“Look! Up in the cable tray! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! NO! It’s the Intelligent Building Technology Project Manager!”

You don’t need to call Superman to overcome the hurdles to create an intelligent building, but the work does begin and end with people. Yes, throughout projects there is a tremendous amount of technology involved — from design through integration — in the building. Yet with all of the sophistication of the systems, our biggest successes, and challenges, are with the people who finance, design, build, run, occupy and maintain the building. The hurdles lead to their agreement on the corporate will, the desired outcomes, and the implementation plan for the project. Here are the 7 hurdle questions to overcome when your team embarks on your next smart or intelligent building project.

1. What’s Going On, and Is It Worth It?

Clients want to know they are in good company with the level of innovation they are willing to tolerate or embrace and do not necessarily want to be the beta test for unproven ideas and technology. What are other building owners, architects and technologists doing? How do they define an intelligent building, and how is it different from a smart building? How does the technology relate to the sustainability goals for the project? What is the current cultural attitude towards energy conservation, pollution and climate change?

There is a wide variety of perception around whether it is worth the effort to develop a sustainable or a smart building. We have found that the conversations are easier to begin when people have a connection to the goals of sustainability. Does it matter more when it’s personal? People who have experienced natural disasters, who come from polluted environments, or are frustrated by the waste they see in their buildings are more eager participants in the process. They understand that the root cause of the problem can only be solved with a broad array of solutions, and intelligent buildings can be one of those.

2. Who Is Right?

An authority can reassure and validate that our efforts will be rewarded (or even awarded). The A/E/C community has worked with LEED for so long now that there is trust in the system and a pathway to a definable – and achievable – result. Intelligent buildings systems do not yet have such an authority, although considerable efforts and progress have been made. We want to know that our ideas are relevant, useful and worth the money. Events such as the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement and the publication of Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ have pushed the conversation into the light with leaders, scientists and the United Nations urging action and innovation.

3. What Is All This For?

Often, we need to educate our project teams about the benefits of intelligent buildings, or they come into the project with a preconceived motivation. These motivations cluster into three major categories: 1) Altruism/Aspiration: a desire to “do the right thing,” to show leadership, or to be a responsible citizen of the community. 2) Mandate, e.g., Government, or Institution: they have been given direction from their administration that they are to pursue certain goals for the building, such as “Zero Net Energy.” 3) Financial: a recognition that there is ROI from IBT in a variety of areas, including system optimization through data analytics, efficiencies through automation and maintenance improvements through fault prediction. Tax incentives are occasionally available to offset the system cost.

4. What Needs to Be Done and Who’s in Charge?

The whole process needs to be goal-oriented, with a plan for each technical system and each project phase. Having a guideline can be extremely useful, and a relatively new one is ANSI/TIA 4994: Standard for Sustainable Information Systems Technology. This document uses the perspective of the IT discipline to organize the details of each goal.

A key aspect of ANSI/TIA 4994 is that it establishes clear responsibility for Intelligent Building Technology (IBT). The Intelligent Building Technology Project Manager (IBTPM) plays a critical role that is not part of a traditional building design team. The assigning of authority to implement IBT design decisions to the IBTPM provides a single point of contact for all phases of the project, in much the same way as the Sustainability Consultant provides commissioning services.

5. How Do We Do It, and Who Will Do The Work?

Here’s where the magic of process, drawings, and specification tools kick in. We assume responsibility for creating the CSI Division 25 specification to identify products, software, and techniques for the IBT system. The rarely-used “Integrated Automation” Division is invaluable for defining an IBT Systems Integrator’s scope-of-work. A new, stand-alone “schematic block” drawing we developed indicates the locations and purposes of both the IBT equipment and the interconnectivity among systems. By strategically linking individual building systems with an overarching data collection software application for monitoring and data analysis, a myriad of capabilities are unlocked. Since this is a two-way standards-based communication link, it may also be used for automation purposes. The connected systems include Building Management, Building Automation, Lighting, Electrical Load, Physical Security, Audiovisual, Conveyance, and Daylighting Systems. Standards are applied where possible, and include the BICSI Data Center, ANSI/INFOCOMM Audiovisual Systems Energy Management, and the upcoming BICSI IT Infrastructure standards.

With the IBTPM on the Design Team, roles, responsibilities and tasks naturally ripple out across all design disciplines. Following the model of LEED, the ANSI/TIA 4994 Standard is based on earlier work from the STEP (Sustainable Technologies Environments Program) Rating System. Our goal is to allow each discipline to create their designs as they normally would, but with opportunities for monitoring and automation to be identified. In return, the IBTPM advises each discipline as to what is expected for data transfer, from both a protocol level and an information level. Use of Division 25, and specification language in other relevant Divisions ensures that the project will mandate integrators and manufacturers to make this data transfer available, even in a proprietary standard environment. The integrators are then required to perform their normal installations, with one IBT parallel authority on the construction management side.

6. What Actually Happens and What Can Go Wrong?

To avoid the risk of client anxiety, and to ensure a logical and commissionable program, we recommend a phased approach to the roll-out of the IBT System. We begin with Monitoring, wherein the data collection is verified; next Analyzing, where the data is made useful by reporting software; and finally Automating, wherein efficiencies are realized by interactions between the building systems. Large-scale aspirations such as including the building as a part of a Smart City should wait until all systems are on line, although strategies such as Demand Response are incorporated early on. Throughout the process, the financial aspects of the project are communicated with both the CFO and the CIO of the organization, who share the benefits of the results.

Any sensible person embarking on a new advanced program such as IBT has to be alert to potential pitfalls. We are continually investigating the opportunities and risks with IBT strategies that include Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Predictive Technology, and Surveillance. As more sophistication is adopted, the more difficult it is to plan for every possible scenario. The ultimate promise of the efficacy of IBT lies in these advanced applications.

7. Will/Can People Adapt?

Working with the project team members representing those stakeholders who will occupy and administer the building, this question is worthy of constant consideration. There is a degree of Psychology and Sociology that goes into an IBT project. People affect and are affected by aspects of the technology as individuals and collectively. Foremost, people are also a part of the system and participate in the success of the efficiencies and effectiveness. For example, for all of our efforts to control electrical consumption with automation technology, occupants can “game” the system by introducing personal, rogue devices such as space heaters and table lamps. I have previously written about “Automaxpectations,” those unexpected changes in system states based on automation. After all, we all want a building, especially an IBT building, to be a nice place to work, study, or live in, while it is efficient at the same time.

To that end, we engage in various aspects of Occupant Commissioning (OCx.) This involves information display, education, training, etc. The most successful Intelligent Buildings use a combination of technology and brainpower to build efficiencies by linking the two together. Stakeholder engagement early on leads to buy-in, which leads to active engagement during occupancy. The most successful Intelligent Buildings use a combination of technology and brainpower to build efficiencies by linking the two together. Stakeholder engagement early on leads to buy-in, which leads to active engagement during occupancy. Questions along the way are productive and welcome — we want smart people to be happy in their intelligent building!

Superman can stay home when an IBTPM has delivered the project to its smart owners and occupants.