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Tuesday, November 4, 2008


‘Intelligent’, an adjective often used in our day to day lingo. An apt word used to describe the capacity for thought and reasoning especially to a high degree. The world is moving at such a fast pace today that buildings are also called intelligent. Now how can a man-made creation be called ‘intelligent’ as if it has life of its own? But this, in today’s context is true. There is something christened as ‘intelligent buildings’.

Trade magazines of the 1980s ran stories on intelligent buildings. Automation systems making buildings more energy-efficient added to the characteristic of an intelligent building. The communication industry has said time and again how advanced telecommunication system has made buildings more efficient hence more intelligent! It is seen
in today’s world of architecture, intelligent buildings are referred to an office building with telecommunications that allow the rapid reconfiguration of the interior layout for a client.

To come up with a perfect definition to describe an intelligent building is difficult, perhaps because the industry is
not yet out of its adolescence stage, hence there is no standard definition. The International symposium held in
Toronto in 1985 on May 28th and 29th states intelligent buildings as something that combines innovations, technological or not with skilful management to maximize return on investment.

After much research and study intelligent buildings can be categorically stated to possess the
following characteristics –

1. High Technology –
Early 1980s saw the concept of high technology in intelligent buildings being introduced in
the United States. Intelligent buildings use electronics extensively and are high-technology related. Considering
the electronic aspects of an intelligent building we can sub-categorize it into four parts.
· Energy efficiency
· Life safety systems
· Telecommunications systems
· Workplace automation
The basic concept is to integrate the four operating areas into one single computerized system. A single
supplier would be furnishing all the hardware and the software that would use compatible equipment and common CPUs and trunk wiring. Such integration is not realized as yet nonetheless several manufacturers are capable of supplying all four operations not as an integrated system but separately.

2. Energy Efficiency –
Energy efficiency in an intelligent building consists of reduction of energy use to the bare minimum.
Computerized systems are used extensively in order to achieve this. Computerized systems go by numerous
alibis. They are called Building Automation System (BAS), Energy Management and Control System (EMCS),
Energy Management system (EMS), Central Control and Monitoring System (CCMS) and Facilities Management System (FMS). The usages of these technologies allow the improvement of various site and building services and
are considered good for the environment. Building services within buildings can be controlled by various methods. Among them broadly they fall into –
Time Based­­ – Provision of heating and lighting only when required. For example, it
can be used to turn on and off the heating system used in the building at pre-selected periods.
Optimizer parameter based – Often utilizing a representative aspect of the service,
such as Temperature for space heating and illuminance for lighting. For example, whatever the conditions
the controls make sure the building interiors reach the desired temperature when occupancy starts.
Energy effective systems balance a building’s electric light, daylight and mechanical systems for maximum
benefits. To achieve energy- effective design daylight could be added to a building. Nearly every commercial
building is a potential energy saving project where daylight could be used for maximum benefits and electrical
lighting then could be dimmed saving up to 75% lighting energy consumption.

3. Life‑safety systems –
What comes under this heading is the usage of high technology to maximize the performance of life safety
systems like the fire alarm and security systems while at the same time minimizing costs. Some of the
mechanisms used in the intelligent buildings to act like a protection shield to the human –life are as follows –
· Closed-circuit television
· Smoke detection intrusion alarms
· Card access control
· Emergency control of elevators, HVAC systems, doors, windows.
· Reduction in Manpower dependence

4. Telecommunications Systems-

Intelligence with respect to telecommunications in an intelligent building consists of many sophisticated services offered to the clientele. These offerings are at considerably reduced cost taking the fact that the equipment is
shared by many users. To name a few, some of the equipment to fall under this category are-
· Cable Television
· PBX telephone system
· Electronic Mail
· Video Text

5. Automation in the Workplace-

The operation of an office building is more efficient and feasible with the usage and installation of high-tech office automation systems. If common equipments are shared between the employees it cuts down on the cost factor.
For example,
· Centralized data processing
· Computer Aided design
· Information services
· Word processing
· Message center: (It is a back-up telephone switchboard for the users. It answers all tenants’ telephones
and is connected to printers conveniently locate in or near the offices of the tenants for immediate
delivery of the messages. When the telephone line is busy or doesn’t answer after continuous rings the message centre answers the call automatically. If any call is missed then the caller’s name, identity, time
of call, operator’s name is printed in the recipient’s office.)
Very interestingly the first intelligent building to be built in India is in Manapakkam, Chennai.

L&T-ECC’s Engineering Design and Research Centre (EDRC).

It is the L&T-ECC’s Engineering Design and Research Centre (EDRC). It is fully automated in terms of
energy management systems, life-safety systems, telecommuni-cations systems and workplace automation. The building is a sheer combination of beauty and elegance, it rises like a tree the branches of which spreads out
shaping into juxtaposed triangles at each floor level. The following features are installed in the building- lighting control system, access control system, fire detection system, Air handling units, Public address system, closed circuit TV surveillance system, energy monitoring.
As possibly the first time in India the building is without any light switch. The entire building is controlled entirely
through networked modules and software. At every entrance the building has been equipped with Wing LightingControl Units (WLCUs). Any employee working over-time can select lighting in the desired area to turn ‘on’ by merely touching the area on the display board. The lights will be ‘on’ for a pre-selected period after which it will automatically revert back to the auto ‘off’ option.

Cabins are equipped with Passive Infra-Red (PIR) detector to detect cabin occupation.
Entry into the cabin switches ‘on’ the lighting and a vacant cabin is shown by the lighting switching over to the ‘off’ mode, interestingly the lighting revives by itself at the next entry.The building is also equipped with access control and closed circuit television. There are smart cards which are the keys for entering the building. These cards
are embedded with a microchip and a built-in antenna that functions as a radio transceiver. Each card is unique
and has a unique alpha-numeric code inscribed at the time of manufacture. The manufacture is such that it is
non-duplicable and is tamper- proof. The access control system is integrated with the Building automation system (BAS). Apart from this, the building boasts of an alarm system integrated with an alarm system at the service
building located almost 100 meters away. The power monitoring and the public address system show the massive capability of BAS.

This is the beginning of a tech-savvy era. Today technology has started to make its presence felt in ourday-to-day life. Intelligent buildings are here and it is up to the users of today to decide whether preference should be given to comfort to rule our lives or should we revert back to our life thought to be less-comfortable yet livable?

'published on Shrusti 07-college mag'

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