Intelligent Buildings: Why is it Taking So Long?


Realcomm, a San Diego-based organization dedicated to improving the management and use of commercial real estate, recently released the results of a study conducted in conjunction with i & i limited, a U.K.-based research firm, examining the state of building intelligence in North America.

The study, dubbed “IT-Convergence in Buildings,” is based on the experience and opinions, collected through face-to-face interviews, of some of the largest building owners across the United States. According to i & i limited's James McHale, there are three main reasons why it is taking so long for intelligent buildings to come of age: First, building automation system suppliers have all too often failed to prove the business case to the satisfaction of the building owner. They have failed, he said, to benchmark against the value propositions set by the owner and in some cases have not even considered them.

Second, McHale said, vendors have failed to convince their buyers that their solutions are based on proven technology and that they are low-risk, delivered by partnerships with all the relevant skills. Finally, he said, the industry has not developed marketing strategies that focus on the priority markets where IT convergence can bring together technical infrastructures with the business enterprise operating in the building.

A good example of this, according to McHale, are hospitals, where the holy grail is delivering patient care. If all the aspects of delivering this value proposition, from patient administration, medical engineering systems and building services infrastructures, are brought together through an intelligent building control system that integrates not only building systems but also IT networks, then new solutions are made possible. Translation: Consultants can bring all the information on patient records to the bed and combine it with nurse call, lighting and environmental control—plus patient communications and entertainment. By doing so, one can provide the best medical care in an efficient way that reduces both medical staff as well as the time patients need to be in the hospital.

Furthermore, McHale said, the research demonstrates that if BAS is to move forward at an optimum pace, on the supply side, a new business model needs to be developed that's built upon partnership—not just with fellow suppliers, but with building owners. The importance of setting a strategy that targets specific building types and owners, where the benefits are most likely to be realized, should not be underestimated.

The effort spent on getting this right, McHale argued, will be handsomely repaid, for there is a vast commercial potential market to be captured. In fact, i & i predicts that just the retrofitting of existing buildings in North America, which are currently estimated at a worth of $150 million for environmental (HVAC) web-enabled controls, will be worth $800 million by 2010. The market for new construction or major refurbishment was estimated at around $20 million in 2004/2005 and could be worth some $2 billion to “Super Integrators” in 2010.

“These are remarkable figures that will provide organic growth on a scale not realized in this industry before,” said McHale. “However, much of this business will replace current solutions, and therefore, those who do not take up this new technology will see their market share rapidly decline and eventually disappear.”

The full report is available via the Research link at .

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