Why intelligent buildings?


The term ‘intelligent buildings’ IS OPEN TO MISINTERPRETATION but it is a fact that building systems are an important factor on building projects.

They are no longer simply a technical solution to a particular area of the building process. Many clients and developers understand the commercial advantages intelligent buildings can bring.

Large investments are being made in this area by major multinational corporations. Skanska in Sweden, for example, established a Hi-Tech Buildings division. It grew from a standing start to 100 people in just eight months.

Market forces

Buildings and real estate have to be far more efficient, whilst being less expensive to construct. This is coupled with life cycle cost benefits and efficiency of resources. Intelligent buildings provide flexibility and adaptability which can be simply changed to meet the increasing business and legislative demands. The main losers are waste, inefficiency, and out-dated attitudes.


Technology issues seemed to dominate discussions in the ‘90s. When the bus wars were being waged alongside the proprietary lock-in systems. It was unclear which, if any, of the contenders would be the winner.

Echelon® with its LonWorks® made the running in some markets. EIB bus and BacNet® gained acceptance and supremacy in others. At the same time in the process control industries there were other alternative technology communications protocols being advocated such as J-bus, S-bus and so on.

It was all interesting for the technical people to argue about. They could agree to disagree forever. This was hardly the thing to get the construction industry, building owners and operators excited. They are not much interested in the technology: they are interested in benefits.

IP based standards

Fortunately convergence came about in the late ‘90s with integrated voice, data and video over IP. This had an effect on both the process control and building systems markets. Initially IP manifested itself in process control, with the emergence of Industrial Ethernet, and IP enabled field devices such as: sensors; valves and actuators.

More recently, the ubiquitous internet and the underlying Ethernet and TCP/IP communications/IP addressing conventions have been adopted in the building systems world by Skanska and others.

In the same way that printers, scanners, telephony and other equipment are integrated in the office environment, building systems can be linked together. These include building services systems such as:

  • Fire alarms
  • Intruder alarms
  • Building management systems
  • CCTV
  • Access control
  • Lighting
  • Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning

Cost perceptions

Buying integrated systems used to incur capital cost penalties. At the same time operating cost savings could be clearly demonstrated. Technology improvements especially in CCTV and Ethernet bandwidth have rationalised costs. More and more products are designed and sold with intelligent components. The result is little reason for capital penalties when adopting an ‘intelligent building’ philosophy.

Intelligence demanded

In this technological age, existing buildings are having more systems installed to meet the increasingly onerous requirements of:

  • Clients
  • Occupiers
  • Facilities managers
  • Governement bodies
  • Legislation
  • Environment and energy costs

The possibility of getting real time performance data from connected and integrated systems allows quantitative measurement both of systems and of the maintenance organisations responsible for availability, reliability and operation.

Service level agreements are rapidly becoming the mechanism used for defining contractual arrangements between service provider and client. These are supported and verified by the automatically gathered and processed real time data. With intelligent buildings, both service provider and client can simply measure performance.


With all progress, though, there are barriers, sceptics, and prejudices. The property and construction industries have more than their fair share of them.

Conservatism, vested interests and fragmentation within the industry all conspire against universal acceptance.

With the increasing evidence of the benefits Intelligent Buildings can deliver, large and powerful companies are promoting change.

Davmark™ helps clients through the complete process.


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