What are Building Automation Systems?

Carol Francois

Building automation systems are used to control building access, heating, ventilation and security. This type of computerized system has become increasingly popular as technology has progressed. These systems are necessary to effectively manage and support the complex, computerized systems used in modern buildings.

A programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat.

The implementation of building automation systems changes the overall efficiency of the buildings systems. This type of system is quite expensive and typically is installed as part of the original construction or during renovation of an existing building. Located in office complexes or manufacturing facilities, these systems are necessary for large spaces and generally are not optimal for residential or mid-size office buildings.

Controlling and monitoring building access is a huge aspect of building automation systems. The system operator can create user profiles that control access to different areas of the building, even limiting access to specific hours. Staff members are required to use a unique identifying card, code or other method to gain access to the building, and these identifiers are managed by the building operator.

Heating and air conditioning large spaces is very complex and can be managed through building automation systems, instead of a series of separate systems. Thermostats are located in various areas of the facility, and all of the data is entered into the system. The information is displayed to the system operator, who can adjust the airflow and settings to ensure that the temperature is correct.

Security software is built into most building automation systems, with contact sensors, cameras and data recording tools used to provide the required information to staff members. The process of integrating the software into building automation systems can be quite complex and often requires the cooperation of a team of experts.

There are several large companies that offer building automation systems. This type of system is very expensive to purchase, install and operate. During the selection process, it is advisable to write down all of the features that the system should have. This list should be to at least three different companies, and one should obtain written quotes for the purchase, installation and maintenance of this type of system.

A growing number of service companies offer maintenance contracts for building automation systems. In many cases, the costs for this type of service is significantly less than the service contract from the equipment provider. One should investigate all of the options before signing a contract or service level agreement. The contract itself should include the guaranteed response time, exempt items and primary contact.

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Discussion Comments


@starrynight - That sounds neat. I'm going to check and see if my electric company has that. I would love to save a few dollars on my electric bill during the summer. Every little bit helps!

Anyway, when I was in college I lived somewhere that had an automated security system. There were cameras in certain areas and you had to have a card to even get in the front door.

I believe the heating an the air conditioning were automated as well. It was an on-campus apartment, so you paid a flat rate for a room in a four bedroom apartment. Everything was included, but you didn't control your own heat or air conditioning.


I actually have a type of building automation system in my apartment. It isn't as hardcore as the business systems described in the article though. However, it does help me save on my electric bill!

I have a special thermostat from my electric company. It allows me to set my system on a timer. So I can set the air condition to be higher at night when we're home, but not run as much during the day when we're at work.

I also signed up for a rewards program that allows the electric company to cycle my air conditioning at certain times during the summer. This means they turn it off for a few minutes each hour. And it gets me an energy credit on my bill!

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