How Digital Room Controllers Help Building Owners Maintain Occupant Comfort While Reducing Energy Costs

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Francisco Pombas is the Commercial Director, Domótica SGTA. Domótica SGTA is a Master-level BMS EcoXpert™.

According to the International Energy Agency, buildings consume 40 percent of total worldwide energy. Since building owners are responsible for paying these energy bills, for reducing CO2 emissions, and maintaining tenant satisfaction most are focused on strategies that will help improve energy efficiency while still enhancing occupant comfort. Such a balancing act requires smart technology, such as room controllers, that is flexible enough to sense environmental room conditions and to respond by making adjustments based on internal occupant behavior and external weather conditions.

two professionals reviewing digital automation functions such as room controllers

Domotica SGTA is a Master-level BMS EcoXpert™ partner specializing in the design, installation, and commissioning of building management systems (BMS) and building automation. We regularly consult with building owners on how to improve performance within their buildings. We explain to them that their buildings behave like living organisms. They constantly change and evolve. The use of a given space within a building is often in flux. Today, a room may lay dormant as an open space. Tomorrow, that space could be divided into meeting rooms. Then, further down the line, one of those meeting rooms may be converted into a series of cubicles for employees.

These changes have a dramatic impact on how that space’s environment is controlled. Parameters that may have been set for a vacant room need to be adjusted in order to accommodate occupants. If those occupants are present in that space only occasionally, one set of parameters needs to be adjusted. If, however, the space is used as a permanent workspace, then air, heat, cooling, and lighting parameters all need to be set differently if energy is to be saved and if occupants are to work within a comfortable space.

Independent Room Controllers Redefine the Way Comfort and Energy are Managed

Over the last several years, a trend has emerged within the buildings industry that favors the dedicated control of each zone, room, and open space of a building. This independent control involves the management of infrastructure devices such as lights, ventilation, cooling and heating, and automatic blinds.

In order to accommodate these requirements, leading manufacturers like Schneider Electric have developed technical solutions known as room controllers. These devices provide several advantages for both building technology providers and end users:

Open programming environment

Based on the open nature of the room controller hardware, software developers can be flexible in the way they craft a control solution for the use of a space. This helps drive energy efficiency. If the various rooms in a building are similar, as is the case in most hotels, for instance, it is easy to create a standardized solution. For an end user, this equates to lower operating costs.

Ease of installation and flexibility

Room controller devices are easy and non-intrusive to install. The cabling required is far less than is the case for traditional centralized building management systems. Installation can be accomplished in a matter of hours versus days.

Regulatory compliance

The latest in European building energy management regulations is now mandating that building owners begin integrating control of HVAC, blinds, and lighting at the individual space level. Room controllers help building owners to comply to these mandates in a relatively inexpensive manner.

Higher occupant comfort

Room controllers provide room occupants with direct control of their room environments. The user-friendly design of touch screens lets room occupants use simple icons to set temperature, lighting and window blind set points so that their personal comfort can be maximized.

Energy savings

Room controllers make it easy to adapt to different space configurations so that energy efficiency is maximized. Presets can be programmed in such a way that the setting of blinds, lights, and HVAC is optimized to save energy. On a hot day, the room controller sets blinds down to keep out the sun and adjusting lighting if the room is occupied in order to compensate for the loss of sunlight. In the winter, the parameters are reversed. Blinds are open to capture the heat of the sun and lights are dimmed based on the amount of sunlight in the room.

Simplicity of maintenance

If 50 separate rooms have their own room controllers, and one controller breaks down, only one single space is out of service (as opposed to an entire floor or an entire wing of a building, as is the case when traditional centralized controller systems fail). If a unit does fail, a simple spare held in stock can be plugged in to replace the failed unit. The process can take less than 20 minutes. A database stores all the program presets in backup, so that the new controller operates with the same configuration of inputs and outputs as the replaced unit.

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