Realising the potential of intelligent buildings
RAJESH SINHA explains how the IP network that is ubiquitous in new buildings provides the key to intelligent buildings.ntelligent buildings have been talked about for some time. To date, however, the term has tended to be used to reflect some degree of ‘intelligence’ within the control of specific building services — for example energy management responding to time of day, building occupancy levels etc. Whilst the level of intelligence within the individual building systems (HVAC, access control, CCTV, fire and security etc) has undoubtedly increased, each of these systems still largely exists in isolation. De facto standard IP networking is now becoming the de facto standard for connecting the field devices and sensors of each of these systems to their central control. This presents the possibility for increased integration between the discrete systems and extends the scope for interaction with other IP based systems such as communications systems and IT. Using an IP network to connect all the key elements of building services (i.e. access control, CCTV, energy management, fire and safety systems, heating and ventilation, lighting, physical security (burglar alarms etc.) and ICT systems such as telephony, core networks and network applications and wireless connections offers a huge scope for potential cost savings and improved functionality. For example, triggering a smoke detector could result in switching off the air conditioning, switching CCTV monitors to the cameras in the affected area, placing the phone system in emergency mode and generating e-mail notification to senior managers. “Ultimately, intelligence needs to be intrinsic to the design of new buildings and be embraced at the earliest stages of planning” Building services are currently purchased in silos. The IT director buys phone system and data network. Head of security buys intruder alarms and CCTV. The facilities manager is responsible for heat, light and power etc. Each person has separate cabling back to their control system). Backbone In an ‘intelligent building’, following the successful merger of voice and data services, the core (IP) network should be the backbone for integrating all systems. 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 the following. n Reduction in the installed amount of physical layer infrastructure required. n Increased energy efficiency of buildings. n Reduced costs through intelligent heating, lighting and cooling. n Enhanced health and safety functionality. n Improved asset management and tracking. The challenge for the construction industry is to embrace the concept of ‘intelligent buildings’ and find vendors who can deliver fully networked, integrated services. Creating a retrofit intelligent building is complex. It requires strategic approach to all upgrade and replacement programmes. Ultimately, intelligence needs to be intrinsic to the design of new buildings and be embraced at the earliest stages of planning. Intelligent infrastructure management at work With the IP network infrastructure at the core of the integration of ‘intelligent buildings’, effective management of this infrastructure is key. Some organisations are embracing new technologies such as ‘intelligent infrastructure management’ to achieve this. Bailey Teswaine has installed the network infrastructure for an extension to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire. The new campus facilitated a large part of the Human Genome Project — one of the largest biological experiments ever undertaken into the genetic make-up of human cells. It also facilitates uses that will drive the next phase of the research, that of commercially and medically exploiting the findings. Central to the new development was a new data centre housing over 2000 servers and over 300 terabytes of storage. When complete, it will be one of the most powerful in the world for processing this type of data. The data centre benefits from intelligent infrastructure management, designed to bring increased flexibility and speed to the management of the infrastructure physical layer. Using Brand-Rex SMARTPatch technology the new system is realising efficiency gains by eliminating the need to constantly audit the highly complex data network while at the same time improving the reliability of both the data and fibre optic based storage area network. These gains, in both time and cost, are brought about by allowing the reconfiguration of the data centre connectivity to be efficiently carried out via the software, before being quickly realised in hard connectivity. A spokesperson from The Wellcome Trust, commented, ‘Data collection is vital to the work undertaken at the campus, especially now our researchers have moved from the human genome project to functional genomics. For this reason the trust chose Bailey Teswaine’s flexible, cost-efficient and up-to-date network infrastructure.’ The data collected and processed by The Wellcome Trust Genome Campus team at the South Field Campus has already generated a high-quality human-genome sequence, which has been made freely available. By deploying new technologies to help further its work, the team will continue to provide genomic information that will be used by researchers for decades to come. Conclusion IP networking provides the platform for a major advance in the development of intelligent buildings. Initially this will be driven largely by the cost savings which it enables. Increasingly the benefits of closer integration of, currently, independent building services plus IT and communications systems will deliver further benefits. Rajesh Sinha is technical director with Bailey Teswaine, 8 Lanark Square, Glengall Bridge London E14 9RE.