What Is An Integrated Building?
Today’s “intelligent building systems” support and operate various facets of the building and its facilities, including lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); energy management; security; elevators; life-safety systems; communications; and building condition monitoring.
The technologies used in these “wired” buildings aim to enhance the building environment and accessibility of occupants while at the same time reducing costs. Improving end-user safety, convenience and usability all lead to efficiency and user comfort.
Although there is no example of a fully integrated building, as specialists in building systems know, integration is becoming more common. “Technologies are becoming more prevalent and cheaper,” explains Kirk McElwain, Technical Director of the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) in Ottawa.
Increased Value, Decreased Energy
Intelligent building technology may bring substantial opportunities for increased sales, but before building owners race to incorporate the new control systems into their buildings, they need to consider the benefits they want from integration.
“Integration for integration is not helpful. Integration to increase efficiency for building operations or minimize energy usage for the facility is typically the desired outcome,” states Simon James, Marketing Chief for Building Automation at Honeywell ACS – Service, and Chair of CABA’s Intelligent & Automated Buildings Conference Advisory Committee and a member of CABA’s Board of Directors.
The challenge is to demonstrate the design of smart buildings with low financial risk and high financial returns. The long-term objective is to build a property that is more beneficial to the developer/owner/operator and is occupied by happy tenants.
The current view is that the building and its facilities usually have a lifetime of 25 years or more before significant improvements. Recognizing the speed of technological evolution, smart building systems offer the potential to update functional functionality more frequently and more effectively by upgrading components and equipment without the need to touch on physical components, such as cable infrastructure.
Communications Simply Process
Heavy focus on communication is required when designing an intelligent building. Each of the independent building systems is operated by a personal computer using traditional data processing communication techniques, backed up by a redundant, reliable and stable infrastructure.
Integration issues may be difficult and can be addressed to some degree by standards and conventions – protocols – developed by manufacturers. “It’s taken time for different companies to adopt some of the open communication standards such as LonWorks® and BACnet® that make integration easier for an intelligent building,” says James. “Now almost all control companies, as well as many equipment manufacturers, are providing BACnet, LonWorks or Modbus interface capabilities in their products/devices to simplify the process of integrating them.”
Even the available systems do not meet the criteria for full interoperability. Despite the shift towards more standardization between systems, many proprietary solutions still permeate the industry, making complete “interworking” unlikely.