If phones can be “smart,” why not buildings? With the ever-expanding array of consumer technology available today, it should come as no surprise that residential buildings are incorporating more and more cutting-edge technology into their communications, security, and operating systems than ever before, and unifying building operating systems so they can be monitored and run from a central location by a building staff member, or by residents themselves with smartphones and iPads. Many of these innovative systems are being installed from square one in new construction, but also in the form of upgrades and retrofits in older buildings. Let’s take a look at the state of the industry.
“Unit integration means combining multiple subsystems together,” says Mark Goldman, president of Sound Components, a Coral Gables-based company that designs, sells and installs automation systems. “HVAC would be one subsystem, lighting control could be one, audio distribution could be another, security cameras could be another. So it’s putting all those things together on one unified interface. So the user will have one unified interface to view all of the different subsystems.”
Upgrading the Grid
“We have 4.6 million customers throughout Florida; we’re the largest utility provider in the state since 2009. We have been upgrading the electric grid and that includes intelligent smart meters in residences and commercial buildings throughout the state and the integration part of it is what we are improving,” says Florida Power and Light spokeswoman Kathleen Hinsdale. “With our smart meters, residential and commercial customers can log onto an energy dashboard. With this dashboard, the customer will be able to see how and when they are using energy. The dashboard is our way of putting the power back into the hands of the customer to inform them and educate them on how and where they are using electricity and hopefully make smart choices about energy usage. Our goal is to complete that by 2013,” she says.
Generally speaking, commercial buildings are more likely to be ahead of the curve with respect to systems integration, while residential buildings tend to be behind the curve. This is changing, however, as more and more boards are finding wisdom in investing in the new technology. At first blush, it would seem that the needs of both kinds of buildings are the same, but residential buildings have different needs.
According to Hinsdale, in the state of Florida, more modern building codes have evolved in commercial buildings as opposed to residential buildings, which may explain why commercial buildings may have a leg up over residential buildings in terms of systems integration, but not everyone agrees.