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First Step Toward Smart Building: Assess Functionality




The discussions around “smart systems” and “intelligent buildings” have increased dramatically in the past five years, and for good reason — competition. Buildings are being forced to look at all aspects of their design — management, amenities, and operations — to be more attractive to owners and occupants than their competitors. At the same time, market pressure from consumers is forcing buildings to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.

The first step in the journey towards an intelligent building is assessing the existing building to ensure that it has the prerequisite basic infrastructure and is operating properly. Sometimes that involves returning the building to “as intended” operation, while other times it involves satisfying an occupancy that was not originally intended. In either case, building intelligence and smart systems can make a good building great, but cannot do anything to help a bad building. The envelope (walls, windows, doors, and roof) and all mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems should be brought into good repair, and the building should be retro-commissioned to ensure adequate building-wide system performance as a baseline for future improvements.

For new buildings, this process is a little bit different since there is an opportunity to influence the basic building infrastructure with the design. A basis of design or design requirement document needs to be developed to prescribe the fundamental design parameters for each system. Also, there needs to be a governance or operations document assembled to lay out how the building systems will be procured, installed, maintained, and owned. These two documents go hand-in-hand and can often be combined into a single document since the requirements are interdependent.

This quick read is from Kurt Karnatz, president, Robert Knight, senior associate, and Rick Szcodronski, a senior associate, technology consulting, with Environmental Systems Design, Inc.

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