexible office concepts, in which partitions and room divisions should fit into the heterogeneous requirements of different renters. In the case of a change in the office structure, the switches and sensors relocate easily. Moreover, when devices and applications with batteryless wireless technology are employed, the life-cycle costs and maintenance efforts remain low.

Products with batteryless wireless technology use energy from the surrounding environment. Instead of batteries, motion (pressing of a button), light (room lighting, sunlight) or differences in temperature (between a heating unit and its environment) serve as sources of energy. Constantly changing batteries is no longer an issue because there are no batteries to change. Especially in large installations, building operators save huge efforts, unwanted life-cycle costs and regular hazardous waste disposal. For example, most wireless sensors work with two batteries that last for around two years. In an office complex with 10,000 wireless components installed, the facility management must replace around 30 batteries per day. This is a problem that has been solved thanks to batteryless wireless technology.

The wireless communication follows the EnOcean wireless standard at 902 MHz that is optimized for energy harvesting wireless communication in North America. The frequency is optimally suited for data transfer through walls and provides a safeguard against other wireless transmitters while offering robust performance, fast system response and elimination of data collisions. Inside buildings, the range of self-powered wireless sensors is up to 100 feet and about 1,000 feet in free field. Based on this standard, planners have access today to more than 1,200 interoperable products for different uses of building automation.

IMAGES: EnOcean

About the Author

Graham Martin
Graham Martin is chairman of the San Ramon, Calif.-based EnOcean Alliance, which is composed of building-automation innovators who create sustainable buildings by using energy-harvesting wireless technology.

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