Intelligent buildings, also called smart buildings, are a new form of buildings which are designed around environmental considerations coupled with efficient use of resources to minimize the lifetime cost of the infrastructure and facilities, the goal being a building which meets the needs of the end-users most effectively.
These buildings thus provide an economical but productive environment by balancing the four elements of structure, systems, services and management, with the relationships between them.
In order to achieve these aims, advanced building technology systems need to be installed and used, such as building automation, telecommunications, safety and user systems.
The first time a technology for intelligent building was described was in 1981, by the United Technology Building Systems Corporation in the USA. The technology itself was realized for the first time in the City Place Building, Hartford, Connecticut. It is important that intelligent buildings incorporate smart technology as well as user requirements into their planning, design and execution, to facilitate optimal interactions between those who use or occupy the building and also with the surroundings.
An important facet of an intelligent structure is creating automated systems (BMS) or building automation systems (BAS). These are designed as a single automatic electrical centralized system which controls various essential facilities such as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning). They also include:
- Power management
- Energy metering
- Security – to monitor who enters the home and when
How is a BAS Useful?
The aim of BAS technology is five-fold:
- It makes the lives of the occupants more comfortable
- It operates various utilities at maximum efficiency
- It reduces energy usage
- It helps make operations cost-effective
- It enhances the life cycle of various utilities
BAS technology is a distributed control system based on computer networks between electronic devices that regulate these facilities. This means that the various parts of the building must be connected via reliable networks which can communicate information fast.
The BAS thus provides climate control, switches on lights to rooms that are occupied when necessary, keeps track of how and which devices are functioning and picks up any device failures, and sets off alarms and alerts to ensure timely maintenance and security.
Many protocols have evolved for BAS-core buildings, such as BACnet, and these meet IEEE standards or consortia standards such as nVoy or QIVICON. The purpose behind these standards is to make sure that bringing a number of different devices into multiple physical networks for a variety of uses is safe, effective and meets high quality standards.
BAS operates in different modes, such as occupancy mode, morning warmup and night-time setback modes.
BAS also helps make buildings green, in terms of conserving air, energy and water consumption. For one, advanced monitoring of ventilation and humidity is in place, as also on-demand responses by electrical devices. Another application is in the passivhaus design which is meant to ensure no net energy consumption, via heat capture, appropriate shading, venting, and scheduled use of electrical devices.
Components of Automated Building Technologies
BAS networks typically rely on primary and secondary buses that connect controllers specially built for BAS, with lower-level controllers, input/output devices and a human interface device.
The controllers are small customized computers that read inputs such as humidity, temperature, or current flow. In turn the outputs allow it to send control and command signals to other devices which execute required functions, as well as to other parts of the BAS. Analog and digital inputs and outputs are typically used.
Input devices include sensors while output devices mean controls such as transducers converting current to pneumatics, or a variable frequency drive, actuators or valves. These are typically analog-type. Digital outputs can also be used as when relays or switches are used, to switch on lights when sensors indicate darkness, for instance.
Do Automated Building Technologies Carry Any Risks?
While there are already products and applications that allow remote management of home property via smartphones, for instance, as well as security-related devices like surveillance cameras, smart locks, and motion detectors, the issues related to these must also be explored.
Remote control could very well become an additional security risk by allowing hackers to access the insecure data being exchanged between the remote device and the home control system. This could allow potential intruders to find one more way to breach home security using the home communication system. Thus homes connected to the Internet may actually represent lower security, not more.
One obvious solution would be to provide secure encrypted data storage and transmission. Intensive research is going on to make BAS more secure.