zhu difeng / Shutterstock
Smart buildings are being developed which take advantage of technology to control heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and other systems, and sensors play a fundamental role in this.
Sensor technology is being implemented into smart buildings to take advantage of the benefits it provides, such as a reduction in energy usage costs, a lightening of workload for facilities staff, improvement on carbon emissions and better comfort conditions for employees.
Below, the types of sensors currently in place are discussed in relevance to how they work and how they benefit the smart building.
Position or status sensors are used to feedback information on whether a door, window, or other similar mechanism is open or closed. The sensors are basic in how they work; one part is fixed to a door or window and the other to a frame, with magnetic fields that become disrupted when the two components move apart.
The knowledge of whether doors and windows are open does have implications for the building’s energy efficiency, as well as safety and security.
Electrical Current Monitoring
Data about real-time energy consumption is collected by electrical current (CT) sensors. The sensors can be used to communicate with other connected devices, meaning that assets can be automatically switched off when not in use, helping to improve the energy efficiency of the building. In addition, knowledge on energy consumption can also indicate where machinery is malfunctioning and needs attention, having the effect of reducing energy costs and keeping operation downtime to a minimum.
Sensors that monitor changes to the air quality can be used to keep people in the building safe from exposure to toxic substances in the air. Buildings put to use in the industries of manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and mining have a particular interest in investing in gas/air quality sensors due to the nature of the products that they handle.
Even in general-purpose office buildings, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide can rise to troublesome levels, causing stuffy air and leading to tiredness and headaches. Therefore, the implementation of air quality sensors can improve productivity and employee health.
Water vapor in the atmosphere can lead to problems for structures within buildings, such as machinery, which can begin to corrode in humid conditions. Humidity sensors alert when conditions leave the parameters of what is suitable for the environment, helping to save on unplanned down-time from making repairs, and cutting maintenance costs.
In general use building humidity sensors can also be put to work in controlling heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems.
Modern offices are being built to let in more natural light to illuminate the building through natural sources, cutting on energy usage. However, the flooding in of natural light can overheat some spaces and leave others cold. Light sensors have been developed to combat this problem, sensing the levels of lights and adjusting heating and cooling systems to suit.
Sensors that detect physical movement are incredibly useful to smart buildings. Not only can they help reduce energy usage through adjusting lighting and heating to accommodate only when a room is occupied, but they can also help businesses understand how rooms and spaces within the building are used. Information in real-time on space usage can help a building use their space more efficiently, which can lead to increased productivity and cost.
For many years buildings have had access to temperature sensors, but now they’re becoming even more useful with the development of the Internet of Things. It has allowed temperature sensors to have more applications, they can now, for example, be used to monitor devices that are temperature sensitive to ensure that they don’t overheat. They can also be used to automate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to generate the perfect conditions for the space automatically. The sensors are also being used to improve employee health as studies have found that Legionella bacteria can spread in water systems heating between 20 and 45 °C, therefore monitoring temperatures is essential in the prevention of bacteria growth.
These examples may be only a few of the sensors that smart buildings will use in the future. Applications of current sensors may evolve and expand, and new sensors currently under development will possibly be available to further help control heating, ventilation, air conditioning, light, and other systems.