February 2006

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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A Healthy Fear of Technology!

What we need to keep in mind, however, is that the benefits of adding technology to buildings will far outweigh any of the risks.

  A Healthy Fear of Technology!
Paul Ehrlich, P.E. Building Intelligence Group

Building Automation System Ethernet Switch Selection
Joe Stasiek, Sales Manager,
George Thomas, President Contemporary Controls

A Return To Growth
James McHale i&i limited

Defining The Intelligent Building Control Market
Ken Sinclair, AutomatedBuildings.com

Content provided for February issue

Intelligent buildings require the use of technology, yet many consultants, contractors, and owners are concerned about the risks of introducing new technologies into buildings. They look at their every day interaction with technology and see computers that have become obsolete, unexplained crashes, unwanted hackers, viruses, and other risks. As prudent professionals, how can we not worry about applying technology which seems to change every day to a building where we expect core systems to last for 20 to 40 years?

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These are all justified concerns. In fact, a healthy fear of new technology is not a bad thing. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that the benefits of adding technology to buildings will far outweigh any of the risks. Benefits can include greater occupant comfort, improved operational efficiency, and lower expenses and energy utilization. What we must do is mitigate the risks. How do we do this? The best solution is to have a plan to manage technology in buildings. Table 1 shows an example of the elements of this plan.


When new systems are installed on a project, it is critical that the operations staff be properly trained on how to operate and maintain them. Without proper training, technology will be doomed to fail. Systems that involve technology such as Web- enabled automation systems, enterprise management systems, and workorder tracking systems may also require coordination and training for the IT staff as well.

Like any building system, those that are technology-based need to be properly validated on installation and regularly tested and monitored. The test and monitor for these systems, however, goes beyond making sure that the systems operate as designed. Monitoring involves evaluating the network for hostile traffic, doing regular checks for viruses, and other problems. The test plans will typically be created in cooperation between the IT group and the facilities group.

As technology evolves many of the software and hardware components will become obsolete prior to the end of their usable lives. Upgrading these systems can often provide improved performance, easier support, and improved functionality and usability. It is best to plan for regular upgrades upfront. Here is a rough guide on anticipated system upgrade or replacement. Using technologies in building provides many benefits in lowered energy cost, and reduced operating expenses. These benefits are well worth it, but the cost to appropriately maintain and upgrade these systems has to be budgeted for properly. Well designed technology that is implemented and supported properly in buildings is invaluable.

About the Author

Paul Ehrlich is a well-known industry stakeholder and advocate of integrated and intelligent buildings. In 2004 he formed the Building Intelligence Group www.buildingintelligencegroup.com an independent consultancy, whose primary purpose is to help system suppliers, as well as building owners and managers, maneuver their operations through the vast changes prompted by enterprise building management.  Paul is also a regular contributing Editor for AutomatedBuildings.com.


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