Technology continues to expand at an increasingly fast rate. As a result, HVAC manufacturers are adapting to this ongoing trend with technology-driven products that make commercial buildings smarter. These products allow buildings to better communicate with the building owner and HVAC contractor.
“For us, the foundation of the smart building concept is based on integrating intelligent HVAC technology that can provide all the information necessary to improve building performance,” said Ham Daneshmand, senior product manager, smart systems, Johnson Controls Inc. “Therefore, the basic building block is embedding intelligence in HVAC products that transmits rich data to systems that can provide valuable insights to operators, owners, and contractors.”
It’s not easy to operate a large commercial space; therefore, improved interconnectivity and accessibility are two key features driving the smart commercial product market.
CONNECTIVITY IS KEY
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), “increases in the size of commercial buildings have outpaced increases in the number of those buildings over the past decade.”
The CBECS estimates that there were 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States in 2012, totaling 87 billion square feet of floor space. This level represents a 14 percent increase in the number of buildings and a 21 percent increase in floor space since 2003.
Just like the iPhone and the large drink at fast food restaurants, commercial buildings are getting bigger, which means it is becoming increasingly difficult for building owners and contractors to monitor maintenance needs. However, new, smart products are making it easier for building owners and contractors to connect to the HVAC system with improved system controls.
“Larger buildings with more equipment have the tendency to run inefficiently,” said Jerry Huson, group lead, controls engineer, Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. “Bosch is helping commercial buildings get smarter by pairing our HVAC equipment with smarter controls. Our direct digital control (DDC) option helps the end user interface with most building management systems (BMS), so various aspects of the systems can be monitored and controlled. The information can then be trended and used for making the systems more efficient.”
Rheem Mfg. Co. is taking connectivity to the next level with its ClearControl DDC option that can monitor up to 110 unit parameters and provide notifications for up to 65 unit faults.
“The Rheem ClearControl Rooftop Unit Controller [RTU-C] offers a diverse application as it can be used as a stand-alone system, or it can be networked with a variety of building management systems,” said Mark Ritz, manager, commercial business unit, Rheem.
In order to achieve this level of connectivity between the building itself and the contractor or building owner, BACnet communication protocol is a sought-after technology manufacturers are including in their smart product offerings.
“All of our products are equipped with several communication technologies and are designed specifically to talk to building management systems via BACnet protocol,” said Udi Meirav, CEO and president, enVerid Systems Inc. “Our HVAC Load Reducation [HLR] module can send data about performance to the building management system and receive information from it whether it needs standby, shut down mode, etc. All that two-way sharing is enabled by BACnet capability.”
While speaking to manufacturers, one of the main concerns commercial building owners and contractors have shared with them is maintenance detection issues. Rather than waiting until a major problem occurs, preventive maintenance technology allows the building owner and contractor to monitor issues as they arise in real time.
Johnson Controls Inc.’s Verasys controls system does just that, notifying building operators and commercial contractors in real time of any fault-detection or diagnostic issues.
“Using onboard Smart Equipment controls intelligence and predictive technologies, the Verasys controls system supports remote monitoring, data analytics, and fault detection and diagnostics,” said Daneshmand. “With access to real-time data, contractors and building operators can identify and troubleshoot issues remotely and get insightful solutions to maximize equipment uptime and performance.”
Not only do these preventive maintenance technologies alert building operators and contractors of any incidents in real time, they can also prioritize the information that is provided.
“Honeywell Outcome Based Service is our cloud-enabled building management service that helps prioritize building maintenance activities where they can have the most impact on overall building performance,” said John Boothroyd, global service marketing director, building solutions, Honeywell Intl. Inc. “Instead of carrying out routine-scheduled inspections, the dynamic preventive tasking helps prioritize maintenance to focus efforts on higher-impact activities that mitigate downtime risks and improve operational efficiencies.”
Smart commercial products are now able to provide detailed information on key parameters for faster and more efficient service calls.
“Our Rheem ClearControl Rooftop Unit Controller features Active Protection to ensure proper performance by analyzing key parameters such as: high- and low-pressure control, air roving, dirty filter, freeze-stat sensor, return air sensor, discharge air sensor, and outdoor air sensor,” said Ritz. “Enabling faster and more efficient service calls, our system includes an easy-to-read, 16-character LCD screen, which spells out system condition and current function, eliminating the need for complicated code charts.”
Commercial buildings are constantly dealing with IAQ, energy efficiency, and other comfort issues. So, manufacturers are delving out smart commercial products that seek to improve the building’s comfort level and efficiency.
“Our HLR module can effectively and safely capture and remove all known molecular contaminants from indoor air, such as carbon dioxide, aldehydes, volatile organic compounds [VOCs], and particulate matter [PM2.5], thereby reducing the outside air intake required for ventilation by 60-80 percent while improving IAQ and enabling 20-30 percent annual HVAC energy savings and peak HVAC capacity reduction of 10-20 tons per HLR module,” said Meirav.
Customized software within smart products plays a large role in increasing efficiency for commercial buildings. It allows buildings owners and contractors to be in control of the building’s energy efficiency.
“Bosch’s flexibility in its DDC software can easily be customized to meet the end user’s specifications,” said Huson. “With many different features, including damper control for IAQ and demand ventilation options, the user can decide when to take advantage of these efficiencies.”
This idea of customized software is also evident within Johnson Controls Inc.’s Verasys controls system. The system enables users to data stream from smart controls specifically in rooftop units (RTUs), chillers, heat pumps, fan coils, zone dampers, refrigeration systems, lighting panels, and more. This information can also be sent to smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, Johnson Controls has plans to expand the capabilities of this software when it comes to monitoring the idiosyncrasies of energy efficiency within a commercial building.
“Coming soon, the Verasys system will further enhance building efficiency by providing smart devices, like energy meters, refrigeration monitoring/control, lighting, and security control for buildings, which allows for an even higher energy/performance rating,” said Daneshmand. “The key is demand control, where the occupants’ spaces send the energy demand requirements to the heating and cooling equipment. Matching the demand side and the supply side optimizes system energy efficiency overall.”
RAMPING UP SECURITY
With technology being imbedded in nearly all commercial smart products, it’s imperative that security measures are taken seriously to prevent hackers from gaining critical and sensitive information.
“Verasys Smart Building Hub uses secure hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS) with strong password authentication to communicate over wired or Wi-Fi networks,” said Daneshmand. “It also uses the concepts of chain of trust, self-signed certificates, certificates signed by public certificate authority, and public and private keys.”
Bosch does everything in its power to ensure the controllers or units have the correct protocol installed for security so that the product is not vulnerable to hackers, according to Mike Caneja, product manager, Bosch Thermotechnology Inc.
“Once Bosch provides the product to the supplier or end user, they are also responsible to ensure that security protocols are in place, and their networks are set up properly to prevent hacks,” he said.
Overall, encryption is dire, and manufacturers are ensuring all case-sensitive information is safe from potential security breaches.
“Honeywell takes the security and privacy of its customers’ data very seriously and follows industry standard best practices and any applicable local regulations to keep data secure,” said Boothroyd. “We ensure the encryption of our cloud connections and keep data hosted in data centers trusted by governments and high-profile corporations around the world. When we provide Outcome Based Service to customers with Honeywell’s building management systems, we monitor the patch and virus status of the BMS, promoting a higher level of security protection.”
Publication date: 12/4/2017