Your dentist wouldn’t use a jackhammer to straighten your teeth, so by the same token, a building engineer should avoid a blunt instrument to achieve optimal energy management. Yet many of the BEMS used today fail to employ precision tools to maximise outcomes.
For example, how often do office staff complain about being too cold or too hot, only to be fobbed off by the maintenance crew who explain that thermostatically controlled units cannot respond to individual comfort, but rather cater for a broad space?
Such BEMS are ironically mismanaging energy and potentially adding to the costs of running a building. However, leading electronics maker Panasonic has for decades optimised not just climate control and lighting solutions, but entire systems that integrate and manage multiple functions for large and small spaces.
Tabs on transient occupation
Panasonic’s Hostel Energy Management System (HoEMS) has, in particular, been created to address communal spaces where transient occupation is more likely than, say, in an office or home where people are present only for defined periods.
One feature of the system is the Grid-EYE Infrared Array Sensor, which detects more than just movement or changes in temperature. Dubbed the ‘Eye in the Sky’ because it’s usually positioned at the highest point in a room, the sensor’s 64 thermopile pixels detect absolute temperature.
The unit collects more data about the warm bodies in its field of view and is able to identify motionless objects as well as what direction other objects are moving in, allowing it to deliver more precise room lighting and climate outcomes depending on the activity in the space. Also, it enhances an area’s security when placed near entry and exit points by monitoring occupant numbers and ‘directing’ movement of people to avoid crowding in the event of a fire, for instance.
Another of Panasonic’s innovations to address small-space efficiency is the Puretech Green Ventilation and Cooling system, which detects differing sunlight intensity around a house or communal space, and accordingly adjusts interior temperatures.
Climate compliance catch-up
While energy management programs can increase efficiency and lower power bills among other things, the initial high installation costs and the need for skilled operators are what deters some building owners from committing to applying one to the building(s) they manage. However, as global momentum gathers for action to reduce the environmental impact of energy use, it’s likely it will be just a matter of time before it becomes mandatory for developers and tenants alike to look into solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.
UK-based Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) has estimated that a rapidly urbanisingAsia will consume 45 per cent of the world’s energy output in less than 15 years’ time. As buildings are among the biggest users of power, it follows that they are also contributors to the greenhouse gases that governments are urging should be curbed.
Wilfred Wee, Executive Vice President of Panasonic Systems Solution Asia Pacific, said recently: “The digital age has dramatically changed the way we live, and it looks set to also change the way we build… but with smart building technology, building owners and operators will see improved operational efficiency, water and energy savings and a reduction in the carbon footprint.”
It isn’t just interiors that can be made environmentally smarter. Exterior building materials with integrated solar energy collectors and self-cleaning outer wall tiles are already available, using for example advanced photocatalytic technology to stay clean no matter the weather. Not only do the tiles remove the need for cleaning costs and products, they also break down hazardous atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxide.
It’s apparent that smart-building innovations are indeed helping us all to breathe easier.