October 2008
Interview
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EMAIL INTERVIEW Mike Williams & Ken Sinclair

Mike Williams Managing Director C.Eng. FCMA, MCIBSE, MSyI, CDC

CDC’s founder and managing director is widely recognised as the UK’s leading visionary in the field of integrated systems within the Intelligent Buildings arena. Initially training and qualifying as a chartered building services engineer, Mike later qualified as a chartered accountant.  Mike has demonstrated a strong track record of turning vision into reality, through both promoting and delivering Intelligent Buildings and an involvement in various high-profile committees such as: The British Council of Shopping Centres, British Standards Institution (BSI), and a long time involvement with Intelligent Building Group (IBG), for which he is its General Secretary. In 2006 Mike was appointed an advisor to the Beijing Government on energy saving in buildings; and was admitted to the Experts Panel of the Intelligent Buildings Committee of the Chinese Ministry of Construction, as the first and only non Chinese member. CDC’s business activities are centred in the UK, Scandinavia, the Gulf, China and SE Asia.


Intelligent Buildings

Within an intelligent building all elements (such as lighting; heating; security, CCTV and alarm systems; access control; audio-visual and entertainment systems; ventilation, filtration and climate control, etc), talk to one another over a common platform and have the ability to respond to the real-time needs of occupants.

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Sinclair:  What exactly is an intelligent building?

Williams:  An intelligent building can be defined as a building that uses technology and processes to reduce its environmental impact, protect occupant health and safety, improve employee productivity, and become more operationally efficient for its owners. Within an intelligent building all elements (such as lighting; heating; security, CCTV and alarm systems; access control; audio-visual and entertainment systems; ventilation, filtration and climate control, etc), talk to one another over a common platform and have the ability to respond to the real-time needs of occupants.

An Intelligent Building can incorporate a huge range of technologies, and the potential of this technology is endless. Our lives are changing as a result of Intelligent Building developments in living and working environments.

Sinclair:  What kinds of buildings can become intelligent?

Williams:  There is an outdated view that only new builds can be intelligent, however this is completely untrue, and it is usually legacy buildings that have the most to gain. This is because for many years, their building management systems (BMS) have been monitored manually, and often by a different person for each system, which is obviously inefficient, posing security risks as there is room for human error. By linking these systems, they can all be monitored by just one person, and because technology takes over when alerts are generated, the response times to emergencies can be dramatically improved, so overall, the building not only becomes more efficient, it also becomes a lot more secure.

Intelligent building technology is also ideal for multi-site locations, for example, universities and hospitals as well as the usual corporate buildings. The Internet provides the ideal communications medium between these groups of buildings in different locations (i.e. campuses). This means that formerly disparate BMS, such as CCTV, fire and burglar alarms and access control can be controlled by a single operator, improving automation and increasing efficiency.

CatNet Systems Sinclair:  What are the business benefits of having an intelligent building?

Williams:  The main benefit of having an automated building system is the cost saving that can be made. This is especially significant given the current economic climate when cost reduction is a top priority. The reason that an intelligent building can cut costs is simply down to the improved efficiency it affords. For example, a building automation system can generate and log alarms, record the time of the incident – perhaps for a failure in the central heating system – email the contractor to request a fix, so the problem can be resolved before it manifests itself physically. This means that not only is downtime eliminated, but also companies can run smaller FM help desks. Systems such as lighting, heating or air conditioning can be incorporated into the intelligent building software, so that they automatically switch off when no longer required, reducing energy usage.

In addition, the highly optimised building automation system has less redundancy and less expensive hardware. In reality, opting for intelligent building technology needn’t cost more than the sum of its parts, making it no more expensive than a ‘normal’ BMS set up which isn’t half as efficient. Developers have to start thinking, shaping and influencing people about intelligent buildings early on in the design process, before people start to make decisions and recommendations.

Implementing an intelligent building can result in a significant improvement in system operations, increased efficiency, and provide high-level tools for facility assessment and optimization. An intelligent building begins with a solid design and delivery of automated building systems and their associated controls, then builds by adding higher levels of system integration and connectivity. For an intelligent building to work, the underlying systems must be properly designed, implemented, commissioned, and automated -- resulting in ease-of-operation for managers, improved comfort and safety for building occupants, and increased ROI for the owner.

Sinclair:  Following office openings in Dubai, CDC is to open an office in the US – what were the main reasons for this?

Williams:  The demand for intelligent buildings is increasing the world over as prospective buyers and tenants continue to understand the cost and management benefits that an integrated approach can bring, and by opening offices across the globe, we can help businesses take advantage of the benefits of intelligent buildings. The new US base in particular, which is located in Portola Valley, California, has been set up to meet this growing demand for easy to use, cost effective technology that enables intelligent green buildings.

Existing buildings and systems, rather than new-builds, form the mainstay of this market, and this is an area in which CDC has a lot of experience, as mentioned previously. Because we’ve done it so many times in the UK, we are well placed to advise US companies how to get the most out of their existing BMS.

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