December 2012

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To Integrate Or Not To Integrate

That Is The Question

William Rhodes

William Rhodes, 
Market Analyst,
Building Technologies, Security & Fire
IHS/IMS Research

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There is little doubt that building systems are becoming more integrated. Most large newly constructed or refurbished buildings have at least a basic level of integration. However, the real question is why are building systems becoming more integrated and intelligent?

Energy Savings

One of the key drivers for integrating systems and making buildings more intelligent is the energy efficiency savings that can be achieved. With energy prices forecast to rise and energy efficiency becoming an important decision factor for many businesses; installing efficient building systems may become a necessity at some point in the future. Energy certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Energy Star encourage buildings to hold a minimum level of automation and control.

Reduced Cabling and Installation Costs

Installation costs can fall when one system uses the inputs from another system it is integrated with. For example, the lighting control system may require a light and occupancy sensor within a space to determine lighting levels. The building automation system requires a similar input to determine whether to heat or cool the same space. When the two systems are integrated they can both use the same sensor saving on equipment cost and installation time.

Optimisation of Business Processes

Operational efficiencies outside of energy savings and installation savings can be achieved through installing integrated and intelligent solutions within buildings. For example, human resources can use access control information to track billable hours; lighting and building management systems can be used for space planning; and video surveillance systems (traditionally only used for security) can be used to track consumer behaviour.

Despite the benefits, there are disadvantages of integrated and intelligent building systems:

The Cost of Integration

Although there are cost savings associated with the installation of integrated and intelligent building solutions; solutions require an integrator to facilitate the different building systems into a single platform. This involves additional cost to the end-user. This cost can increase if one or more of the systems or a particular piece of equipment uses a proprietary communication method rather than an open protocol.

Reliable Controls Experience of Early Adopters

In the past, some end-users adopted new building integration technologies to operate a more cost effective and efficient buildings. However, many did not achieve the efficient building they were hoping for. In some cases, equipment was only partially integrated. In other situations the equipment was in beta testing and required many bug fixes. Some solutions were so complex they were never used. Although the technology has now reached a point that these situations do not exist, the experience of early adopters could shape the market potential in the short term at least.

Requirements for Integrating Different Systems

Every building is different; across building functions there are similarities but each individual building with the same function has different requirements for solutions. For some buildings, the requirements to integrate different systems are not as apparent as others. For example, some museums maintain an independent security system to ensure it is a completely closed solution with no possibility of external access. Situations like this will always limit the potential of the integrated and intelligent building market.

Senior Market Analyst William Rhodes, from IMS Research (recently acquired by IHS (NYSE:IHS)), will present these and other benefits and costs of integrated building systems, the current market size and future size of smart building systems, and some of the future technology trends, at AHR in Dallas, TX on the 28th January.


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