Intelligence in the built environment is without doubt an exciting and inspiring concept.

Technical descriptions of wondrous objects rarely do them justice.

“The acquisition of knowledge, and responses to the information in real time” is a dull interpretation of the role intelligent buildings are taking in the management of not just building services but also the lives of people who live and work within the envelope.

Not quite sentient but mighty close intelligent buildings will gather a large amount of data about every aspect of these structures. Atmospherics power consumption, population, parking, security, access, maintenance – well the list grows exponentially.

Through real time data analysis building management systems react without waiting for someone to throw the switch. In the event (or potential) a building can automatically close off the gas open the HVAC vents drop curtains and then keep track of who evacuates and who is left behind.

But let us focus down to a more human level. In an economy of active work where desks and meeting zones are in short supply the building can tell you where a spare desk can be found and guide you there. Meeting spaces are equally easily found and booked.

In the potential is perhaps even more important. Air quality and management is vital throughout hospitals from theatre needs to using air pressure to control the spread of bacteria. Patients ID bands will have more than just the barcode but actual RFID chips that link to entire medical files, not just IDs. Lost patients (yes, it does happen) can be tracked and made more secure by theatres that read everybody and everything within its walls, from products to expensive equipment.

From an economic and spatial use perspective, knowing if space is actually being used is important information. Working or non-viable space has previously been measured largely by word of mouth, and angry emails. Now the intelligent building is also the adjudicator.

Data can and will be sourced from an array of devices; cameras, foot traffic, heat signatures, atmospheric sampling and feedback from mechanical components that give an alert even before a breakdown occurs pre-emptively ordering new parts.

Honeywell a leader in smart buildings software has recently introduced a new product into the arena. Honeywell Vector Space Sense is designed to create a map of how space is used within a building. By collecting data from multiple sources such as smart lights Bluetooth beacons a clear picture can be created of actual space usage. From overcrowding to underutilised areas commercial decisions can be made that can reduce company costs through reallocation of space and a revision of scheduling priorities.

“Expenses associated with unused building spaces often go unnoticed simply because it’s so difficult to get an accurate moment-by-moment view into how building spaces are used or if they’re being used at all,” says John Rajchert, president, Building Solutions, Honeywell.

Building large scale developments such as shopping precincts and centres is complex, including the double consumers in the form of retail tenants and general consumer clientele.

The promise of intelligent building systems is a tenant draw card as it offers across the board cost reductions, says Justin Mills, executive general manager of Vicinity Centres which manages 80 centres across Australia including Chatswood Chase in Sydney, Chadstone in Victoria.

We know we need to be able to deliver cost savings to retailers wherever possible so if we can reduce the operating costs of a centre then our retail partners are going to get a better deal which will help drive their business success.

We are focused on renewable, as part of an integrated strategy. Our solar program is in its first stage with a record investment across some of our centres in South Australia and Western Australia with obvious environmental benefits. The large-scale installations will reduce our reliance on the grid and help our retailers kerb rising costs.