Unlocking energy efficiency: The impact of ISO 52120-1 in building automation, controls, and management

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ISO 52120-1

The necessity and urgency to decarbonize our society requires massive electrification and local use of renewable energy sources. Digitalization and automation can help manage and optimize our production and energy consumption. The building industry, contributing more than 40% of global gas emissions, can benefit from innovative technologies to help transition to a sustainable world.

The new standard International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 52120-1:2021, “Energy performance of buildings — Contribution of building automation, controls, and building management — Part 1: General framework and procedures,” fills in the gaps left by 2017’s EN 15232-1 to create the first internationally harmonized methodology used to assess the contribution of building automation and controls (BACs) to the energy performance of commercial and residential buildings.

ISO 52120-1 is intended for:

  • Building professionals and design engineers (construction and renovation)
  • Public authorities (definition of minimum BACS and building management system requirements, inspection procedures for technical systems and inspectors, calculation methods for the impact of these functions on energy performance, etc.)
  • Building managers, operators, and auditors
  • System manufacturers and integrators

What is the focus of ISO 52120-1?

The ISO 52120 standard focuses on the energy performance of buildings and the contributions of automation, regulation, and technical management.

Part 1 of the standard addresses procedures and general framework, specifying a:

  • List of regulation functions sorted by trade, automation, and technical management to enhance building energy performance.
  • Procedure to determine minimum requirements in terms of regulation, automation, and technical management in the energy performance of buildings.
  • Methodology to estimate the impact of such functions on the building and its occupants.

The standard is comprehensive, going beyond listing control, automation, and building management functions to identify methods for defining minimum requirements specific to building type and utility while accounting for specific variables. It also proposes a methodology for estimating the effect of these functions on any given building, incorporating the entire improvement process into the evaluation of gains.

The standard also categorizes performance levels into four different BAC efficiency classes (A, B, C, D) of functions, both for non-residential and residential buildings:

  1. Class D corresponds to non-energy efficient BAC. Building with such systems shall be retrofitted. New buildings shall not be built with such systems.
  2. Class C corresponds to standard BAC.
  3. Class B corresponds to advanced BAC and some specific technical building management (TBM) functions.
  4. Class A corresponds to high-energy performance BAC and TBM functions.

Several building regulations and specifications use these categories to set national targets.

For Europe, EN ISO 52120-1:2022 replaces the EN 15232 of 2017 and includes:

  • The description of control functions
  • New hydronic balancing functions for heating/cooling distribution
  • Demand-based function for supply airflow control at the room level that is dependent on the quality of air demand
  • Simplification of lighting control functions
  • Enhanced light-level control functions with more specifications over scenarios
  • Update of the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB) standards that are relevant for control functions
  • Minimum BAC function is now normative, not just informative
  • Update from the new ISO 50001 of 2018
  • Change in the standard title

EN ISO 52120-1:2022 is referenced in the European Union Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Benefits of ISO 52120-1

Adhering to the standard can positively impact your building, such as boosting energy performance and comfort while saving energy, up to 40%, with an ROI in < 3 years. Incorporating digitalization further helps improve energy:

  • Measurement – Better understand how building occupants consume energy and make the right energy efficiency decisions
  • Control – Consume the right amount at the right time

Click here to learn more about the standard.

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