Building automation

Building automation. Equipped with edge systems and AI, modern buildings not only boast unprecedented sustainability. But also provide occupants with greater convenience and comfort.

Building requirements are becoming ever more stringent. Not only are they supposed to offer comfort, convenience and safety to those who live and work in them. But also consume less and less energy and incur minimal operating costs.

In order to achieve these targets, buildings are being kitted out with an ever-wider array of technology. Building systems such as lighting, air-conditioning, heating and shading systems or monitoring technology are being interlinked via centralised building-automation systems.

Even if buildings such as these are already referred to as “smart”, they haven’t yet fully earned that moniker. After all, they still lack the capability to predict and communicate that is inherent in truly intelligent systems. Only using edge solutions can change that. In this case, it would even be possible to control all of these functions via the cloud. True real-time capability is only required by a select few building systems. Yet there is another good argument for the use of Edge Computing in this context. The systems and sensors in the building gather a vast amount of data. Which not only relates to technical components, but also to users.

For reasons of data protection, it is therefore an advantage when the majority of the data processing required takes place in edge nodes. In this way, data remains private – and access is independent of the respective cloud connection’s availability. Nonetheless, a hybrid approach (i.e., the combination of edge- and cloud-based computing) will yield the best results in building automation. For example, weather information from the cloud could be used to control the air conditioning. Or the building in question could be compared with others to identify potential for improvement.

Bloomberg’s new headquarters

Only by pursuing such approaches can the most sustainable buildings become a reality. These include the new headquarters of media company Bloomberg, which is one of the most sustainable buildings in the world. In comparison to a typical office block, the building in London consumes approximately 73 per cent less water. While energy consumption and the associated CO₂ emissions are 35 per cent lower. Innovative energy, lighting, water and ventilation systems account for the majority of the energy savings. Many of these solutions are unique and enable the building to recover waste. Additionally, react to changes in the surrounding area and adapt to the way it is used by people.

Norman Foster, founder and Executive Chairman of Foster + Partners, outlines the key features of the building designed by his firm: “The deep-plan interior spaces are naturally ventilated through a ‘breathing’ façade. A top-lit atrium edged with a spiralling ramp at the heart of the building ensures a connected and healthy environment.” In moderate ambient temperatures, the striking, external bronze blades open and close. Meaning that the building can operate in a “breathable” natural ventilation mode. This reduces energy consumption considerably. Smart CO2-sensor controls allow air to be distributed according to the approximate number of people. Present in each zone of the building at a specific point in time. The ability to adapt the flow of air dynamically to the occupancy hours and patterns will save around 600 to 750 megawatt-hours of electricity each year and therefore reduce annual CO2 emissions by around 300 metric tons.

Building automation in cube berlin

One other smart commercial building is the cube berlin. The main goal of the concept drawn up by architects 3XN and brought to fruition by CA Immo is not its spectacular aesthetic form, but rather its artificial intelligence – the so-called “brain” of the building.

CA Immo commissioned start-up Thing Technologies to program the AI. They produced a system that intelligently interlinks all technical systems, sensors and planning, operating and user data, not to mention exerting optimised control over the processes in the building. The “brain” learns from data about operation, users and the environment, then uses this information to come up with suggestions for improvement.  For example, unused areas will require neither heating nor cooling, ventilation or light in future. The control system will recognise this accordingly and shut off the relevant systems in these areas. Additionally, tenants in cube berlin can use a specially developed app to control aspects such as the room climate, access controls, parcel station, and much more besides. Users and their needs are at the forefront of the development process.

As such, smart buildings are an entirely new type of commercial property that puts users and their needs first. Thanks to edge computing and AI, this enables an interaction between humans and buildings that was previously impossible.


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