Singapore's Savvy New Tower

With a tenant's ability to use his or her own PC to monitor and set the office temperature, find an open parking space via an intelligent parking guidance system and catch up on the latest financial news while taking a ride in an elevator, Singapore's Capital Tower seems to have raised the bar for intelligent buildings.


With a tenant's ability to use his or her own PC to monitor and set the office temperature, find an open parking space via an intelligent parking guidance system and catch up on the latest financial news while taking a ride in an elevator, Singapore's Capital Tower seems to have raised the bar for intelligent buildings.

Clearly, extending building automation services beyond the facility manager was at the heart of the vision for this 52-story, 70,000-sq.-meter downtown office tower. The building—which opened in the summer of 2000—features a complete wireless local area network that integrates 20 M/E systems and monitors and controls 30,000 data points.

"The most challenging aspect of designing the integrated BAS system for Capital Tower was that there was no existing example or project to benchmark it with," recalls T.K. Woo, the Singapore-based director of Parsons Brinckerhoff Consultants' Intelligent Building Technology Division—the M/E firm who designed Capital Tower's integrated systems.

According to Woo, most of the features implemented in the facility were relatively new or had never been implemented before.

Another complexity was the fact that such a cutting-edge project demanded the latest in technology—something that tends to be a moving target.

"At times, decisions had to be delayed in anticipation of a new emerging technology or to wait for an impending price drop of technology," adds Peter Wan, Woo's technical director.

State of the art

The facility's high-speed network sends data at a rate of 100 Mbps to the different systems such as power monitoring, HVAC, security management and fire alarms. The integrated building-management system (IBMS), designed by Siemens Building Technologies, headquartered in Zurich, is also tied into systems that are not usually integrated, such as window blind controls, addressable lighting and elevator controls.

The upshot is that office tenants can perform a variety of tasks to control their environment, such as booking an executive elevator to arrive on their floor at an appointed time. Tenants can also access building cameras to monitor their areas or reserve parking spaces through the automated carpark system.

For example, when a tenant pulls up to work in the morning, he or she enters the garage and a welcome display informs them as to how many, if any, spaces are currently open, and on which levels. If the tenant is an executive, the vehicle identification system will open the appropriate gates to lead the tenant to his or her reserved parking space. For other employees, the system directs individuals to the closest available parking space.

Despite the fact that the system was designed by a single controls manufacturer, a major bonus is that the BAS interfaces and protocols are non-proprietary so that the building owner does not have to be locked into one manufacturer. Also, because the system is highly customized, it is easily configurable to meet new and evolving end-user needs.

But in order to achieve such a highly integrated system, a considerable level of coordination and collaboration had to take place.

"We conducted regular system interface meetings with vendors, M/E/P subcontractors and system suppliers to identify and resolve all systems interface and communication/data exchange issues," explains Tony Tay, a senior vice president and general manager for PB's Singapore office.

In addition, due to the complexity of the systems, ample time had to be allotted at the end of the project for field testing.

The next dimension

To date, the project has been a success—something Wan believes will be good for proponents of intelligent buildings.

"The building owner has been so happy with the system that they plan to implement an IBMS in another of their first-class commercial buildings, and link it back to the Capital Tower for monitoring purposes," says Wan.

Such feedback is encouraging as both Wan and Woo postulate that the more intelligent facilities that are built, the more efficient and cost-effective it will become to design and install technologies such as wireless communication. Such advances, the engineers predict, will lead to the replacement of conventional hard-wired systems, and off-the-shelf software can begin taking the place of customized software.

In the meantime, Capital Tower will probably continue receiving rave reviews from its occupants. "Most corporate tenants have been quite impressed with the IT image of the building, particularly the intelligent car park guidance system and live TV broadcast displays in the elevators," notes Wan.

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