Buildings are responsible for nearly one-third of global energy consumption and 55% of global electricity demand, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This demand has been multiplying over the past 25 years, accounting for almost 60% of the total growth in global electricity consumption.

So, it comes as no surprise that many governments worldwide are now setting stringent targets and putting new measures in place to reduce carbon emissions across the building sector. ‘Building green’ was once seen as a luxury; now, it has become a necessity — with energy-efficient buildings playing a vital role in the success of carbon reduction strategies.

Smart controls, such as digital thermostats and lighting, are key here. These controls could cut total energy use in residential and commercial buildings by 10% by 2040. Plus, by lowering consumption, smart building controls can not only improve efficiency and sustainability but can also reduce operating costs.

Smart building controls

Connected buildings

Smart building controls encompass various sub-segments — covering everything from lighting controls, smoke ventilation systems and water pumps through to security-related devices and entire automated building management systems.

Traditionally, analogue controls have played a crucial role in balancing cost and functionality in building management systems. However, with the world becoming increasingly digitised and automated, buildings and the systems used to manage them are following suit.

Unlike analogue controls, digital controls provide two-way communication between the controller and the front-end software of a building management or automation system. Today, we are seeing these digital ‘smart’ controls used more and more across both commercial and residential building applications.

Many commercial buildings will already have a fair amount of smart technology installed — from centrally controlled heating ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) to remote security systems. These systems are often miniaturised versions of those seen in industrial environments, combined with the connectivity of the internet to allow for remote monitoring.

Now, the residential sector is also stepping into the smarter world — with newer buildings coming complete with connected technologies that can control anything from lighting, heating and water to home entertainment and security systems through the touch of a button (or even a person’s voice).

However, despite having these technologies in place, not all building managers use them to their full advantage.

Data is power

By embracing smart technology, building managers can gain access to instant data on how various assets — such as heating, lighting and access control — are performing. This data can be used to achieve a holistic overview of how the different systems in the building interact and how external factors may affect them.

Through these insights, managers can identify the demands of the building and its occupants — taking proactive steps to save energy, cut emissions and reduce costs. For instance, given the recent rise of remote working and an increasingly hybrid workplace, many office buildings will be operating at reduced occupancy. The data from smart controls will reflect this. As such, building managers can tweak systems and operations to reduce unnecessary consumption and maximise efficiency.

Smart building controls can also be used to go one step further. Rather than simply reducing emissions, a range of technologies — such as solar PV and EV charging points — can be integrated to make a building ‘energy positive’. These technologies allow buildings to generate enough energy to power themselves, even creating excess power that can be stored or sold back to the grid.

At EC Electronics, we have vast experience in manufacturing cable assemblies, printed circuit board assemblies and other component parts for use in building automation and control systems. As a sustainable electronics manufacturer, we understand the role these smart technologies play in energy-efficient buildings, and we are excited to see how they progress in the future.