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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Can’t Build to Design

Building Controls don’t work because they were never designed. That was the recurring theme, both in and out of sessions, for Tuesday at BuilConn. Speaker after speaker repeated this, both on and off the podium.

Alan Edgar, of the executive board of NBIMS, came to BuilConn yesterday. He attended the Buildings 2.0 sessions in the morning, and was very interested; I did not, as I was talking to an “Experiences with Web Services” session. He seemed to enjoy it, and though it needed to be a perspective in NBIMS. The complement, of course, is that currently, controls are not.

I have long relied on a prop to explain the problems of control systems design. At any moment on the UNC campus, there are numerous capital projects under way. On any day, I can walk into the construction plan room and pull out one of the current plans. I turn to the Mechanical controls page – the one with three panes on it. There is one sheet for each floor, and the three panes are (1) a tag list for the controls, (2) a schematic for the controls and (3) a sequence of operations for the controls.

This is a reliable prop, because, I have never yet had to go to a second building. Flipping through the floors, it become obvious, even to cursory inspection, that these are not right. The tag lists will prove to have been developed for the 4th floor and cut and paste onto the others, even onto the radically different first floor and lobby. Perhaps the Sequence of Operations will describe some system that is clearly not the one in the schematic. There is always some gross error – I have never had to go to a second building.

But perhaps the University of North Carolina is uniquely cursed? Last night, I talked

In conversation with an engineer who was doing a retro-commissioning project at another university. After collecting data on 47 buildings, he began trying to understand the pattern to the building’s consistent bad performance. The common thread? Not one of them had more than a partial design.

There is no excuse for this. A system design for a control system should modeled up front as part of the design, The schematic, the SOO, and the tag list should be 3 views of the underlying model. If a “designed” system does not meet this low bar, that of internal consistency, one has to wonder if it was designed at all.

If we do not design the buildings we send out to be built, we will never get to the next bar of designing them well. If we do not design them well, then LEEDS, Green Buildings, and Zero Carbon Facilities are a sham. If they are a sham, the design profession has been overcharging a lot of people.

Consider that the next time you walk into a “Green” building.

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