The term ‘intelligent building’ has tended to reflect some degree of intelligence in the control of specific building services, for example energy management responding to the time of day and building occupancy levels. While the level of intelligence in individual building systems (heating and ventilating, access control, CCTV, and so on) has undoubtedly increased, each of these systems still exists largely in isolation.
Currently, building services are purchased in silos. The IT director buys phone and data networks, the head of security buys intruder alarms, while the facilities manager is responsible for heat, light and power. Each has separate cabling back to the control system.
This is all set to change. Using an IP network to connect all the key elements of building services, such as access control, fire and safety systems, heating and ventilation and IT systems offers huge scope for potential cost savings and improved functionality.
For example, triggering a smoke detector could result in switching off the air conditioning, switching the monitors to the affected area, placing the phone system in emergency mode and generating email notification to senior managers.
In an intelligent building, following the successful merger of voice and data services, the core IP network should be the backbone on which all systems are integrated.
Networked, intelligent buildings bring value through the convergence of IT networks and building automation systems, by creating a more cost-effective environment.
Potential cost savings include reduction in the amount of physical layer infrastructure required, increased energy efficiency, reduced costs through intelligent heating, lighting and cooling, and improved asset management and tracking.
The challenge for the construction industry is to embrace the concept of intelligent buildings and find vendors that can deliver fully networked, integrated services. Creating a retro-fit is complex and requires a strategic approach to upgrade and replacement programmes. Ultimately, it needs to be intrinsic to the design of new buildings and to be embraced at the earliest stages of planning.
IP networking allows major advances in the development of intelligent buildings. Initially this will be driven by the cost savings it enables. But it is the closer integration of currently independent building services plus IT and communications systems that will reap the highest benefits.
Peter Patsalides is managing director of reseller Bailey Teswaine.
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