Delivering the intelligent building

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The new headquarters of Gloucestershire Constabulary has an underfloor heating and cooling system controlled by the building-management system and an intelligent lighting system using photocell presence detectors. Such is the significance of the sustainable practice adopted by MITIE as the principal M&E contractor that the building has been earmarked for a BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rating of excellent.
Among the many benefits of intelligent, or integrated, buildings is a lower first cost. IAN STORRAR has the full story.For all the definitions and hype surrounding what constitutes an intelligent building, at the heart is a simple definition. An intelligent building is an integrated building — a building where all elements such as HVAC control, lighting control, access control, scheduling, data logging, temperature, plant control, metering and fuse switches talk to one another over a common platform and have the ability to respond to the real-time needs of occupants. There are a number of reasons why integrated buildings are so attractive. Lower energy usage, for example, is fast becoming a key part of real estate and facilities management — especially with the increase in wholesale energy costs, legislation such as the EU Building Directive and the growing focus on climate change. Such integrated buildings run more efficiently — with lighting, cooling and heating, the major energy users in buildings, operating only when necessary and a greater focus on renewable and non polluting energy sources. Greater efficiency is just one benefit, and the supporters of intelligent buildings also point to a better experience for the occupant and increased productivity. With those benefits, why are intelligent buildings today more of a vision than a reality? What are the technologies and processes which make an existing or new building intelligent and integrated? Design, procurement and construction The decision to develop an integrated building must come early in the design process. Everyone, from the building owner to the design team, must be clear about the goals and how the building space is to be used. The bulk of the life-cycle costs of a building over a 25 year period are in operations and alterations. By focusing on the initial design process and establishing what the framework for the integrated building is, many of these costs can be avoided. Ideally a network integrator should also be on board to establish a common platform upon which all building components can operate, as well as address issues relating to bandwidth and power. It is also essential that procurement be as integrated as possible. Too often, procurement packages are designed for separate systems and disciplines — lighting, switchgear, security and HVAC, for example. The procurement process needs to take into account the future vision of the integrated building, the long-term lifecycle and the potential complications of overhauling the IT infrastructure. The construction phase also poses challenges for the future of integrated buildings. Even if project budgets become a challenge, it is important that the integrated elements of the building are prioritised. If designed properly, an integrated solution for the building will be more cost effective than a non-integrated solution. Cutting initial capital expenditure can lead to a reduction in future operational cost savings — with lower energy consumption, greater efficiencies in managing the building and increased employee productivity all being sacrificed for short-term savings. Getting the IT right — the open network An integrated, open IT network is essential to an integrated building. The open network must be able to encompass multiple devices from multiple manufacturers that are all able to conform to uniform industry standards. LonWorks is an open network standard in building-control applications and is supported not only in Europe, but worldwide. Anyone serious about implementing an integrated building should be looking to adopt this standard. Most integrated building installations use a twisted pair (wired in a ring or radial or a combination of both) to connect devices onto the floor network and then connect to a high-speed IT router to provide a resilient infrastructure across an IT network. This allows site-wide, company-wide or, even, worldwide connectivity to achieve effective estates management. Being aware of the obstacles — the status quo We have discussed some of the technologies and processes essential to an integrated building. It is also equally important to be aware of the typical obstacles. For example, there are many vendors — independent hardware vendors, system integrators or other elements of the building-services industry — who simply have an interest in retaining the status quo and stand-alone building solutions. The power is definitely with the end-user on this one, however. LonMark International, the organisation taking the lead in delivering open inter-operable products, now has over 300 members — manufacturers, equipment specifiers and system integrators who are all committed to the integrated building. The cost And there is legislative back-up as well. EN14908, a European Standard, which will be implemented in 2007, establishes a communication protocol for networked control systems and formally acknowledges the role of LonWorks networks in the European building market. Critics also claim that integrated buildings are too expensive. This is a misconception. In my 15 years in building services, I have never come across an integrated building more costly than a traditional building. In 2004, management consultancy Turner & Townsend found that occupiers could expect savings in capital costs of 4 to 5% when opting for open systems. Internal resistance There is also likely to be internal resistance from those looking to protect their fiefdoms — whether it is IT, facilities management or security. For an integrated building to be implemented effectively, an holistic, company-wide approach is required with a high-level director appointed to drive it through and assuage the concerns of employees. The integrated building offers huge potential to today’s building-services industry. The technologies and the vision are here — it simply remains for the people and processes to deliver. Ian Storrar is technical services manager for MITIE Engineering Services (Edinburgh) Ltd. MITIE Engineering Services is the division within MITIE specialising in the design and installation of building services throughout the full property lifecycle.
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