Dear Colleagues

Two things today.

1. WA Industrial Roadshow next week in Perth/Bunbury/Karratha and Kalgoorlie

We are running complimentary seminars on Industrial Ethernet/Electrical wiring regs/hazardous areas. More info : http://www.processonline.com.au/events

2. Engineering the intelligent building

It’s 7.00am. You wake up to the gentle sounds of your favourite CD playing. The lights in your bedroom "fade up" and then follow you around your home as you walk into the kitchen to drink your coffee - which has been automatically made for you. This scenario is happening now. One of my greener and more energetic colleagues has his own solar panels and windmill wired into his home for power and water when required during the day. He sells the power back to the local utility when he is not using it (admittedly for a few pennies, at this stage) – all built into his intelligent home.

People are supposedly using this economic slowdown to retool and re orient their economies to smarter and more efficient technologies (apart from Australia, that is. Instead it is building up more debt by proffering cash to the punters to hit K-Mart and Target to buy Plasma TVs and hit the pub - but let’s not go into this).

You can clearly see this area of industry of intelligent buildings expanding rapidly as it makes positive impacts on people’s comfort and provides real $$ savings.

So whatever you call ‘em, they are ‘in’: Intelligent buildings, intelligent homes, automated buildings, smart homes or building management systems. Whether private, commercial or industrial these intelligent buildings include a range of technologies such as energy management systems and building controls. Services provided include: lighting, heating, security, CCTV and alarm systems (for the more nervous amongst us), access control, audio visual and entertainment systems, ventilation, climate control. And even time and attendance control. Whether we like it or not; these changes are becoming more popular and prevalent.

There are two main types of building control systems:

  • Time – usage only when required
  • "Optimiser Parameter" – for example, using temperature for space heating or level of lighting to control lights.

The origins of intelligent buildings come from the industrial automation and process control systems in the 70’s. The technology was cleverly adapted for usage in buildings with great results. - another example of how technical developments in one sector can be used effectively in another.

Optimising heating is an easy target for intelligent control. It involves time based off and on facilities and is triggered too when a temperature reaches a certain level. Savings of up to 10% can be accomplished on heating with these controls. Lighting too is so easily controllable. It is infuriating to witness massive buildings lit up at 4am in the morning and typical savings can be in the order of 75% of the original load.

Something which is not much discussed, but which worries me somewhat are the safety and failure issues with intelligent buildings. Systems are in place, I am sure, to overcome these, but, for example a person becoming trapped in a burning building because the exit doors were locked. Or smoke impeding vision, the lighting system failing and there is a problem reverting to the manual system. (the electronic control keypad has failed)!

Despite these little anxieties on my part - how can we exploit these marvelous new technologies ?

  • Read and talk to your peers more about this rapidly growing field
  • Look at how you can apply these technologies in your own facilities and at home
  • Examine whether your current technologies can be applied to the intelligent buildings

Although he was probably not thinking of building automation systems; Winston Churchill remarked rather wisely: " We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us"

 Yours in engineering learning


The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is dedicated to ensuring our students receive a world-class education and gain skills they can immediately implement in the workplace upon graduation. Our staff members uphold our ethos of honesty and integrity, and we stand by our word because it is our bond. Our students are also expected to carry this attitude throughout their time at our institute, and into their careers.