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The concept of an Intelligent, Smart or “Next Generation” building has been around for years. The concepts where first proposed back in the 1980’s and discussions and promotion have continued ever since then. In many ways this concept has followed the classic “Hype Cycle” described by the noted technology consulting firm, Gartner Group. In this cycle new concepts start and are quickly hyped to a peak of expectations, this is followed by reality or the trough of disillusionment, finally the actual benefits are realized and the technologies plateau. Gartner uses this concept to chart the progress of numerous technologies.
So where does the concept of an Intelligent Building fit in this cycle? It is pretty clear that we are following this path! We have suffered from Inflated Expectations and gone through some significant Disillusionment. We would like to think that we are entering the Slope of Enlightenment and starting to see demand and acceptance. Why do we say this? There are several reasons driving this opinion:
1) Technology Maturity
When this concept was originally introduced the technology was expensive and complicated. Today web enabled integration platforms and IP enabled devices are available from a number of established suppliers. This is no longer experimental, but mainstream technology. The result is that it has become practical and economical to implement an Intelligent Building.
2) Standards are in place and accepted
In addition to using mature technology, there are solid industry standards such as BACnet and LonWorks readily available. All major manufacturers are supporting standards and offering some form of tested and verified products. The result is that integration has become practical and economical.
3) Market need is present
As we work with building owners and designers we hear continued needs for Intelligent Buildings. The primary drivers remain productivity, energy and staff efficiency. We see the needs of building owners and operators driving the demand for intelligent solutions.
4) Future Concerns
In addition to the needs of today we are seeing new concerns over global warming, and long term supply of fossil fuels. This combined with the pressure of an aging electrical generation infrastructure, is putting the onus on new programs for high efficiency and even “zero energy” commercial buildings. These programs will have an intelligent, integrated system design as one of their core elements.
This isn’t to say that we are without challenges. We still see significant challenges with delivering on proper project planning, design, installation and commissioning. But there is work going on within organization such as CABA (www.caba.org) to help solve these issues. CABA has introduced a new tool called the Building Intelligence Quotient (BIQ) that is designed to rate and provide the value of an Intelligent Building. They also have established a group to develop an Intelligent Building Roadmap. This document will serve as a tool to help the industry develop the necessary programs to help solve many of these challenges. Finally there are many excellent educational events such as the Engineered Systems Building Automation Conference (http://bnpevents.com/ES/BAC/index.htm) help to provide education and raise awareness. As a result we are seeing significant progress and the delivery of truly intelligent projects not just in Asia and the Middle East, but also in North America as well. Given the progress we have made it is realistic to think that it is time for Intelligent Buildings – Today!
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