May 2009

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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The dawn of the era of the Intelligent Building?

The simple answer is that a convergence that has been building for years is now occurring.

Paul Ehrlich & Ira Goldschmidt
Building Intelligence Group

As published

May Issue - Column 

“Don’t you know – Talking about a revolution sounds like a whisper?”
Lyrics by Tracy Chapman

For years there has been lots of discussion (and debate) about the concept of the Smart, Intelligent, or Connected Building. The idea being to have integrated building systems that result in improved operations, efficiency and productivity. In fact some argue that this is a concept that originated over 20 years ago. But despite all of the articles, conferences, and reports the delivery of Intelligent Buildings in the US has occurred on isolated projects and has been far from what we might consider mainstream. But it appears that it may be that we are in the edge of a dramatic change – in fact you could argue that this may be a revolution in Building Automation.

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But seriously, why would we make such an audacious prediction, especially in the midst of a major recession? The simple answer is that a convergence that has been building for years is now occurring. Here are the elements:

Sustainable Operations:

The drive for sustainability and carbon reduction continues, fueled by corporate and Government mandates for improved efficiency. As part of the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), billions will be spent over the next 60 months to convert existing government buildings to become high performance green buildings. We are seeing similar programs being implemented by private industry as well. But there is a realization that delivery of a high performance building needs to have the necessary tools in place so that they can be properly operated, measured, and monitored to achieve and measure their performance. This leads them to implement Intelligent Building technologies.

Smart Grid meets Smart Buildings:

There is a strong drive to transform the utility grid to make it more rugged and reliable. This program, called Smart Grid, is also going to more closely connect the utility to the building. This will allow the utility to better match generating capacity with grid demand allowing for improved efficiency. Smart Grid demonstration projects are already up and running in Boulder, Colorado and significant funding is now available as part of ARRA.

New Suppliers:

contemporary The concept of the Intelligent Building is rooted in the concept of converging building systems onto the IT system. In the last six months we have seen several major IT companies announce Smart Building solutions including Cisco and IBM.

What’s Next?

The necessary technology and open standards for the delivery of Intelligent Building projects are largely commercially available and owners are starting to do broad scale implementations. So what is holding us back? The challenge remains with the traditional process used for the design and delivery of buildings. New processes for integrated design, construction, commissioning, validation and operation are required. This opens opportunities for “next generation” designers, contractors and operators who are knowledgeable in skills including systems optimization, integration, user interface and use of software tools.

About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at  We also invite you to contact us directly at or



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