Construction Factors such as technological advances, ecological considerations, and cost-saving have driven construction related activity to a smart level. Bindu Gopal Rao explores the trend.
Intelligent buildings not only refer to ensuring safety of a particular construction, but also to optimising building performance, and providing comfort and convenience to occupants. “An intelligent building is defined as a building which is energy efficient and has no or minimal negative impact on the environment thanks to better design, and construction techniques including improved indoor environment quality, energy conservation and heat recovery technology, and the use and/or re-use of local materials,” explains Rahul Aeron, National Sales Head, Desiccant Rotors International (DRI).
An intelligent or smart building will have one common denominator, and that is efficiency, not in products but in solutions.
“A building automation system to monitor and control energy, a quality HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system which reduces operational costs, innovative source of heating/cooling, lighting, fire alarms, security and wireless infrastructure products along with optimisation and maintenance make the environment safe and comfortable,” says Pramoda Karkal, Vice President & Managing Director, Building Efficiency, Johnson Controls India.
Every building, be it a hospital, mall, bank or a residential complex has a unique requirement. “A building is termed intelligent when it has the ability to offer a higher level of servicing, maintains good internal environment and can use technology to achieve energy efficiency,” says Asad Ahmed – Head, Planning, Sahara Prime City Limited.
Recently, there has been a substantial increase in the use of intelligent building solutions, which has a two-pronged impact. Ravindra Verma, Executive Director, Development Services, Cushman & Wakefield opines, “during construction, this technology is aimed at saving time, controlling cost and delivering consistent quality, besides increasing resource efficiency during the process of construction.
“Post-construction, it provides comfort, security, automation and maintenance / operation cost-optimisation during the occupation of the built-facility/space.”
Brotin Banerjee, MD and CEO, Tata Housing Development Company adds, “Intelligent or green buildings are high-performance buildings with sustainable design and construction. A green building design balances environmental responsibility, resource efficiency, comfort and well being for its occupants, and community sensitivity.”
What’s a building automation system?
Explains V Gopal – Senior VP, Projects & Planning, Prestige Group, “a building automation system (BAS) includes the automatic control of one or more major building system functions required in a facility, such as heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems. Automated systems include a collection of sensors that determine the condition or status of parameters to be controlled, such as temperature, relative humidity and pressure. Similarly, output devices impart electronic signals or physical action to the control devices, which may be electric relays or damper and valve actuators. The sensors and output devices are connected either to a unitary controller or to a distributed processor.”
Case(s) in point
ACC’s cement house will be the first existing building in India to be transformed into an eco-friendly green building. Called ‘Project Orchid,’ the new set-up will save electricity bills by 25 per cent and water consumption by 50 per cent. The six-storey building has a central service core, used to house heating ventilation, air conditioners and plumbing lines. The building accommodates over 300 employees and now has 30 per cent more space because of meticulous planning. Use of sensor based water-efficient plumbing fixtures, channelising rainwater for groundwater recharge, installation of sewage treatment plant to divert recycled water for landscaping and flushing are other features. Office waste will be segregated into dry waste and wet waste. While dry waste will be diverted to recycling haulers, wet waste will be processed to generate organic compost on site.
Chiller efficiency improvement
Johnson Controls’ York centrifugal chiller efficiency improvement with variable speed drive for The Oberoi, New Delhi is another case that needs mention.
This technology saved operating costs in excess of 30 per cent, resulting in a payback in less than two years.
In addition to energy savings, problems of high chilled water temperature due to power failures were also eliminated. This is the only chiller technology in the world that has received an EPA award in 2005 in recognition of its energy saving capability of up to 25 per cent.
Cognizant’s state-of-the-art techno-complex in Chennai has an intelligent Integrated Building Management System (IBMS).
“Our IBMS addresses three features: security, safety, and building and utility management. The IBMS command centre acts as the brain of the campus with the neurons being optical fibre/CAT 5 cables that spread to every nook and corner of the campus. All activities can be controlled from this place,” says Srimanikandan Ramamoorthy, Director, Administration, Cognizant.
Sahara City Homes, a chain of 217 well-planned self-sufficient townships, plans to offer a range of amenities including multi-level security system, transport services, power supply with full back-up, air conditioned township, hospital, school, shopping malls and multiplexes, hotels & club, community centres, essential services, well-integrated infrastructure back-up etc.
Tata Housing’s “Xylem” – Bangalore’s first gold LEED certified Green IT Park on Whitefield Main Road has been built with a focus on Intelligent Building technology. Xylem has been designed to tackle the “sick building syndrome”. With its focus on occupants’ health, ergonomic design and architecture, it enhances employee productivity and professional welfare.
There is hope for older buildings too. Otis India’s Modernisation Programme includes packages to improve the performance and reliability of elevators in older residential and commercial buildings. These packages are available for low-speed elevators in apartments and high-speed elevators in hotels and offices.
For low-speed elevators, modernisation packages deliver energy savings by upgrading the old controller system to the latest microprocessor-based, variable-frequency control system.
“Our modernisation packages offer building owners and managers options to improve elevator performance and passenger comfort while allowing them to benefit from our expertise in efficiently installing the best solutions for their buildings,” says Sameer Joshi, Deputy General Manager, Communications & Modernisation, Otis India.
The use of heat recovery technology in intelligent buildings ensures reduction in air-conditioning tonnage, reduction in utility bills for entire life cycle, enhanced IAQ and productivity, and reduced health risks.
Also, it is ensured that buildings are fire-safe at the architects’ table itself. Underwriters Laboratories is the first laboratory in the world to have a testing facility for building construction materials.
Pre-engineered steel buildings
Pre-engineered steel buildings are another aspect of industrial construction.
There are solutions such as Everest’s that are strong, take less time and offer protection against non-uniform weathering elements. “Whether a new building or a listed one; cutting-edge or legacy; IBS can maximise existing infrastructure while integrating the latest technologies to enhance what you already have,” says Manish Sanghi, COO & Executive Director, Everest Industries Limited.
The technologies being used in intelligent homes are tagged under the term called home automation or network to home. “Home automation is an up-and-coming trend. Home automation functions can include the control of multimedia home entertainment systems, automatic houseplant watering, domestic robots and pet feeding, automatic scenes for dinners and parties, and a more user-friendly control interface,” says Hari Challa, Managing Director, Aliens Group.
Adds Venkatesh Valluri, President, Ingersoll Rand, “home automation is expensive but it’s value for money. It’s the need of the hour for today’s smart customers looking for convenience. In case of builders and large projects, the total cost supersedes technology. In case of intelligent buildings, after sales service is of prime importance as down time can be a major issue.”