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Article - May 99
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Your Building Address as a .com?
by Ken Sinclair, Editor AutomatedBuildings.com

The concept of a large building as an internet identity with its own web address is now the latest step in presenting and managing your AutomatedBuildings.

We have selected this article to be in our first launch issue because we think it sends us all a wake up call as to how significant the internet is going to be in the future. Our site is aimed at the Automation of Buildings and integration with the internet will become just another step.


Buildings With Their Own Internet Identity and Address

The concept of a large building as an internet identity with its own web address is now becoming a common trend. Previously, web sites have primarily been used for marketing the building and its services. Virtual browser based walk throughs are now common place, and allow potential clients to view space and building features before development.

Control Solutions, Inc An excellent example has been provided by the 199 Fremont project being developed by Fremont Properties. Check out their web site at:

http://199fremont.net/html/sitemap.htm Note that the web site is the building address.

The automatic updating web camera that allows you to watch the progress of general construction is a great example of the interactivity that can be achieved with your building web site and the real project.

Another use for this internet identity is the ability to allow virtual development of building requirements before the actual design specifications are set. The concept of a web site dedicated to an emerging building is a powerful communication tool that allows owner, designer, and developer almost instant communication on changing details. The web site can also be extremely useful during the bidding or procurement process allowing copies of documents to be available to all contractors almost simultaneously. Addenda are quickly communicated.

The following show how these concepts can be expanded.

Your Building as an ISP (Internet Service Provider)

Most large buildings support their own telephone system and are quickly evolving to “ISDN and T1 service", but few have made the leap to being an "ISP" (Internet Service Provider) selling high speed backbone connections, and email and web access services.

Data has become a utility and our clients expect highspeed access to the internet as much as they do heating, cooling and lighting. Major clients bring their own systems, but the growing trend of having a building filled with several smaller clients changes this paradigm.

The enviromation for a project can take on many levels of implementation. Listed below are some of these levels.

Have the building be an "ISP" (Internet Service Provider) selling high speed backbone connections, and email and web access services. It is possible that this service can be provided at no, or extremely low cost to the building, or the ISP services could be viewed as a revenue generator.

A building wide client Intranet could allow automated tenant billing systems with real time energy cost allocations. This same network could provide all building related communications; ie: holiday security procedures, fire drill times/procedures, occupant space complaint forms, client interface information, and human comfort concepts, IAQ assurance.

More leading edge features could be access to real time temperatures and IAQ data, virtual thermostats and lighting interfaces. The high speed inter-panel communication requirements for the building’s DDC system could use this same Intranet network using either TCP/IP, BACnet, LonTalk or custom protocol.

The Intranet is a new and exciting building maintenance and operating tool. A well done, fully integrated building operations and maintenance Intranet is more than just an e-mail connection between your client and the building operators. The O&M Intranet provides a constant "I care about you” presence to your clients, and can be the most important member of your staff. Multimedia presentations, including client input forms, can be generated to register and log all temperature and air quality complaints into your database. This same database can generate work orders, and communicate response actions directly to your client. Educating your client as to how the building's cooling and heating systems work, using detailed interactive graphics, can often eliminate complaint calls. By demonstrating concepts, such as the effect of closing blinds, with a multimedia presentation and answering other frequently asked questions (FAQ), you can provide immediate feedback and educate your client to help himself by doing everything possible before registering a complaint.

When major building upsets occur, as they do from time to time, this medium is an excellent method of communicating the actual problem and when it will be solved. This short circuits the rumor mill and gets the correct message to the client. Share your successes with the client as well as your mutual problems. Show them how you are meeting the ventilation code while providing both excellent client comfort and energy performance for the building. Tell them about your innovative recycling program. It is the client's space too, so tell them how hard you are working to make changes to the parking, landscaping, fire upgrades, etc.

Since we are in the maintenance and operating business we focus on the building problems. Every time we meet our client we tell him about the building problems and not about the 98% of the building that is working well. This new medium allows us to put together a professional sales presentation about the building's strong points, and to demonstrate to the client the ways we are caring for them.

The record keeping of all client and maintenance staff interaction is inherent with the O&M Intranet. No more handwritten notes. Multipoint access keeps the complete maintenance staff in communication with each other, and the building clients. Auto paging and auto generated client responses can be incorporated.

What about small renovation projects? Keeping a common file, accessible by both client and the project manager, greatly reduces normal communications, eliminates telephone tag, and all changes are documented.

All of the traditional building O&M documentation for the project will be requested in HTML form and weaved into an interactive internal web site with connection to vendors and manufacturers’ internet sites and email addresses.

Video conferencing could be part of the building wide client Intranet offering internal high speed PC to PC video service.

I am sure many more concepts will be brought forward. Functional creep, “the tendency to add more functionality because we can” should only be limited by the client’s desire and budget.

If having the building as a ISP is not practical, the scalability of the internet allows virtual or physical server solutions.

Buildings as Internet/Intranet Servers

Buildings as Internet/Intranet Servers

In our above article; it becomes clear that a Internet/Intranet server is part of your building's future. This server can be physical or virtual.

The virtual server works for marketing purposes, but the integration of ISP services requires a real high speed network connection. The further integration of real time data may require even additional servers on the network or shared services. The Internet/ Intranet is so scalable that your actual requirements will determine the best configuration.

One of the leaders in this field is Conservation Through Innovation Ltd. (CTI). CTI has developed EnFlex®, a unique, low cost, completely networked information management monitoring, and control gateway. EnFlex integrates the devices locally and transports the information over TCP/IP corporate Intranets or the Internet. An overview of this concept is provided on their site. http://www.enflex.net/

Other building automation vendors are providing interconnectivity with their own servers as part of their operating systems. This becomes easier as the systems support networking protocols. The wide acceptance of BACnet and LonTalk will allow easier interfaces to building servers.

A building client server could allow automated tenant billing systems with real time energy costs. This same network could provide all building related communications; ie holiday security procedures, fire drill times/procedures, occupant space complaint forms, client interface information, and human comfort concepts, IAQ assurance. More leading edge features would be access to real time temperatures and IAQ data, virtual thermostats and lighting interfaces even video conferencing.

Complete web style HTML building documentation with dynamic manuals plus linking to the various supplying vendors’ web sites allows for a tremendous resource for onsite and offsite operation personnel/contractors.

The Internet/Intranet is a new and exciting building maintenance and operating tool. A well done, fully integrated building operations and maintenance Intranet is more than just an e-mail connection between your client and the building operators. The O&M Intranet provides a constant "I care about you” presence to your clients, and can be the most important member of your staff. Multimedia presentations, including client input forms, can be generated to register and log all temperature and air quality complaints into your database. This same database can generate work orders, and communicate response actions directly to your client. Educating your client as to how the building's cooling and heating systems work, using detailed interactive graphics, can often eliminate complaint calls. By demonstrating concepts, such as the effect of closing blinds, with a multimedia presentation and answering other frequently asked questions (FAQ), you can provide immediate feedback and educate your client to help himself by doing everything possible before registering a complaint.

When major building upsets occur, as they do from time to time, this medium is a excellent method of communicating the actual problem and when it will be solved. This short circuits the rumor mill and gets the correct message to the client. Share your successes with the client as well as your mutual problems. Show them how you are meeting the ventilation code while providing both excellent client comfort and energy performance for the building. Tell them about your innovative recycling program.

It is the client's space too, so tell them how hard you are working to make changes to the parking, landscaping, fire upgrades, etc.

Since we are in the maintenance and operating business we focus on the building problems. Every time we meet our client we tell him about the building problems and not about the 98% of the building that is working well. This new medium allows us to put together a professional sales presentation about the building's strong points, and to demonstrate to the client the ways we are caring for them.

The record keeping of all client and maintenance staff interaction is inherent with the O&M Intranet. No more handwritten notes. Multipoint access keeps the complete maintenance staff in communication with each other, and the building clients. Auto paging and auto generated client responses can be incorporated.

What about small renovation projects? Keeping a common file, accessible by both client and the project manager, greatly reduces normal communications, eliminates telephone tag, and all changes are documented.

The Intranet can be implemented city wide and involve thousands of users or only be resident on a single PC. The concepts can even be transferred to a virtual Internet server that is password accessed for your group of clients.

How you use the exciting new communication media is your choice.


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