Inside knowledge

Inside knowledge

Buildings contribute significantly to global CO₂ emissions. The award-winning [1] ABB Ability™ Building Ecosystem unites affordable, intuitive software and open-system hardware to not only reduce energy usage and emissions but also to cut operational costs and optimize space utilization and occupant comfort.

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Bertrand Vandewiele ABB Smart Buildings Atlanta, GA, United States bertrand.vandewiele@us.abb.com

When the road to net zero and CO₂ emissions are discussed, attention usually turns to transportation and industry. It comes as a surprise, then, to discover that buildings generate around 40 percent of the world’s annual CO₂ emissions. Globally, construction and materials account for a quarter of this total, while building operations make up the rest [2]. In the United States, buildings consume 41 percent of the nation’s total energy use through lighting, heating, air conditioning, elevators and the numerous items plugged into sockets [3].

Buildings are made to last, so most of those around today will still be here in a few decades. Whereas measures can be taken to reduce embodied carbon in future construction, little can be done about the embodied carbon in existing buildings. However, where the lion’s share of emissions originates – in building operations – there is plenty that can be done. Here, the smart building is the key to understanding how and where emissions originate and how systems and behavior have to be adjusted to improve the building’s environmental footprint. A smart building can not only reduce emissions but also cut operational costs and optimize space utilization and occupant comfort.

Smart buildings
Smart buildings have functions that can monitor energy use, offer predictive maintenance, measure indoor air quality (IAQ), manage thermostats, map occupant location and track building use – thus giving their owners and operators an implicit understanding of the behavior and requirements of occupants and their interactions with the space. Once this knowledge is at hand, operations can be tailored to provide the best comfort and convenience for the occupants, which drives their well-being and productivity. At the same time, energy usage and operational costs can be optimized →01.

01 ABB Ability Building Ecosystem is a holistic suite of solutions that provide the simplest path to a smart building.
01 ABB Ability Building Ecosystem is a holistic suite of solutions that provide the simplest path to a smart building.

ABB Ability Building Ecosystem
The path that leads to all the benefits of a smart building may seem difficult, but ABB Ability Building Ecosystem makes the journey uncomplicated. This open and scalable digital platform fits most building needs, enabling users to optimize their space and improve energy efficiency. ABB Ability Building Ecosystem revolutionizes how data is used, and transforms building management – not just through greater energy efficiency and increased security, but also by providing an environment that is more secure, comfortable and productive →02.

02 Smart buildings deliver a wide range of benefits, such as emissions reduction and energy savings.
02 Smart buildings deliver a wide range of benefits, such as emissions reduction and energy savings.

ABB has long experience in core building systems and the seamless automation of a building’s electrical and mechanical infrastructure. ABB exploits its ABB Ability technology and advances smart building systems with ABB Ability Building Ecosystem so that these digital-driven tools are accessible to owners of buildings of any scale, large or small – smart building technology is no longer the domain of mega towers and corporate giant headquarters. Easy to use and understand, these intelligent digital tools provide meaningful data that users (or artificial intelligence algorithms) can analyze and respond to in real-time.

ABB Ability Building Ecosystem itself is a holistic suite of solutions that the user can access easily via one unified online portal. The suite’s components are straightforward to integrate as they are fully compatible with existing systems installed in today’s buildings that leverage ABB’s open architecture. They run on simple hardware – the ABB Ability Building Edge – and are powered by ABB’s open Building Operating System (openBOS®). Scalable and adaptable to future needs, the modular nature of ABB Ability Building Ecosystem gives the flexibility to choose and pay for only the components that are required. As the situation in a building evolves, functionality from ABB or a third party can be added with no fuss.

The ABB Ability Building Ecosystem suite comprises two main modules: ABB BE Sustainable with Active Energy and ABB BE Space Efficient.

BE Sustainable with Active Energy
Managing energy costs in a building can often be a challenge, especially when the building is large and the spaces within it are used for a diverse range of activities →03. ABB Ability BE Sustainable with Active Energy (BE stands for building ecosystem) greatly simplifies this energy management task. Active Energy is a tool that allows the user to measure and identify utility usage (electricity, water, gas, etc.) in real-time instead of waiting for a utility bill to arrive. Active Energy displays a live view of this usage for immediate evaluation. This real-time data can be analyzed and well-informed decisions made to improve a building’s energy consumption and reduce costs and emissions in a proactive manner. Expected versus actual usage is tracked and alerts can be set up to inform the user if any set limits are exceeded.

03 Optimizing a building’s performance can be challenging when its spaces are put to a wide variety of uses.
03 Optimizing a building’s performance can be challenging when its spaces are put to a wide variety of uses.

Active Energy also helps the user meet corporate sustainability goals as all metrics needed to prove efficient operation and obtain certification levels that comply with legislation and industry standards are already integrated into the software. Custom reports are easily generated to help compliance validation – which is very relevant for organizations setting up their net-zero key performance indicators (KPIs) and sustainability pledges. The software can also be tailored to meet specific business operational profiles and keep track of other KPIs. Because Active Energy is a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS), there is no limit to the number of meters or sensor points that it can serve. A cyber-secure connection to the service is possible from any geographical location.

BE Space Efficient for Meeting Rooms
ABB Ability BE Space Efficient with Meeting Rooms enables the user to respond rapidly to the changing needs of building occupants by monitoring offices, conference rooms and other spaces – thus assuring better air quality and building safety as well as improved tenant comfort, health and productivity →04. The data collected gives a real-time insight into meeting spaces, with capacity metrics that include heat maps, floor plans and occupancy patterns so that comfort levels can be adjusted accordingly while optimizing energy usage.

04 ABB Ability BE Space Efficient with Meeting Rooms responds rapidly to changing room utilization.
04 ABB Ability BE Space Efficient with Meeting Rooms responds rapidly to changing room utilization.

With Meeting Rooms, remote adjustments to room temperature, lighting and airflow can be made to correct anomalies. Further, sensors in the room ensure that the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is turned off when a window is opened. Temperature is adjusted and lights are switched off automatically when rooms are unoccupied. For the first meeting of the day, spaces can be preheated or precooled to ensure an optimal temperature, or purged to maximize fresh air depending on air quality conditions. In general, because Meeting Rooms can be seamlessly integrated with the Office 365 calendar interface, it is able to look ahead and predict how spaces should be managed.

Awareness of occupancy levels allows a prioritized cleaning regime in which alerts are generated to clean and sanitize spaces with heavy traffic while unnecessary cleaning of unused areas is avoided.

Comfort and decarbonization
The ABB Ability Building Ecosystem holistic suite of solutions provides the simplest way to optimize indoor space utilization. The suite can be applied to one space or room, an entire building, or a portfolio of buildings and helps meet sustainability goals and keep track of KPIs to prove real progress →05. Easily integrated with existing infrastructure and fully compatible with open system architectures, the tool can be adapted to meet different requirements as smart building needs change within a building. A full suite of ABB Ability Building Ecosystem solutions for building optimization will evolve as additional components are added.

05 The ABB Ability Building Ecosystem suite can be applied to one space, an entire building, or a building portfolio.
05 The ABB Ability Building Ecosystem suite can be applied to one space, an entire building, or a building portfolio.

ABB Ability Building Ecosystem is designed to deliver significant benefits for building owners and occupants. Such solutions for decarbonizing buildings and sites will take ABB closer to its target of carbon neutrality by 2030 and help customers reduce their annual CO₂ emissions by an estimated 100 million tons – a key target of ABB’s 2030 sustainability agenda. 

References
[1] “ABB wins 2021 Frost & Sullivan global product leadership award for intelligent buildings,” ABB Press release, December 2021. Available: https://new.abb.com/news/detail/85701/abb-wins-2021-frost-sullivan-global-product-leadership-award-for-intelligent-buildings [Accessed December 17, 2021].
[2] Architecture 2030, “Why The Building Sector?” Available: https://architecture2030.org/why-the-building-sector/ [Accessed November 11, 2021].
[3] I. Campbell and K. Calhoun, “Old Buildings Are U.S. Cities’ Biggest Sustainability Challenge,” Harvard Business Review, 2016. Available: https://hbr.org/2016/01/old-buildings-are-u-s-cities-biggest-sustainability-challenge [Accessed November 11, 2021].

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