Delivering intelligent and sustainable buildings

Published:  18 May, 2009

Modern buildings need to be intelligent — Peter McDermott.

Modern building- and energy-management systems have a key role to play in reducing and mitigating against the effects of climate change. Peter McDermott discusses the value of a new CIBSE Guide in helping to design better systems.

Modern buildings need to be intelligent, both in their design and their operation. An intelligent building must make best use of the latest technology, much of it based on the continuing advance of microcomputers into every facet of the modern world. It must also ensure that the businesses and organisations that use them are as productive as the built environment can make them. Clever design of spatial arrangements, inspirational architecture and flexible and responsive intelligent systems are all vital parts of the mix.

Given the current growing crisis caused by the increasing change in global climate, an intelligent building must be designed without fail to reduce any contribution to the profligate use of carbon-based energy. It must be sustainable. Anything else, given the current scientific consensus, could equally be termed a ‘stupid’ building!

A key role environmental engineers can play is in the clever design of building- and energy-management systems and controls. It is most timely then that the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has just published a new updated edition of Guide H for Building Control Systems.

The new edition has been updated to reflect the changes in the technology of intelligent control systems, the growing awareness of climate change and the associated changes in legislation for buildings.

The previous edition of the guide was published nine years ago. Although the fundamentals and basic physics of building controls have remained the same, controls technology and the general environment have moved on to such an extent that a new edition of the guide was felt necessary. Its preparation was undertaken by industry experts under the auspices of the CIBSE IT and controls group.

Moreover, CIBSE guidance to building-services engineers on the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of control systems for buildings has existed in a number of guises for over 20 years. General guidance was also included in the past in the old 3-part CIBSE guides.

The immediate forerunners were:

• Applications Manual: Automatic Building Controls and Their Implications for Systems Design, 1985;

• Building Control Systems Guide H, first edition 2000.

The aim of the new Guide H is to provide an adequate understanding of controls and relevant IT to ensure best control system is specified, installed and maintained.

Major enhancements in this edition of Guide H cover the following.

• Sustainability.

• Systems, networks and integration.


• Users and building performance.

When we originally sat down to discuss the key requirements for the original Guide H in the late 1990s, we were aware of the growing concern about climate change and the impact of human actions and energy use.

touch screen
Knowing how a building uses energy is the key to working out how to reduce energy consumption — as shown on this DHMI touch-screen controller from Delta Controls.


The issue of sustainability was anticipated in the introduction to the previous edition of the guide. However, claims that good building controls could help save the planet were seen as somewhat fanciful at that time.

Sustainable and energy-efficient design is now mainstream, and the impact of good controls is highlighted by international initiatives such as BREAM and LEED, as well as the introduction of much national legislation requiring energy efficiency in buildings.

The original edition of Guide H included sustainability as one reason why good design and implementation of building-control systems were important. It is now the critical issue for us all and our posterity.

Today it is vital that the short-term focus on the impact of the credit crunch on the worldwide economy, however understandable, does not distract proper attention from the fight against carbon emissions.

The new Guide H includes appropriate referencing throughout the text to energy-efficiency requirements and the UK Building Regulations Part L. These form the local implementation of wider European legislation.

One area that is hard to include properly in any standard reference text like Guide H, in a way that does not quickly become out of date, is the subject of computing and networking technology. The last edition of the guide was drafted to make it as future-ready as possible and, in those terms, has stood the test of time relatively well. However, the original guide now shows a lack of balance when compared to industry developments.

Detail is included on the BACnet standard which is now increasingly adopted by many manufacturers as the open building protocol of choice. An overview of the LonWorks protocol is also provided, as products using this protocol are in widespread use in buildings in the UK.

Summary information is included on the KNX protocol (formerly known as EIB), which has become more common in UK in last 10 years. Flatter network structures and architectures are also described. These are becoming more common, due to ever-cheaper and miniaturised computing and networking devices.

Convergence of network technologies is covered. This allows for the increased opportunities for integration of discrete intelligent systems to create intelligent buildings.

In the new Guide H, climate change and changing social issues take centre stage in the introduction — reflecting significant changes in last decade. Good controls design is now seen as an engineering essential to both reduce and mitigate against the impact of global warming.

Moreover, the guide reflects the growing understanding of the importance of user-centred design that considers the productivity of the human organisations which inhabit our buildings and the way in which people interact with the buildings they live and work in.

Guidance is therefore given in the design of user interfaces and in the processes needed to deliver building-control systems that enable, empower and motivate the users of the buildings that we design — both to get the most out of the built environment they find themselves in and also to use those buildings in as environmentally responsible a way as possible.

Peter McDermott is with Buro Happold and a contributor to the new CIBSE Guide H.

To purchase Guide H: Building Control Systems please visit the web site below or telephone 020 8772 3618.

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