Smart buildings, take two

New technologies are making intelligent buildings of today even smarter tomorrow

'At present, there is much emphasis on the Green Mark for buildings in Singapore, which includes the auditing and monitoring of various parameters that measure efficiencies in energy, water and environment,' he says. 'We believe that in the future, Singapore developers would combine the green building solution with intelligent building solutions,' he adds.

Lim Eng, chief executive of NCS Group, agrees. Like ST Electronics, NCS is seeing a boom in its intelligent building-related IT business. This SingTel subsidiary has been involved in major projects in Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China and Singapore.

Mr Lim says the energy-conservation drive is being reflected in the emergence of green building standards from governing bodies like the US-based Green Building Council, which has a rating system called The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has a green building rating system to evaluate buildings for their environmental impact and performance, called the BCA Green Mark.

Carrying the green notion even further is another concept known as Net Zero Energy Buildings, which is gaining in popularity in the US and some European countries. There are several definitions of this term, one of which refers to buildings that feed off on-site renewable energy production sources. To do so, such buildings would have to generate its own power from renewable sources and have the means to store the energy generated.

If all this sounds altruistic and utopian, consider this: The US Department of Energy estimates that buildings in the US and parts of Europe siphon off 40 per cent of the total energy consumption there. Going green can reward with a huge economic payback.

Besides green buildings, another rising trend is the pre-emptive building, where sophisticated dynamic response systems are programmed to act according to the profiles and preferences of the tenant. 'A VIP could be led to his office in a highly personalised manner with the integration of the carpark system, lift system, messaging and personalised environmental control systems including lighting and air-conditioning,' Mr Lim says.

NCS is currently designing one such pre-emptive system that detects user profiles, and then uses these profiles to proactively deliver customised services like messages, room ambience or health readings. NCS also designs systems which use live feeds streaming in and projected on large screens to create personal ambience in living spaces, for example, in the bedrooms and bathrooms. 'Information on basic health parameters like BMI and weight can also be provided,' Mr Lim adds.

According to Mr Seah of ST Electronics, two other intelligent building technologies are likely to make a huge impact in this space: wireless networking and Power-over-Ethernet. Both technologies are gaining traction because they minimise cable usage and provide greater flexibility in installation, he says. Power-over-Ethernet is a means of using data networking cables to carry the electricity needed to power up connected devices, such as an IP-phone.

Going wireless

Uniting systems, information and control into a user-friendly system will continue to be a hot topic for intelligent building developers, says James Young, technical director, Asia-Pacific, CommScope Enterprise Solutions Division.

Network infrastructure provider CommScope is currently in a project to supply structured cabling systems in CCTV's upcoming Beijing headquarters premises - a notable intelligent building landmark which has the inaugural task of serving the Beijing Olympics. The company has also wired up the new Wembley Stadium in the UK, a project which has more than 7,000 structured cabling system termination points and over 1,600km of data cabling.

Leading in this field are vendors like Cisco, IBM, Johnson Controls and Honeywell, Mr Young noted.

Like Mr Seah of ST Electronics, Mr Chung of Cisco also singled out wireless technology as an upcoming trend. He further adds digital media as a hot intelligent building trend to watch. Both technologies, especially when combined, will create new and lucrative business opportunities for building developers, he says.

For instance, building developers can push digital media, applications and advertisements into tenants' and visitors' mobile phones using their buildings' intelligent networking platform.