What are the major factors restraining the growth of intelligent buildings?



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    To answer this question, we would have to decide what exactly an “intelligent building” is .  Are we talking about green buildings that are powered solely from renewable energy sources, making them “smarter” because they have an infinitely sustainable supply of power?  Or are we talking about high performance buildings with superior technologies that integrate security, lighting, HVAC, communication, etc. systems into one common interface?  Or perhaps some type of ideal hybrid?

    The factors restraining these various conceptions of intelligent buildings are going to vary.  For one, we are just beginning to implement plans for these smart buildings, so knowing the long-term benefits is nearly impossible and thereby difficult to justify to investors.  The ideas of lower operating costs and superior energy efficiency are great in theory, but, in practice, we have yet to see them pay off.  There are, as with any prototype, going to be some design flaws and unforeseen costs, perhaps some unanticipated operational flaws or maintenence costs. 

    Another problem is that these technologies integrate aspects of construction that are usually handled autonomously by independent contractors – i.e. electricians, plumbers, security installers, etc.  They demand a new approach to construction planning. “Instead of an architect handing off responsibility for the design of electrical, mechanical, and structural systems to various engineers, intelligent buildings must be designed considering the interaction of these and other systems from the onset (instead of autonomous operation).” 

    Then consider, for a wild minute, the threat to security that is posed to entrusting all systems to one user interface.  Imagine the system were hijacked or unexplainably malfunctioned – it’s no longer just hot because the AC stopped working, or dark because the lights went out, but the whole system could go down locking people inside or worse.  Just some ideas…

    Regardless of these setbacks, it does appear that integrating IT systems into building management to create one streamlined, centralized control is the way of the future.

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