Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Next generation building automation: The age of thermo regulation and energy production systems

January 17, 2011
By Digital Domus

Automated building and home systems are becoming more prevalent as today’s building owners look to cut energy costs, increase building security and increase control over their surroundings. Home automation companies are investing in systems that go beyond automating thermostats, also controlling air quality, solar panels and geothermal (among others).

Digital Domus designs building automation systems and offers solutions based on open industry standards with Internet technology at its core. Most recently, the Italy-based company delivered a solution for achieving energy efficiency using its control system and computerized, intelligent network of electronic devices, designed to monitor and control thermo regulation systems and an energy production system.

"Our customers have been able to drastically improve the operational efficiency in their building and home automation systems. This is being accomplished through a continuous connection to the valuable information within their environments," said Alessandro Fiorino, R&D chief and co-owner of Digital Domus. 

Homeowners and operations personnel, regardless of their location, are instantly notified of fault conditions in the building automation system. They are able to access, view and control the process using a standard web browser with an extensive user security model over an Internet or Intranet connection.

Digital Domus developed and implemented a home/building automation application for Giuseppe Re, the principal at Riso Italia s.a.s., for the purposes of controlling and managing a thermo regulation system and an energy production system within a multi-level office building and a two-floor home. Requirements included providing the customer with the ability to supervise and control all systems with a simple graphical interface, and to implement the logic into the PLC network.

"The two connected buildings had to be certified ‘A-rated’ based on the Italian laws for energy efficiency," said Marco Comello, co-owner of Digital Domus. "Our system is extremely end-user friendly and can easily [be] remotely controlled via a web browser or simply through remote desktop systems."

Digital Domus decided to use two Allen-Bradley MicroLogix 1400 PLCs connected by a standard TCP/IP LAN. One PLC controls all interactions between the heat sources (such as solar roof panels and geothermal pumps) and the under floor heating system. It regulates the water pumps for all three floors based on the user’s input for each floor. The first PLC also controls the air exchange system, thus minimizing heat loss and increasing the building’s energy efficiency in the process.

The second PLC interacts with the first to gather energy and water system status data. It also controls both the irrigation and dust extraction systems. The irrigation system is completely automated and allows the user to select the terrain humidity and preferred irrigation hours. After reading the terrain humidity, the PLC logic decides when to turn the water pumps on and off. The centralized dust extraction system controls and warns the user about any failures and errors that may have occurred (such as dirty filters and clogged pipes).

The data collected by the PLCs is recorded on a 1U rack mount server running KEPServerEX and Digital Domus’ Digital Supervision software. The Digital Supervision software supports open standards (such as OPC Data Access) that allow it to interact with Kepware’s KEPServerEX’s Allen-Bradley OPC server. KEPServerEX handles communications between the Allen-Bradley PLCs and Digital Domus’ OPC Client Software. Digital Domus also provided two in-wall mounted touchscreen panels, allowing the user to control the system through temperature adjustment and more.

"The system is ready for expansion as well, in part because KEPServerEX is built on a single OPC Server architecture that supports hundreds of protocols and thousands of devices," said Moreno Comello, co-founder of Digital Domus. "Kepware’s Allen-Bradley OPC Server enabled Digital Domus to complete the project with minimal effort and zero pain: saving them time, effort and money."

Half of the houses and buildings being built today are equipped with some kind of automation. Today, the terms "smart homes" or "intelligent buildings" are common. Digital Domus understands home and building automation, as well as its dependability on communications protocols created to control various electrical and electronic systems in a house or building. Kepware Technologies, through the thousands of devices and hundreds of protocols it supports, is seeing a paradigm shift in the building/home automation industry in terms of the amount of systems that can be monitored and controlled with the two main benefits being reduced energy costs and better overall efficiency.

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