The Brains Behind Intelligent Buildings

March 1, 2008

The evolution of intelligent buildings - and its champions

When members of the editorial staff recently discussed the topic of intelligent buildings (which is the focus of this month's cover story, The Realization of Intelligent Buildings), we remarked among ourselves that the term was almost archaic. Not, of course, because the concept is unproven or unimportant, but because the expression has been around so long.

Rewind to the mid-1980s. Back then, as a junior member of the staff, I attended the grand opening of the Hilton at Walt Disney World Village in Lake Buena Vista, FL, purported by its developer/builder/owner Tishman Realty and Construction Co. Inc., and the industry at large, as the "first intelligent hotel property." (It was also among a handful of intelligent buildings being introduced in the United States.) In addition to its family-oriented location, the property was (and remains) impressive, with its more than 800 guestrooms, three ballrooms and 37 breakrooms, seven restaurants, and top-of-the-line amenities.

Upon my arrival there 20-plus years ago, the hotel staff explained just what this Hilton "experience" would be, based upon the technology and support services that had been incorporated as part of its design. Escorted to my guestroom, I was immediately intrigued: Access control was, for the first time, truly keyless via disposable cards and cardreaders; the comfort system was activated once the door deadbolt was engaged; and the obviously state-of-the-art life- and fire-safety systems were evident, yet unobtrusive. That weekend was also my first experience with a hotel operator addressing my request via phone and then remarking, "Thank you, Mrs. Monroe," because he could tell who had called. It felt like rocket science.

Today, many of those system concepts have become standard, obviously morphed and tweaked and fine-tuned into the remarkable, high-performance equipment we now know. Present-day intelligent buildings, as Managing Editor Jana J. Madsen defines for us in the cover story, merge building management and IT systems to help optimize system performance and simplify facility operations. Clearly, we've come a long way.

But, let's give credit to the real brains behind intelligent buildings. Where would we be without those innovators -those intelligent building developers and owners like Tishman and Disney - who took an idea, absorbed the risk, and led an industry on a journey that continues today?

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