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Modular Building Institute

It’s Time to Start Measuring Our Buildings’ Intelligence

May 1, 2012
We are constantly evaluating our human intelligence level. One’s IQ, SAT score, grades or education, and accreditations help define this for people. As our buildings become more connected and the microprocessors in our HVAC systems interact with the microprocessors of all the other building systems, it’s time to start objectively evaluating building intelligence.

We are constantly evaluating our human intelligence level. One’s IQ, SAT score, grades or education, and accreditations help define this for people. As our buildings become more connected and the microprocessors in our HVAC systems interact with the microprocessors of all the other building systems, it’s time to start objectively evaluating building intelligence.

The first step is to begin with the definition. Many people and groups have weighed in on this but the following definition is well accepted: “An intelligent building is a building that uses both technology and process to create a facility that is safer and more productive for its occupants and more operationally efficient for its owners. It exhibits key attributes of environmental sustainability to benefit present and future generations.”

What can we expect of such a building? An intelligent building:

• Provides a healthy and comfortable environment.

• Improves long-term economic performance.

• Reduces energy and water usage.

• Brings higher resale value or lease rates.

• Improves indoor air quality and occupant satisfaction.

• Is easy to maintain and built to last.

Key Intelligence Attributes

Each building is unique in its mission and operational objectives and therefore must balance short and long term needs for key intelligence attributes including:

• Sustainability

• Scalability

• Mobility

• Interoperability

• Technology

• Reliability

• Efficiency

• Security

• Flexibility

• Longevity

How can integrated, intelligent buildings be achieved?

1. Building technologies must be planned and engineered to same level of detail as traditional building systems. Design should focus on balancing first cost and life cycle costs.

2. Owners and facility mangers must assist the design-build process by removing departmental and other organization barriers that prevent cooperation, sharing, and integration of systems. Total integration of systems must be the starting point of all new and retrofit projects with additional technology opportunities value managed in, not out.

3. Building systems should be integrated and converged onto corporate/federal/state/municipal Intranets where real-time and historical data from these systems can be used as tools in a service-oriented architecture, supporting the need for integration.

4. Voice, video and data system infrastructure should be designed and built to allow for a high level of reliability (99.9%), maximum flexibility to address the wide range of available networking technologies, and minimum future costs to accept next generation technologies.

5. Building systems should be designed for minimum energy consumption and cost, commissioned to ensure and verify adherence to design goals, and monitored, using installed building technologies, throughout the building life cycle to ensure optimum performance and permit real time diagnostics.

6. Building control networks (wired and wireless) should be designed and built to integrate local control devices to achieve advanced control strategies to maximize end-user productivity, air quality, and comfort while minimizing local zone energy consumption.

7. Low-voltage systems cabling systems should be engineered and structured.

8. Building fire and security systems should be integrated to implement improved historical and real-time alarm management and response, and advanced automation strategies using shared end-user access control data.

9. Security systems should be designed to incorporate appropriate electronic security measures to address defined physical vulnerabilities and threat. Consideration should be given to share network media and hardware as well as system integration as means to improve response and building system functionality.

10. Open-standard based hardware and software solutions should be used throughout to minimize the long-term cost of ownership, permit the selection of best of breed technologies, and simplify system integration.

11. Building system data communicated on the enterprise network (intranet and extranets) should be based on industry standard formats and Web services as developed by OASIS, BACnet, OSCAR, AEC, XML and others.

12. Building technology planning should address current and future data requirements of energy management, operational, maintenance and facility management ap-lication programs to provide for improved building operational efficiencies and end user satisfaction.

The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) Intelligent and Integrated Buildings Council (IIBC) took on this issue by developing a Technology Roadmap for Intelligent Buildings and the Best Practices Guide for Evaluating Intelligent Building Technologies. From this they developed the Building Intelligence Quotient (BIQ).

What is the BIQ?

The Building Intelligence Quotient is an assessment and rating tool. It evaluates a building intelligence design against best practices and gives a rating. By doing that it serves as a marketing tool that demonstrates the value of building intelligence. Secondly, the BIQ is a design guidance tool. By providing a description of building improvement opportunities and links to information, it help demystifies the implementation of intelligent building technologies and takes away some of the fear of the unknown.

The tool is grouped into four main categories: communications systems, automation, security systems, and building and facility management applications.

The BIQ determines building intelligence by providing an online baseline assessment of an existing building. BIQ users are provided access to an online questionnaire. Once they complete the questionnaire, the BIQ system instantly and automatically generates a report with a total percentage score (quotient) and building automation highlights and areas for improvement. The assessment assigns points in eight areas:

• Systems overview

• Power distribution voice and data systems

• Connectivity options

• Intelligent features

• Facility management applications

• Degraded mode operation

• Building automation environment

The assessment generates a report that gives valuable and timely feedback by identifying strengths and weaknesses and recommending design and operational improvements to the building. This is backed up by helpful online links to building systems companies and other resources that can facilitate the upgrades. The report generated by BIQ is not intended to be a replacement for an engineering study, but it is a way to ensure the user is aware of technologies and how they may be integrated.

In addition, as more and more buildings are BIQ verified, point scores will be aggregated in an anonymous database, enabling users to analyze how their building intelligence design performs in relation both to the median and to buildings that are similar in terms of size, type and region.

BIQ paints a clear picture of your building intelligence performance against best practices for design, installation, and operation. It gives practical advice for improvements, offers resources for making the upgrades, and provides additional information on relevant strategies and technologies. It then guides the design team to properly integrate the various technologies. BIQ further increases the value of intelligent building technologies by providing guidance on the use of communications for remote monitoring, control and access.

The tool can be accessed through the CABA Web site at

With tools like these we should see a growth of intelligent buildings and a standardized way to compare these systems. Just like the standardization of the IQ, SAT score, school grading, education diplomas, and accreditations. We are on our way. Help us push this trend.

J. Christopher Larry PE, CEM, CEP, CIPE, LEED AP, is director of energy engineering for exp (the new identity of Teng Solutions), Richmond, VA. He has spent more than 20 years working to minimize the building industry’s energy and environmental footprint through refining building design, building modeling, performance optimization, and intelligent controls. He has held numerous positions within the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), including chairman of the Chapter Technology Transfer Committee and chairman for Technical, Energy and Governmental Activities. He is past president of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and instructs the certified energy manager training course for AEE. He is the current chairman for the Building Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) within the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) and also is a member of the Zero Energy Consortium.