|Professor Krzysztof Duszczyk|
Courtesy of Krzysztof Duszczyk
Karolina Kowalska: How intelligent can a building get?
Krzysztof Duszczyk: The human mind is the limit. According to one theory, an intelligent building is as smart as its occupants. Another one states that it's even smarter, because it can significatntly compensate for the occupant's irrational behavior. In general, an intelligent building uses the latest advances in information technology to increase its efficiency and occupants' comfort and safety while reducing energy consumption, therefore cutting energy bills.
So intelligent buildings are also environmentally friendly?
The evolution in intelligent construction leads towards energy-efficiency, as it is one of its main priorities. The most advanced intelligent buildings don't take any energy from the electrical grid. In fact, they generate it from alternative sources such as the sun, wind and water from geothermal pumps; they can even recover heat from waste. The surplus can be sold to power neighboring buildings, so the owner could actually earn money. Such technologies are already in use in big commercial buildings in the US and China. These are usually huge schemes such as hotels, apartment buildings and conference centers.
Why are there so few energy-generating buildings in Europe?
Such constructions require continuous exposure to the sun and other alternative energy sources. It's no wonder they are popular in wealthy and hot Arab countries.
In the United Arab Emirates there are buildings whose walls follow the sun, revolving in accordance with its daily cycle, to keep the living room filled with sunshine or the bedroom in the shade. Of course, this type of building is not self-sustaining and can't feed only on the energy it generates. Standard features of intelligent buildings include lights that turn themselves off, regulated heating and security monitoring. They can open or close blinds depending on the time of the day.
...and walk the dog?
Not exactly, but they can let the dog out into the garden and let it back in, making sure it only allows in the right one, leaving its playing buddy out. Advanced technologies can also monitor an occupant's body temperature and blood pressure, which is important for the elderly and the sick. It can be programmed to measure vital signs, and let the closest emergency room know when the readings are abnormal or that the occupant has just had a stroke or a heart attack.
But the most common solutions focus simply on the occupant's comfort, safety and savings while eliminating unnecessary expenditures. When you open the window, the system won't turn up the heating to regulate the temperature. Instead it will urge you to close the window. It will also turn off the faucet if you forget to do so after washing your hands. Generally it leaves the occupant in control, either through a wall panel or a cell phone, unless he makes obvious errors. Then the system takes over.
So you can use your cell phone to control the building?
If you install the right application. In intelligent buildings you can fill the bathtub by sending a text message and the system will make sure the water is warm enough. While at home, you can command the building through a wall panel that could control the lighting, temperature or send and receive texts and e-mails.
Can you tell your house to turn on your kettle, for example?
It is enough to send a text message to the control panel. If I was to build a house, I would definitely install the system that allows me to make commands and sends me feedback in a text message. I could program the heating system according to my family's schedule. Knowing all of us don't come back untill 4 pm, I would turn the heating down by a few degrees and make the building reheat itself an hour before my arrival. It was proven that turning down the heat by just one degree can save a significant amount of money.
I would probably also install safety systems. Not biometric ones, which are far too advanced for a family house, but rather those based on infrared motion sensors. I would like to know about an intruder as soon as he trespasses on my property, before he breaks a window and enters the house. The monitoring system would send live feed directly to my phone.
Can an existing building be made intelligent?
Of course - and it can be done without refurbishing the building, peeling off wallpaper and pulling down walls, because radio waves can be used as a means of communication. It is enough to install a compact-sized transmitter and a receiver. This technology allows us to program historic buildings, such as churches or palaces, which can't be altered. A concept of intelligent buidling was created in the US in the late 1980s, when developers tired of refurbishing offices every five years only to keep them up-to-date with the latest technological developments. They wanted to invent a device that could change a building's functionality without time-consuming and expensive construction work. They realized it could be done with technology.
Are intelligent buildings popular in Poland?
They are becoming more and more so. In fact, our Intelligent Building program students find work even before they graduate. Some of them set up their own companies and develop their own systems. We teach students to program in a variety of systems so that they can adjust them to client's wishes. Current trends in the construction industry indicate that the demand for intelligent buildings will continue to increase.
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