Intelligent building concept hits close to home

A vendor in the cabling industry walks the walk by building intelligence into its new headquarters facility. But what about the rest of the market?

A vendor in the cabling industry walks the walk by building intelligence into its new headquarters facility. But what about the rest of the market?


The concept of intelligent buildings can be likened to that of convergence. As one industry veteran has stated often, we have been six months away from convergence for the past 15 years. Similarly, the idea of intelligent or connected buildings, in which building systems are able to communicate with each other through a common platform and consequently run highly efficiently, has made logical sense for a long time. Yet it has rarely been implemented.

Earlier this year, however, a provider of cabling products and systems and a proponent of intelligent buildings held itself up as an example of what can be achieved with intelligent buildings. Panduit ( opened its new 280,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Tinley Park, IL as a showcase for its products and technologies and those systems' benefits. As a result, the new corporate headquarters is a LEED-certified building from which the company says it is already reaping benefits.

Built-in intelligence

Cisco Systems ( equipment, including local area network (LAN) systems as well as the Cisco Connected Real Estate framework and several other systems, are built into Panduit's headquarters. Cisco used the installation as one of its customer case studies. In explaining the rationale behind going "intelligent" as well as "green" with its new building, Panduit's vice president of global strategic marketing said, "One of our motivations for constructing a sustainable headquarters building was to minimize our power and cooling costs. More importantly, we wanted to do the right thing for the environment and society."

Cisco explained that by Panduit integrating all its systems on the same network, the company not only eliminates redundant network and operational costs, but also enables automated business processes that reduce costs, accelerate event awareness and reduce energy consumption. Darryl Benson, global solution manager for connected buildings with Panduit, explained how the Connected Real Estate framework functions, and what it accomplishes. "Every piece of information we can extract from the building is available on the Cisco network," he said, "including air temperature, air quality, humidity, energy consumption, light output and lighting needs. By enabling real-time monitoring of our electrical consumption, the Cisco Connected Real Estate framework contributed to energy costs per square foot that are $0.63 lower than the average non-connected building, saving $176,000 annually and more than $880,000 over five years."

According to the two companies, Panduit displays the 200 most important metrics from building systems on a Web-based dashboard, which facilities personnel consult to monitor progress and spot anomalies. To automate notification about out-of-normal conditions that might waste energy, Panduit is integrating certain sensors with the Cisco IP Interoperability and Collaboration System. When a sensor transmits an alarm, Cisco IPICS automatically notifies appropriate personnel by sending a prerecorded voice message to their phones.

The type of all-encompassing communication and notification now in place at Panduit's new headquarters facility is the hallmark of intelligent buildings, touted by many and realized by few. Why have so few building owners built intelligence into new facilities, and is the uptake of intelligent buildings likely to change anytime soon?

Looking at the market

A peek into the market for intelligent buildings might be accomplished by reading the results of a market research report, completed last year, by BSRIA Proplan ( The report examines the world market for building controls and includes coverage of what it describes as intelligent building controls - environmental, which it refers to as IBC(e). Overall the report indicates that, like the majority of markets worldwide, the economic crisis has hampered growth in the building controls market in many countries. From 2006 to 2008, the consolidated world market had witnessed healthy growth rates of more than 7 percent. BSRIA Proplan anticipated negative growth last year and this.

Even so, the total global IBC(e) business reached a level of $18 billion in 2008 and, as BSRIA Proplan explained when announcing the report's availability, "The IBC(e) service and maintenance market remained buoyant through this turbulent time with expected growth of 1.4 percent during 2009-2010."

The report specifically points to Saudi Arabia as a bright spot. In that country, the government plays an important role in the national economy and continues to encourage private sector investment, such as in the electricity generation and transmission network, BSRIA Proplan explained. Consequently, the Saudi Arabian economy was expected to continue its steady growth, "which has had a knock-on effect on the building controls market," the researcher said. It continued, "Between 2006 and 2008 the market grow by over 30 percent, with further investment and building projects in the pipeline. BSRIA's report expects the market to grow by just over 6 percent in 2009-2010. The product and service markets are expected to experience the largest growth over the period of 2009-2010, with 6.8 percent and 8.3 percent respectively. Drivers behind this healthy growth include growth in new construction, including various new projects already in the pipeline and significant spending on education and universities."

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and perhaps other Middle East nations are where the market is growing, the BSRIA Proplan study points out that the United States remains the largest single market for IBC(e) products. It said, "Total manufacturer's turnover reached just over $14 billion worldwide in 2008; America accounted for the largest share with 39 percent of the global market, closely followed by Europe, which enjoyed 37 percent of the total manufacturer's turnover."

The United States is also the world's market-share leader in installed systems, accounting for 40 percent while Europe accounted for 37 percent. Asia and the Middle East collectively accounted for 23 percent of installed systems in 2008.

European energy legislation is making a significant impact on this market, according to the study. In particular, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive–in place in the United Kingdom, Germany and France–is making its presence known. "The new energy legislation is an important driver behind the growth of these markets, as it demands that buildings must be energy-saving and energy-efficient," BSRIA noted.

Commenting on the types of users deploying these systems, BSRIA noted, "Installation of IBC(e) products and systems vary from region to region. Offices and industrial buildings are dominant in Europe and collectively hold 43 percent of the European market. A different scenario is evident in the Americas where recent demand has been driven strongly by education and other public buildings. The Middle East market has been driven by demand for IBC(e) products in offices and commercial and retail buildings, while in Asia offices and industrial buildings have been the main segments for installation."

Research and advocacy

In North America, a group that has taken the lead in promoting and researching intelligent building systems is the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA; For years the group has researched and advocated the intelligent building marketplace. Among CABA's most recent initiatives is the North American Intelligent Buildings Roadmap research project, which is being carried out by CABA's Intelligent and Integrated Buildings Council and new Research Program.

The project will be designed to provide a current snapshot of the intelligent building industry in North America by highlighting industry trends and metrics, and evaluating the prospects and challenges that face numerous industry stakeholders. According to CABA, the project will also execute a review of the evolving trends in building technology convergence with a particular emphasis on smart-grid infrastructure. Areas of interest will include energy efficiency, renewable energy technology, information-technology convergence and the integration of buildings with the smart grid.

Research organization Frost & Sullivan ( will conduct the project on CABA's behalf. The project will investigate the current and future direction of the intelligent building market in North America–the region holding the greatest share of products and systems according to BSRIA Proplan's recent research. CABA's project will uncover the opportunities the market represents for participants within the value chain. It will also seek to understand the influence of current and emerging intelligent building technology solutions, with an analysis that considers commercialization, market preferences and product acceptance.

The old joke about perpetually being six months away from convergence may go by the wayside. Many of today's structured cabling systems support converged applications, including IP voice and security systems. In many ways convergence is now the "current" big thing. Intelligent buildings remain the "next" big thing, and how soon they will emerge in greater numbers remains to be seen.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

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