Michael Green, Senior Consultant with PTS Consulting, considers the route from building intelligence to truly smart buildings
Almost universal adoption of Internet Protocol (IP) networking, and the development of the World Wide Web, has led a wide range of manufacturers to develop IP-based products offering similar, or improved, functionality to those based on legacy or proprietary technologies.
In particular, IP is exerting significant influence in technologies, such as Video Surveillance, Access Control, Fire Alarm systems, HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning), and Building Management Systems (BMS).
As the benefits of converging IT and Building Automation Systems (BAS) become more widely appreciated, so it is increasingly the preferred strategy for new construction projects, in an effort to improve building design, and deliver commercial, operational, and environmental benefits for building owners, managers, and occupants.
Building Intelligence may be considered the process and the result of implementing a ‘converged’ IP network as a common infrastructure
The traditional approach to building systems design is based on the deployment of individual systems, each with its own endpoints, device controllers, servers, and cabling infrastructure.
Typically, this results in duplication of effort and materials, the co-ordination of multiple infrastructure installations within the overall project plan, and a cost overhead to the project budget. It also produces a legacy of multiple underlying communications technologies, and increased complexity and cost in ongoing facilities management (FM).
In contrast, ‘Building Intelligence’ utilises a single IP infrastructure to support corporate IT services (data, voice, and multimedia) and building control systems (physical security, HVAC, lighting, safety, power management, cashless catering etc.), in a working environment which is flexible, effective, comfortable and secure. As technology advances, and user expectations become more sophisticated, the use of a unified IP network to connect these key elements offers significant potential for cost savings and improved functionality.
By eliminating duplicate technology, an intelligent building design creates a smaller environmental footprint, reduces maintenance costs, helps to maximise building performance, and contributes to higher BREEAM and LEED ratings.
‘Building Intelligence’ provides a scalable, future-proof platform, able to adapt and evolve quickly in support of new operational requirements and, by unlocking ‘silos of information’, makes it possible to develop advanced FM strategies, and create a truly ‘Smart’ building.
Building Intelligence provides a scalable platform able to evolve quickly… making it possible to create a truly smart building.”
The full support of the Project Board and senior client management is a critical element in the success of a ‘Building Intelligence’ project. It is also important to have the commitment of the professional team, a much closer engagement of the IT team, and the active participation of client FM, IT, and Security departments, where operational working practices may be affected by this approach to systems design.
The project will require the early engagement of the IT design team, and a coherent approach to network design, IT security and building management, in order to establish IT requirements for each building system, define the network infrastructure design, and contribute to logistics planning.
As part of this process, the network designer will work closely with each building system designer to establish an IT strategy, and estimate the number and type of network connections required. For example, a decision to deploy individual IP-addressable building system endpoints, instead of a ‘hybrid solution’ (with only an IP ‘head end’ controller requiring network connection), is likely to have significant design, and cost, implications for the network infrastructure.
The client IT Security team must also be consulted during the early stages of a project, to review the implications of ‘Building Intelligence’ in the light of corporate security policy, determine those system applications which may be supported together, and identify any which should be isolated. This will ensure that the final network design incorporates levels of logical, or physical, separation between corporate IT and BAS networks which are appropriate to the perceived risk and business impact.
Operational software maintenance procedures for IP-based building control systems should also be assessed, to mitigate potential cyber security risks associated with ‘Smart Building’ environments, and ensure compliance with corporate IT policy.
The adoption of a ‘Building Intelligence’ strategy as an afterthought; an absence of support from the Project Board; insufficient collaboration between the IT and building systems design teams; or the late engagement of IT in the construction program are issues that will lead to significant project and operational constraints.
Failure to consider corporate IT security policy in light of a converged network environment, and implement an appropriate regime for application segregation and control, is likely to lead to problems with systems acceptance.
Client aspirations to develop ‘Building Intelligence’ into a ‘Smart Building’ environment are likely to be compromised by the selection of building control systems which use proprietary protocols rather than ‘open standards’, or failing to ensure that proposed integrated management software is proven to work with a wide range of building control systems.
Recent research has shown that the benefits delivered by ‘Building Intelligence’ projects include significant annual energy savings, reduced CO2 emissions, enhanced property valuations, greater operational flexibility, and a relatively short investment return period in new construction projects.
A detailed study, based on a typical office building specification, has shown a 24.2% saving on capital building system costs, and a 36.7% reduction in operational expenditure, through equipment and space consolidation, improved energy efficiency and resource utilisation, increased productivity and lower insurance premiums.
‘Building Intelligence’ provides the foundation for building control system integration, paving the way to advanced FM strategies, and enhanced service delivery to occupants and users.
Operational improvements in a ‘Smart’ building may include support for ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ management of building operational performance, and the use of web-enabled surveillance systems to provide authorised personnel with the ability to view live CCTV from a range of Wi-Fi devices while mobile within the building, or further afield.
In the event of a reported fire, for example, automated system operation can enhance safety and security by sounding alarms, opening exhaust dampers, instructing occupants via PA systems, unlocking doors for evacuation, generating an accurate occupancy list from access control records, and directing CCTV cameras to provide emergency responders with a view of the incident.
Into A Brave New World
‘Building Intelligence’ - the use of a common, IP-based network infrastructure to support IT and building systems, results in a more flexible facility, delivers tangible commercial and operational benefits to the building owner and operator, provides occupants with a safer, more effective working environment, and offers the potential to develop the facility into a truly ‘Smart’ building.
Adopting this approach to systems design, and achieving a successful outcome, requires commitment, enthusiasm, and collaboration from senior client management, the IT and FM teams, and the professional project team.
For those prepared to grasp the opportunity, adapt to new practices in systems design, project planning and construction logistics, and invest time, effort, experience and expertise, the results will reward the hard work involved, and enable them to reap the benefits of a successful project outcome.
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