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Here you will find practical information and tips on classic building automation and modern smart buildings in a high-quality format.

Blog Building automation: monitoring and control

Building automation: monitoring and control

23. November 2023
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Querschnitt Gebäudeautomation eines Bürogebäudes

The basics of building automation explained simply

Building automation refers to the intelligent networking and control of technical systems in different buildings, but also within a building. Various functions help you to be flexibly equipped for current and future challenges – for example in terms of energy efficiency, transparency and operating costs. That’s why we want to provide an overview of this relevant topic and answer important questions about the automation of buildings.

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What is building automation?

Building automation (BA) refers to the connection and control of different systems, such as heating, air conditioning and lighting, to form a smart building system. From control and regulation to the monitoring and optimisation of technical building equipment (TBE), the many subsystems work together. This makes buildings safer and more efficient. Building automation is particularly relevant for non-residential buildings – such as offices, schools, administrative buildings and hospitals.

In the broadest sense, a smart home system for privately used buildings also belongs in this area. There are different definitions and solutionshere, which vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. These isolated solutions in private homes differ from the manufacturer-neutral networks and communication protocols (such as BACnet, M-Bus, Modbus) in commercial properties.

The building’s primary energy supply, such as photovoltaic systems, gas boilers and heat pumps, is also integrated into the BMS (building management system) monitoring and control system.

What are the advantages of building automation?

The advantages of automating buildings lie in different areas. Among other things, this means an increase in comfort for building users. Automation simplifies many tasks in the building – for example through room automation. Among other things, light and temperature conditions are automatically and therefore easily regulated and adapted to the respective requirements. Saving energy, for example, also plays a decisive role in the benefits, such as more daylight in the rooms. Last but not least, the networking and communication of different systems enables efficient operation of the heating system.
IT security aspects are also important advantages of building automation. The status of windows and doors, for example, is synchronised with the alarm system and locks are controlled automatically.

What is MCR in building automation?

MCR is the basis of building automation and stands for measurement, control and regulation technology. Controllers (DDC), IO modules, sensors and actuators form the hardware of building automation – the backbone of technical building equipment. In contrast, software also known as Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) or Building Management Systems (BMS) is used at management level. This represents a further component of the MCR and complements the overall system. A distinction is typically made between three levels: the management level (BMS), the automation level (controller, Io modules) and the field level (sensors, actuators). Together they form an integrated system that is able to represent data in the MCR.

What does building management technology include?

The building management system (BMS) is the software for monitoring and operating the systems by the building technician using building automation software. In combination with the regulation on the controllers, the following individual systems are regulated, monitored and operated as a whole:

  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Lighting and shading systems
  • Surveillance and security systems
  • Ventilation systems

Which components contribute to building automation?

There are three different levels of building automation components. At the top is the so-called management level. This contains the building management system, which is responsible for controlling the entire system. The guidance system also serves as a user interface – for example on a computer or via apps on a smartphone. This is also known as a management and operating device for building automation (MOD). It is important that this works as manufacturer-neutral as possible in order to be able to communicate with the systems of different manufacturers.

Below this is the field level, at which the fieldbus connects the so-called field devices with each other. These include sensors and actuators that are responsible for measurement and control.

The so-called automation level lies between these two levels. This ensures data exchange between the DDC components, also known as automation stations (direct digital control components) in building automation. Various bus systems are used here – BACnet (Building Automation and Control Networks) and LON (Local Operating Network) work across manufacturers. Other systems are proprietary and therefore do not work together across the board.

What bus systems are there in the building sector?

Bus systems enable data exchange via different interfaces to the devices for measurement and control. Modern bus systems based on IP technologies have replaced conventional analogue transmission technologies in building automation. This is mainly due to several decisive advantages:

On the one hand, they enable lower cabling costs, as digital signals can be transmitted cost-effectively and in a space-saving manner via existing network infrastructures.

Secondly, they ensurefaster communication between the connected devices, which is particularly important for real-time applications and automated processes. Thirdly, digital bus systems offer a higher information density, as more data can be transmitted simultaneously.

Well-known bus systems include:

  • KNX

    KNX originates from electrical engineering and is often used in building automation for lighting and shading. Both wired and wireless connections are possible.
  • BACnet

    BACnet is a manufacturer-independent protocol for connecting different components in building automation. BACnet is now the most widely used protocol in building automation.

  • BACnet/SC

    The extension of the BACnet standard with the new communication via BACnet/SC ensures cross-manufacturer interoperability. We have put together a blog post with further details on BACnet/SC.

  • DALI

    DALI or DALI 2 stands for Digital Addressable Lighting Interface. This is an interface that is only used in lighting technology, where it is considered the standard.

  • ModBus

    This bus system is used for refrigeration systems and similar equipment. It is a competitor to BACnet – what both have in common is that they can be connected via a network protocol.

  • EnOcean

    This standard was developed for a wireless connection. It is used, among other things, for operating devices and whenever a location cannot be reached with the usual cable connections. Many manufacturers now offer support for this standard, which means that a wide range of corresponding hardware is available.

  • M-Bus

    This is a protocol that is used with meters – for example, to record electricity consumption in the system.

  • LON

    LON or Local Operating Network is an older, node-based standard that is increasingly being replaced by modern standards.

  • What are data points in building automation?

    Data points are measured values that flow into the controls. These data points can either be physical – i.e. they enter the automation system via digital or analogue means – or they can be virtual. The latter are, for example, target values stored in the software or other calculated data.

    What does a building automation engineer do?

    Building automation engineers are responsible for building automation from planning to implementation and operation . They are crucial for the smooth functioning and interaction of the various systems and therefore perform various building technology tasks. A distinction is made here between TBE planners and MCR/TBE integrators.

    The tasks of a technical building equipment planner

    As the name suggests, the technical building equipment planner is responsible for planning the technical building equipment. To this end, you will work with architects and carry out optimisations on existing buildings. The TEB planner’s area of responsibility is diverse and covers various fields from electrical engineering and lift technology to sanitary and heating technology.

    Areas of responsibility of the MCR/TEB integrator

    The MCR integrator plays a central role in the integration of measurement, control and regulation technology (MCR) in a wide range of environments. His responsibilities extend across various areas, starting with system integration. The integrator is responsible for integrating MCR systems into test and target environments to ensure that their functionality is optimised. The MCR integrator plays a decisive role, particularly in the context of safety-relevant MCR equipment. MCR integrators can also work in building automation, where they take on tasks such as operating, monitoring, optimising and parameterising MCR equipment. This versatility is also evident in his frequent technical role, whether as an MCR technician or HVAC service technician. It can cover various electronic and technical areas and thus contributes to the efficient and safe functionality of MCR systems.

    How much does building automation cost per month?

    In general, the cost of building automation depends on your own wishes and requirements.. It is not possible to make generalised statements about prices, as all automation projects differ greatly from one another. In Germany, the DIN 276 cost group is used to determine costs in the construction industry – building automation can be found in cost group 480. It contains the following components:

    • Automation systems fcan be found in cost group 481
    • Switch cabinets are listed in cost group 482
    • The building management systems are listed in cost group 483
    • Room automation systems can be found in cost group 484

    Why is the automation of buildings usually so expensive?

    Building automation is particularly expensive due to the complex interplay of different technical solutions. The comprehensive networking of the individual components therefore represents an important cost factor. Finally, sensors, actuators and control elements must be connected to each other. The following factors are also responsible for the costs:


    • Technical complexity: Specialised skills are required for building automation due to the many different components. The technical data of the components also differs from product to product.
    • Decentralisation: SAfter all, the various elements are distributed throughout the building and must be connected to each other and to the control centre accordingly.
    • Individuality: Every building is different and therefore requires a different network. As a result, customisation is one of the biggest cost factors.

    Do you have any further questions about building automation? Then get in touch with us. We are happy to answer your questions!