By Ian Richardson, Building Solutions Technical Specialist within ABB Australia's Electrification business.
With buildings forming the majority of an urban environment’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, a prime contribution that ABB is making is in the field of smart building technology enabling leading building efficiency.
Our team often remarks at the progress made in even the last five years. We’ve moved from simple integrations, such as people managing thermostats, doorbells or lights from their mobile phones, to buildings that adapt to user needs through artificial intelligence. Our global ABB business continues to be a digital pioneer, having launched more than a thousand new products during these last five years alone.
Every day, we bring to life a range of sustainability contributions through smarter buildings that are helping businesses reshape their operations to drive greater energy efficiency. Here are seven core examples of this in action.
Prioritising a network approach
We take a holistic approach to smart buildings in everything we do, and that means going beyond the direct building experience to consider the wider ecosystem, or network. For example, we’re looking at solutions for energy storage so that solar power can be used to improve load management and compensate the demand for powering electric vehicles. Our view is that environmental improvements such as electric vehicles, over internal combustion engine vehicles, can contribute to better energy management when considered as part of a whole, bi-directional system
Delivering integrated systems
Key wins of smart building technology include leveraging automation that ensures energy is applied only where it is needed, cross-sharing data so that energy can be shared across multiple parts of a whole system, and using artificial intelligence so that buildings can learn and adapt to user needs. Smart technology is also making it possible to automate aspects of managing energy consumption and its costs, with the ability to reduce costs by up to 50%.
Driving standardisation and interoperability
ABB was proudly the driver for KNX standardisation in Australia as just one of many manufacturers to benefit. Standardisation and interoperability are vital to any company’s ability to truly deliver on the promise of smart building technology because they are the bedrock of multi-function and multi-device integration. We actively promote greater interoperability between providers, manufacturers and ourselves. As users increase, so will technologies capable of delivering enhanced user experiences. However, they must be based on a shared language across the industry if they are to improve efficiency…efficiently.
Positioning businesses for smart monitoring
We are excited to see the results achieved by our latest range of digital energy and asset management solutions for commercial and industrial buildings. They have helped organisation’s achieve energy and operating cost savings of up to 30% by avoiding downtime, improving predictions of electrical installation issues and scheduling proactive maintenance interventions. The foundation of these is monitoring solutions that are helping building managers understand energy use, drive greater energy efficiency, and even achieve time, cost and quality savings and improvements through areas such as predictive maintenance – with the flexibility of remote management.
These solutions are available today and include those that suit small to medium-sized businesses as much as major corporations. They create systems where electrical installers, building owners, and facilities and energy managers can collect, collate and visualise data for one building or multiple buildings to improve decisions and actions. Importantly, we have designed products such as energy meters, network analysers, circuit breakers and more so that customers can scale functionality up or down to suit their needs.
Enabling improvements for existing buildings
A centrepiece of our smart building approach has been to accommodate opportunities for existing buildings where possible. We will simply not achieve the gains we need globally if only new buildings benefit. Fortunately, in response, we are seeing a growing demand in the retrofit arena for more intelligent building solutions. We are successfully helping clients revamp and digitise buildings without the need to replace components, including the use of our plug-and-play modules and wireless solutions. Even if a building can only adopt a few integrated components, energy efficiency improvements can be found.
Supporting affordability and simplicity
While there are truly ground-breaking possibilities at the premium end of smart building technology, simple, affordable and intuitive solutions are vital. We are committed to growing our portfolio of these technologies to expand the number of building owners and managers benefiting from improved efficiency. Our ABB-free@home® solution is a perfect example, offering home owners smart building technology at an accessible entry price.
Empowering industry education
Our team is critically aware of the need to support shifts in workforce skills. For example, installers can play a major role in advocating for sophisticated technology when they understand how easy it can be to install and leverage. We’re actively upgrading our training to better educate installers on the essentials of smart home and building technology. This includes our network of specialist engineers globally who run on-the-ground classroom training, supported by new online training tools, like our new online training course on energy management. We also recently launched our Connect Partner Hub so that professionals can share best practice and keep the smart building technology conversation going.
Bringing these together, the ABB ‘toolbox’ of solutions, whether they relate to power, safety, e-mobility, smart buildings or more, is designed to leverage these sustainability advances so that businesses can gain greater outcomes environmentally, socially and economically. In smart buildings alone, innovation is a major priority and we are taking a long-term position. We want to help clients and end users realise safer, smarter and more sustainable buildings, businesses and lifestyles.