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November 2014

Building Intelligence:
it's only smart

A building's “intelligence” is measured by how well its systems communicate via a single, common  network. Much like its human counterpart, this “central nervous system” is only effective when it can share crucial information with the central brain.
In order to function efficiently, the human body relies on a single communications network: the central nervous system. This extraordinarily complex information conduit manages the inputs and outputs for every bodily system and function: motion, temperature regulation, ventilation, detection of light, and much more.
Sound familiar? That's because an intelligent building is provided with a similar set of control systems that manage inputs and outputs from its various operations – everything from air movement and temperature control to ventilation and lighting. Like the human body,  intelligent buildings require an integration system or “brain” to interpret and conduct information flow and control.

Q&A with Langdon Baker, 
Associate Principal

What is an intelligent building?

Intelligent buildings use communication and automation technology to interpret the information available from a variety of available systems in the building. This allows for a remarkable degree of control, notification and decision-making by the building's “brain.” The result is a building that can be optimized to benefit the owner, operator and tenants. The objective is to connect all of a building's systems to a common “nervous system” network to enable access to the information.

What challenges are encountered in developing an intelligent building?

Most buildings have intelligent systems, but they often don't work together. To move from basic system interaction to truly intelligent buildings there needs to be a change in the design and construction thought process. The design of the integrated communication system needs to start early – at the very least, when the building design begins. The greater the building's dependency on a single, central nervous system, the earlier it needs to be built. The communication network has now become as critical to the schedule as permanent power. 

What can Smith + Andersen do to make my building more intelligent?

We will start by fully analyzing the needs of a building's occupants and operators, and then match those needs with opportunities to integrate existing systems and develop a common network. To guide future upgrades, S+A will document a technology and integration master plan. We have a great deal of experience in this area, including involvement in the design of the first fully-digital hospital in North America with access to live information when and where it is needed.

Looking ahead, what do intelligent building designs need to consider?

As technologies mature, so do the expectations of end users.  Our clients will expect a facility that adjusts to the wants and requirements of each occupant, and that can be upgraded to meet future technology demands. This last point is key, and S+A has been “looking ahead” since we began system integration on communication networks in 2006.  Our foresight in building adaptable building nervous systems over the last eight years means that clients can take advantage of advances in communication network design and integration.

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