Building Management

Smart room sensors: the key to making buildings healthier and more sustainable

Increased digitalization and IoT-enabled connectivity can help building owners and operators achieve their net-zero carbon goals. I mentioned this in my last post, and how next-generation building management systems (BMS) are designed to be open and interoperable, enabling different systems and devices to be integrated into a control center for building operations.

This broader exchange of data – converted by cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced analytics – gives facility managers the information they need to make better decisions and act on them. But where is this data coming from, and how can it be used to improve sustainability?

In this post, I’ll discuss how connected smart room sensors deliver the data and control needed to improve efficiency, health, and comfort and introduce an exciting innovation.

Smart Room sensor

The challenge: achieve sustainability while enhancing health and comfort

With the energy crisis and the global pandemic being top of mind recently, there is a demand for more energy-efficient buildings and healthier occupants.

In the past, there has often been a tradeoff in meeting these two requirements. Take the example of a building participating in a utility-sponsored demand response program- reducing HVAC energy consumption often impacts occupied spaces’ comfort and indoor air quality (IAQ).

Using connected sensors to monitor occupancy will support transitioning from ‘constant air volume’ HVAC control to a ‘demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) approach. Sensor data enables informed decisions that deliver dynamic, zone-based HVAC optimization. The result is reduced energy usage and cost while still maintaining comfort.

By capturing and logging this data to the cloud – along with temperature, energy load profiles, lighting, and other parameters – a historical database can be used to train AI models that can help further refine operations. This can include:

  • Exact control of when heating or cooling needs to be run
  • Optimizing facility space usage based on actual occupancy trends
  • Satisfying requirements for certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, WELL, and Fitwel

Improving DCV and IAQ using real-time people counting

Though the DCV approach is a step forward, traditional DCV controls are triggered by sensing the rising level of CO2 in a space. Due to the time required for mechanical equipment to start recycling air, occupants may already be uncomfortable before the ventilation change occurs.

A better approach is to use real-time people counting. Rather than allowing CO2, humidity, and temperature to rise beyond a comfortable level, real-time people counting provides an earlier and more accurate data point. Knowing the exact number of people in the room translates to knowing the appropriate amount of ventilation required, allowing the HVAC system to get ahead of the situation more proactively.

Taking things a step further, integrating light-level sensors can account for rooms with large windows that tend to heat up faster. This data can be used to activate automatic window blinds to maintain a comfortable temperature or to optimize ambient lighting. Additionally, mold and mildew can be better controlled if temperature and humidity sensing is added.

Ultimately, using accurate, real-time people counting delivers multiple benefits:

  • Improved IAQ and optimized comfort, helping occupants to be healthier and more productive
  • Significant energy savings, as HVAC is run commensurate with actual room usage and occupancy levels
  • Compliance with standards (e.g., ASHRAE1 and 62.2, ISO ICS 91.140.31)

A better way to count people, and more

Most sensors today that offer people counting use camera-based technologies, which has raised concerns over privacy and compliance with regulations such as GDPR. Alternatively, using passive infrared sensors (PIR) can only sense whether a room is occupied or not – not by the number of individuals.

Thanks to its accuracy and delivering a headcount every 2 minutes, the sensor is ideal for HVAC and space optimization, maintenance scheduling, and managing social distancing protocols during a pandemic.

The Insight-Sensor also measures other environmental parameters, including light, temperature, humidity, and sound. This wide range of inputs, along with seamless, cyber-secure integration with our EcoStruxure Building Operation platform, means that you can use a single, smart device to address every aspect of occupant comfort and well-being while supporting your sustainability and building certification goals.

To learn more about the benefits of the newest room sensing technology, download our white paper, Data-driven Insights: Improving indoor air quality and sustainability with room sensing technology. Or discover our SpaceLogic Smart Room Sensors, part of our EcoStruxure Connected Room Solutions.


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