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Article - Sept 1999
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You can not take a building and make it intelligent, the building has to be designed "intelligent" from the first draft on the drawing board. Far more than the technical systems must be considered when designing an Intelligent building. An intelligent Building is not only the building itself and the systems installed. There must be a commitment from the developer / owner that this is and will be maintained as a intelligent building.

Per Bjorkdah
Vice President After Sales
TA Control Pte Ltd


The source of this article is the TA Control Pte Ltd Web Site.

Implications & Challenges Facing the Intelligent Building Industry.

Per Bjorkdahl, TA Control Pte Ltd

As any emerging industry there will be implications and challenges of different kinds. I guess one has to recognize that most development is initiated by the manufacturers and not by the buyers. Take for example the car industry, the more luxurious car, the more electronic gadgets and whiz functions you get. (I can not recall that anyone ever used the concept "Intelligent cars" in the marketing of the luxurious car.) This (electronic gadgets and whiz functions) added functionality does not necessarily have to be all evil. Many of the functions and features once introduced as luxury become standard over time. How many of us remember the seat belt not being auto adjusting? How many cars are sold in Singapore without air conditioning?. If these questions were asked fifteen years ago the answers would have been all different.

CatNet Systems Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that when new and advanced features are introduced as luxury or high tech., people tend to look at this as something that could be bought for money, if the money is available.

In the technological era of the twentieth century there are a large number of factors influencing the development in the Building Industry. Two of the most popular expressions associated with the Building Industry these days are IT, information Technology and IB ,Intelligent Buildings. I think most of the people involved with the Building Industry are somewhat uncertain of the meaning of these words.

One of them is easy to define. Information Technology, it is the means with which information is made available to people, i.e. PCs, Modems, Servers, Networks, Various software etc. There has been cases published where the authors have included the information transmitted as IT. which is not correct. All references to IT. in the following text is to the means with which information is made available to people and not to the content of the information distributed.

When it comes to Intelligent Buildings it becomes much more difficult to clearly define what it is. One thing is for sure, the answer will vary depending on who is asked the question.

Just as any industry, the Building industry has it's niche for nouveau technology. Right now this is the Intelligent Building, pushed by the manufacturers of mainly technical services such as CCTV, BAS, Access & Security and Fire. None of these manufactures really defines the Intelligent Building concept beyond the use of their own products and systems in a system, usually integrated with the BAS. In other words the definition is just partial of something that should be defined as a cohesive whole.

Building Management Business Support Systems
Office Automation Video Systems
TeleCommunications Audio Systems
Space Management Security Systems
Maintenance Planning Redundancy Systems

So what are the characteristics of an Intelligent Building?

There has been a few serious attempts to define the Intelligent Buildings and agree on a rating of them. What these attempts have in common is that they do take into consideration far more than previously done by the suppliers of technical services. This to me is correct, a building does not become intelligent just because a light is automatically switched on when someone enters a door. The intelligent building must be able to support other aspects that the technical.

You can not take a building and make it intelligent, the building has to be designed "intelligent" from the first draft on the drawing board. Far more than the technical systems must be considered when designing an Intelligent building. An intelligent Building is not only the building itself and the systems installed. There must be a commitment from the developer / owner that this is and will be maintained as a intelligent building.

As the wording, Intelligent Building suggests the building should be capable of making "intelligent" decisions or respond "intelligently" to changes. But what is an intelligent decision, alternatively response? If we look at Deep Blue in it's efforts to win the chess game with Kasparov. Deep Blue is capable of computing 200 moves per second, which should make it far more superior in deciding the next move. But Deep Blue is not intelligent. It is very efficient in performing the given task but intelligent, No. What do we then expect from an intelligent building, Intelligence or Efficiency?

I would say that what we expect is in fact high efficiency. Efficiency in the respect of receiving the highest possible output with the lowest possible input. One example could be the energy supplied to a building. The efficiency of the energy usage must be at or very close to 100% and it is the systems forming the intelligent building that is making this happen, being everything from the control system to the space planning of the office. As most previous research concludes the Intelligent building is in fact highly efficient rather than intelligent. But let us not confuse the issue, let us still use intelligent buildings as this is what the industry tends to use.

To be able to asses the degree of intelligence we have to look at the specific needs of a specific building. A system installed in a building considered as intelligent might not be considered intelligent if the usage of the building was to change slightly. It might be the capability of the system to be able to adopt to the changes that makes it intelligent. Similarly. Is the high tech. functions in cars such as individual adjustments of seat and mirrors depending on the identity of the key used regarded as intelligent? There is hardly need for any intelligence to adjust a few actuators to a given set of positions. The important point is that the system (in the car) is doing some thing that the driver would have been doing if the system was not there. If the car is used by only one driver all the time, what is then the efficiency? Well the system installed has provisions made for future changes and if a second driver was introduced the system is there to perform it's function.

Research in Europe has come to the conclusion that earlier definitions of intelligent buildings such as Being a collection of innovative technologies (1981 - 1985) and Responsiveness to organizational changes (1986 - 1991) has changed to include the fulfillment of the occupiers business objectives. (Source, DEGW / TEKNIBANK 1992)

In a recent survey on Intelligent Buildings in Asia, the Republic Plaza down town Singapore, was subject for a closer look. It was presented as being an Intelligent Building with the following project mission

"A built environment which can be customized to support human activity under varying conditions" (C K Fong City Developments Ltd.)

The technical systems of the building are integrated in what appears to be a four layer architecture where the top level connects two separate subsystems. The integrated systems offers the possibility to achieve effectiveness and utilizing IT on all levels.

Whether this building is more or less intelligent I can not say. The answer must come from those who occupy and maintain the building, and perhaps from the future tenants. What puts it in favor of a more intelligent building is the awareness of future changes in demand and the relation to the activity carried out within the building.

Republic Plaza System integration layout.

To determine whether one building is more intelligent than another building might not be all that easy. It depends very much upon if the systems were specifically designed for the activity taking place in the building or if the systems supplied are more of general type, providing effective solutions for general matters. There has been suggestions for a common rating system but to my opinion this should only be applied on the platform provided as there has to be a alterations depending on the type of activity that is going to take place. The most important criteria is the systems ability to adopt to changes. It does not really make sense if a tenant has to spend a small fortune on making the systems work for him.

Still today the cost for highly efficient systems in buildings is relatively high and the advantages might not be all that obvious. Different objectives from owners and developers have different impacts on the decision whether the building will be equipped with intelligent / integrated systems or conventional systems.

Despite the negative relation to the cost of utilization, the trend seems to be in favor of intelligent buildings. The reasons for this are probably several but the competitive office space market is surely contributing to the demand for "something extra" to be offered. The situation is similar to any industry offering "state of the art technology", it is available but you have to pay a premium to get it. The energy price and increasing salary costs are other factors that affects the acceptance of intelligent buildings as the cost of running the building is continuously increasing.

The intelligent building is definitely here to stay, it is just a matter of time until developers, owners and consulting engineers are fully aware of the possibilities it offers and that the available techniques are becoming known by the industry.

I am not surprised by the fact that companies like Microsoft shows an increasing interest in this type of issues. Imagine, they already have their software on almost every desktop computer and the step out of the computer to control your home or office is not far away.

I think in times like these where the drive for a higher and higher utilization of available techniques makes us invent needs, one has to be a bit cautious. Just look at the development of the computer industry. When the PC was first introduced in the early 80's who could ever expect the use of PCs to become what it is today. The industry together must make sure that it does not create white elephants being huge complex systems which will never provide the efficiently working systems they were supposed to.

During the Ground Braking Ceremony for the Media Super Corridor in Kuala Lumpur on May 17. A contract was signed between NTT, a Japanese telecommunications company and Telecom Malaysia, for providing amongst other services, Intelligent Building Services for the MSC. It will be very interesting to see to what extent and how the concept of intelligent building services has been interpreted in this huge ultra modern project that will settle for nothing but the latest in high technology industry.


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