Adoption of building management systems grows in Europe

Adoption of building management systems grows in Europe
The European Union has issued a directive that all commercial buildings constructed after December 31, 2020 shall be nearly zero-energy buildings, meaning their energy consumption will be nearly equivalent to the renewable energy generated onsite. Conserving energy usage is therefore an important part of the zero-energy equation.
 
To meet this challenge, many buildings in Europe are equipped with building energy management systems (BEMS) to intelligently regulate energy use, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), which is considered the top energy consumer in a building.
 
“Adding intelligence to the HVAC within commercial environments can provide maximum comfort during working hours but ensures lower usage on nights and weekends when those buildings are primarily unoccupied,” said Joep van Eijden, Z-Wave business development executive at Silicon Labs.
 
Adding intelligence to a building’s HVAC system can keep the office cool during the summer and keep the office warm and comfortable during the winter. “Keeping a business climate controlled during all seasons is important for employee productivity and comfort but also essential for maintaining sensitive technology that businesses rely on to run such as computers and servers,” Eijden added.
 
Bryan Montany, building automation and smart building analyst at IHS Markit
Bryan Montany,
Building Automation
Analyst, IHS Markit
Another popular energy management method is establishing operating parameters for connected equipment and monitor whether the variables have been exceeded. “When data indicates that equipment is at risk of malfunctioning, notifications can automatically be sent to all stakeholders. This is the most dominant use case for basic analytics in energy management platforms in the market today,” said Bryan Montany, building automation and smart building analyst at IHS Markit. “Preventative diagnostics can help facility managers identify and repair problems before they escalate.”
 
In commercial buildings, lighting can make up half of a building’s energy bill, although lighting upgrades are relatively easy, according to Eijden. “Using more energy-efficient bulbs and implementing lighting automation through intelligent systems that can turn off the lights in rooms or floors that are not in use can add up to significant savings.”

Building management systems gain traction

 
While BEMS can turn a building smart and more efficiently control the HVAC, there is an ongoing trend that BEMS are being replaced with building management systems (BMS), both worldwide and particularly in Western Europe, Montany pointed out. BMS differs from BEMS in that it is not restricted to the domain of energy management, and encompasses all computer-based control systems including lighting, elevator and security systems.
 
Most building owners in the EU opt for automation software that carries out basic analytics, however. It is cheaper and more cost-effective. This type of solution concentrates solely on benchmarking energy performance of equipment. “Unfortunately, this restricts the market potential of more advanced but more expensive BMS platform offerings that could achieve even greater energy efficiency for buildings,” Montany noted.
 
Also, a more comprehensive BMS platform can proactively and predictively turn off extraneous devices without human intervention, Montany said. “The most advanced BMS platforms can also integrate with utility companies’ smart grid applications or municipalities’ smart city initiatives.”
 
BMS platforms will grow faster than dedicated energy management platforms, especially in Western Europe, where the BEMS market will grow 4.8 percent in 2018, while the BMS market will grow 6.3 percent, and further reach eight percent by 2023, IHS Markit predicted.
 
Oliver Iltisberger,
Managing Director
of Building Products,
ABB
Oliver Iltisberger, managing director of ABB´s Building Products business unit, agreed that a more comprehensive building management system is the way to go. “As an industry, we need to take a more holistic approach to energy and building management, rather than focusing on individual solutions, such as heating in isolation,” he said. It appears that this will be the focus of ABB. “It’s our responsibility to focus on creating truly integrated solutions – from access control, to heating, lighting and EV charging,” Iltisberger said.
 
It is worth noting that the demand for security as part of the BMS is growing. “Integration of access control systems with energy systems has increased substantially over the past few years and is expected to continue to grow,” Montany said.
 
One of the BMS’ merits is that users may choose to upgrade and add more functions to their BMS later on. “Even when stakeholders are only interested in utilizing BMS platforms to exercise command over energy domains, an increasing percentage of project owners are investing in basic BMS platforms that allow them the opportunity to invest later in future upgrades of modules to support new functions,” Montany explained.

Emerging solutions in the market

 
IT companies are entering the energy management market. As software becomes an integral component of smart energy platforms, IT companies have leveraged their advanced software know-how and ‘big data’ analytics expertise to offer alternative solutions, Montany explained.
 
Connected lighting manufacturers have also begun to offer their own BMS platforms, leveraging the fact that a large portion of sensors installed in office buildings are integrated with their lighting products, Montany noted.
 
The energy management sector has evolved to accommodate an increasing number of new entrants that, with their new product offerings, are threatening the market status quo, while Western Europe has been a focal point for this trend, according to Montany.
 
Many small and medium-sized building owners, in general, will prefer smaller-scale, less costly solutions. “To compete for this market, BMS providers will try to scale down their energy solutions, while smart home vendors will scale up product offerings like smart thermostat to compete vigorously in the light commercial space,” Montany said.
 
Thomas Gauthier,
CEO, NodOn
France-based NodOn is one of the companies that offer more flexible solutions. The company advocates for wireless equipment for it can save costs for small- and medium-sized businesses. “Smart energy solution have for a long time built on expensive wired protocols. Now, with wireless solutions becoming mature, smart energy solutions are accessible to any kinds of office buildings,” said NodOn CEO Thomas Gauthier.
 
Interoperability is key for small-scale solutions, Gauthier added. “With the native hardware interoperability, you can build exactly the solution you need, using products and solutions from different manufacturers.”
 
An interchangeable approach in using energy is on the way, according to Eijden at Silicon Labs. “New energy management services are being offered to actively switch between various energy sources – like battery, photovoltaics and the grid – to optimize consumption and cost.”

Moving toward greater automation

 
Total automation would be the ultimate goal for smart buildings. Ideally when this happens, all lights and HVAC systems will make adjustments on their own to meet building occupants’ preferences and requirements. Sensors are needed to realize this vision.
 
Also, sensors can help automate buildings to save energy use. Based on occupancy rates in a building, sensors can help to ensure optimal energy consumption and to “form the backbone of a smart building system,” Montany said.
 
More advanced occupancy sensors, capable of counting people and facial recognition, can enable “more granular” energy solutions, Montany noted. For example, HVAC adjustments can be made in an area based on day-to-day behavior patterns of individuals, among other factors.
 
Although we are not there yet, sensors could enable total automation to make lives easier in the future. When that happens, sensors will “learn” inside a building to understand what users need exactly. Ideally, sensors deployed in a building will pass the data for analysis, “to enable context-aware applications that are capable of making decisions with limited user interaction as we move toward more intelligent systems and autonomous environments,” said Silicon Labs’ Eijden.
 
Smart buildings will constantly evolve to enable total automation, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing a key role. “We see the greatest innovation in the field of self-learning buildings, which will use knowledge of energy and building usage to drive energy savings and comfort,” said ABB’s Iltisberger. “These intelligent buildings of the future will be able to sense the behavior of its occupants, so that the heating and lighting automatically switches off when people leave the building and the temperature will adjust to suit weather conditions.”
 
While self-learning buildings are not yet mass market, there are already several pilot projects in existence that will provide a blueprint for future solutions, Iltisberger noted.

More user-friendly interface

 
One factor preventing building owners from adopting smart energy solutions is that they are not able to see the solutions’ immediate benefits. “Traditionally, different stakeholders like facility managers, chief operating officers and IT departments have played separate and siloed roles in building management,” Montany said, adding that they may not be able to comprehend the broader benefits that can be realized through a BMS.
 
This may change in the near future, as solution providers try to create better user interfaces to help building operators understand what they are getting into. “More user-friendly interfaces, especially in dashboard and data visualization, are now considered a priority by end-users and is changing the way how vendors develop BMS,” said Montany. In the past, cost was the main differentiator; however, as the smart energy solution market matures, vendors are likely to launch solutions with more enhanced features to differentiate themselves.
 
“Successful BMS platform providers have experimented with intuitive user interface, customization options and more compelling graphical design to make their products more visually appealing to facility managers who use the platform on a daily basis,” Montany explained.

Hurdles awaiting to be overcome

 
In July 2014, the European Commission announced a new target to improve energy efficiency by 30% by 2030. As a result, many
 Joep van Eijden, Z-Wave
Business Development Executive,
Silicon Labs
governments in Europe have created energy-saving programs, such as incentives for installing intelligent lights, LED lightbulbs or automated HVAC control, Silicon Labs’ Eijden said.
 
While Europe walks on the path to decreasing energy use and carbon dioxide emission, there are still barriers preventing smart energy adoption, with the cost being the most prohibitive to end-users. “Most smart solutions can only offer vague promises on energy savings. A relatively few can offer tangible and reliable return-on-investment figures Vendors and systems integrators often struggle to provide a concrete, specific and verifiable assessment of how much money their products can save for building owners,” Montany noted.
 
Also, if a building is owned by a private party who does not occupy the building, there is little incentive for him to equip the building with smart energy solutions, since it will be the tenants, and not the building owner, who will experience the energy-saving benefits, Montany added.
 
Cybersecurity is still a concern. A BMS integrates various equipment through susceptible networks, and as the platform connects more and more systems together, the consequence of a security breach are amplified as more data can be exposed, even with just a single vulnerability, Montany noted. “Hackers can use BMS platforms as a channel to break into other confidential corporate systems.”
 
There’s no single “quick fix” solution to guarantee a system is protected from cyberattacks, so every building owners have to weigh the potential benefits of smart energy solutions with the additional risks involved, Montany added.

In summary

 
In conclusion, BMS are expected to gain more traction in Europe, thanks to their comprehensive range of control capabilities, to automate lighting, HVAC adjustment and access control, among others. It is worth noting that there are new entrants – including IT, lighting and smart home companies – to the energy management market, to supply cost-effective solutions for small- and medium-sized buildings.
 
In the end, we are moving toward total automation, so that lights and HVAC will turn on or off and adjust automatically based on users’ behavior patterns or requirements. Occupancy sensors and AI will play critical roles as buildings “learn” on their own with gathered data. Last but not least, user-friendly interfaces that let building operators interact with the BMS more easily and see insights more clearly are trending. And this is how vendors may differentiate themselves as BMS become more mature.
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