Designing an Intelligent buildingAET Flexible Space

Designing an Intelligent Building: The Real and Hidden Cost Benefits

Intelligent Buildings


  •    1. Interest in the topic
  •    2. The emergence of major global companies
  •    3. Intelligent buildings
  •    4. World Resources are finite
  •    5. Location
  •    6. Design teams and the basis of their engagement
  •    7. Materials of construction and embodied energy
  •    8. Standardization makes a lot of sense
  •    9. Intended possible and likely functions of the building
  •   10. Greater consideration of the services engineer
  •   11. Services and embodied energy
  •   12. Considering initial and life cost
  •   13. Modular building components
  •   14. Summary References and Acknowledgements



This is a study of the real needs of the user, extending beyond temperature and humidity control. It studies staff productivity, absenteeism and ownership costs. From this the developer can consider a partnership with the user to build correctly to meet the needs. Sometimes an intelligent design may not require large amounts of sophisticated control which few understand and many complain about. In other cases, and we have a few in the UK, the need for intelligent control is important and with its development further advantages can be gained. We study the extent to which change in the office environment causes waste of material and unnecessary cost, disruption to the work force and loss of productivity. We look at embodied energy in the materials selected and how this can be controlled nationally and internationally. As the world becomes more of a global village and world resources start to become precious, mankind will have to build with a new kind of intelligence. Not just that the building operates intelligently but that the selection of materials, energy levels and the like are also selected intelligently, to minimize waste of fuel and natural resource. We touch on legislation in the workplace and how this is affecting design of services in buildings.


Over the years there has been a high level of study into suitability of structures, air conditioning systems, lifts and the like for use in office buildings. Many of these studies compared one product type with another, usually from a first-cost point of view. However very few studies have looked beyond the boundaries of the specialist element to see how such selections impact on other elements of the construction and it is only in the last few years that attention has started to be paid to this aspect. Leading authorities, such as Francis Duffy in London and Kenneth Yeung in Malaysia, have studied choice of materials in a more coordinated way for use in Flexible Offices and as information, through studies, has become more available on staff performance, absenteeism and the like. Further changes in materials have come about and legislation has been brought in to combat harmful effects of certain materials and operational procedures within offices. Shall we save electricity by turning off half the lights? The world energy crisis in 1976 was probably the first time that building users started to be seriously concerned at the energy costs of their buildings and I remember well the managing director of the consultants I worked for at the time making the decision to take out 50% of the tubes in our luminaires to save energy. What he didn’t take account of was the effect this would have on staff and their performance. Precious little, I hear you say. Well you would be forgiven for thinking that in the dim and distant past when no useful information existed on the subject of staff performance. Today however you would be considered as under informed. In an organization with, let us say, 1000 employees and a turnover of perhaps $100 million the costs of absenteeism and loss of productivity can easily be in the order of several million dollars. Staff salaries alone with say 6% absenteeism could account for perhaps $1.5 million. Office rentals, wasted equipment leasing and so on pushes the figure higher but the loss of productivity could take the company from profit into loss. 6% absenteeism equates to 60 people not working all year. It is the equivalent of a medium sized company stopping trading; this starts to highlight the costs. When I started work, we worked on drawing boards with T squares, tracing paper, erasers etc. and the typists worked with manual type writers. The fax machine was still a glint in its inventor’s eye and building services tender periods were in the order of 6 to 8 weeks. Other industries too, had similar levels of activity. Everyone was working hard but compared with today, speed of production was rather less. For example a drawing used to be a work of art taking sometimes many weeks to prepare whereas now with CAD it has been dramatically reduced and accuracy greatly increased. Tenders were sent by post and response time was far longer than today. Now in the late 1990’s and as we approach the next millennium the world has become a very different place. We have the notebook PC, the Fax, the mobile data compatible phone, video conferencing, hot desking, Hives, cells, etc. The buildings in which I worked are still standing but are failing to meet the needs of the business function required today, resulting in inefficiency absenteeism and loss of productivity for the organizations within. These buildings were constructed by speculative developers and created short term profit for a few and long term loss for the tenants and the nation. Short sighted first cost concerns leading to long term extra cost of operation.


Hotels were probably the first to realize the advantage of standardization and as a result you could walk through the doors of a Holiday Inn in London and it would feel as familiar as the one you left 7 hours earlier in New York and enjoy the same selected standards. The menu was the same layout and the room was the same. The lift, the lights and virtually all services were the same. This permitted economies to be made in purchasing, construction and maintenance, as well as in staff training and allowed transfer of staff to different hotels and the virtually instantaneous commencement of business by those staff, as the settling in period could be minimized. With the development of the Global businesses, it was equally important to create a similar corporate style. In the early eighties many buildings were created to meet the then needs of business. Today however those needs have changed dramatically and many buildings and groups of buildings are simply not able to meet the needs of the business housed within them. As trading profit reduces through recession and with ever-increasing worldwide competition, managers are forced to find new ways of reducing cost and improving margin. This demand Impacts on many areas of business and is dramatically highlighted in the demands on buildings, equipment and the people who use them. Simply put, facilities have to be more flexible and cost effective. Cheap solutions, however, rarely save money in the long run. Buildings that can serve the needs of the people today and yet easily accommodate the needs of tomorrow are few and far between. In Europe we have seen increasing legislation in the work place usually brought about by fatal accident or awareness of potential hazards. And many buildings simply cannot change to meet such demands. One particular example is the arrival of the ‘No Smoking’ office. Bold people young and old alike can be seen standing on the front steps of the Corporate HQ drawing on their cigarettes as if their very lives depended on it. They look most pitiful at about 4.30 p.m. in the driving snow because they have not brought their coat with them in order to avoid office ridicule as they walk out for their ‘Fix’. Huddles of smokers standing in the street.  Very few buildings it seems can be easily adapted to provide smoking rooms close to toilets where segregated duct risers could be located to carry away this unpleasant fume. The problem is that companies who declare smoke free zones, often demanded by their own staff are not prepared to set aside space and ventilation systems for this minority because of their assessment of the cost. If however one looks at the down time of this gallant band of loyal workers and the loss of productivity, the cost of providing a smoking area is insignificant. The same company was prepared to pay for their main frame computer to be housed in its own environment so that it could work effectively, and they understood terms such as ‘downtime’ in that context so why not for the workers. The cost of staff is going up and the cost of computers is steadily going down. With increasing office technology, legislation knows no bounds, and has already hit hard at furniture design to avoid such problems as repetitive strain injury and I believe indoor air quality will now come under increasing scrutiny. For example, when did you last change the filter in your laser jet printer? Is your photocopier housed in a separately ventilated room? Is your carpet and furniture formaldehyde free? When did you last change the filter in your laser jet printer? In some countries legislation already exists for ductwork to be cleaned every three years. In a recent report in the CIBSE journal, mention was made of two and a half dead cats being found in the supply duct to a hospital operating theater.  The two I can cope with, it’s the half that I have got a problem with. Who has eaten the other half and where they are nesting, not to mention other unpleasant activities. Will legislation demand that filtration takes place let us say within 10 or 20m of the work place and not at the plant room, or access hatches every two meters? How will current systems meet such demands? Such an example can indicate the need for consultants to spend more time in the consideration of their design, learning more about their customers business and how future trends and legislation may impact, and to explain their selection in far greater detail than just that it is the cheapest first cost solution. At least allow the user to make an informed decision. In the absence of sound advice, cost is usually the only yard stick. With the rapid advances in computerization, monitoring, and control, it is now possible to measure a wide range of issues important to business. This ranges from normal building services issues such as security, energy saving and optimization techniques to staff productivity and such specific items as CO2 concentrations, formaldehyde emissions and the like. How nice it will be to automatically increase the ventilation rate to the meeting room when the CO2 level exceeds 800 or 1000ppm. Can the installed ventilation system adapt easily to meet such a requirement?


The Building Management System has come of age. Many people refer to buildings with such systems as intelligent buildings. Are these really intelligent? It is estimated that around 80% of all Building Management Systems are failing to provide the service for which they were intended. Is it possible that the users are sadly lacking in the training and knowledge needed to take over from the commissioning team. Is it really sensible, or dare I say it ‘Intelligent’ to assume that with possibly two days of training, on average, that the facilities manager could be. More serious still, is when that facility manager leaves the company and the knowledge becomes yet more watered down. Control companies talk in numbers of points and most end users can’t tell you what one is. Most end users don’t know what points to monitor or why and later when changes come about, most systems have very little spare room for expansion and are very complicated to change requiring renewed input from the specialist supplier at great cost and disruption. Is it not important that such equipment should release time for managers and engineers to carry out deeper studies, training and other aspects that the equipment still doesn’t have the brain to provide. This is where my definition of building intelligence starts to move away from the fashionable definition. Will a BMS automatically solve all our problems? I am sure that the human influence will always be the most intelligent influence and that we should not relax behind the excuse that the BMS will solve all the problems. At best it can only optimize the results of all the successes, and more worrying, all the mistakes we made through lack of time and due consideration of the design requirements. With time on our hands presented by this machinery we currently have available, I believe we should delve deeper into the issues of intelligent building and by that I mean that we should use our own intelligence to further develop the subject of user needs for which an intelligent building would be constructed to serve. I therefore redefine the “Intelligent Building” not as a building that optimizes the equipment within it to provide the best operational characteristics, as this allows for wrong selection in the first place, but that it is a building that is designed “Intelligently” by the human project team making use of all currently available research into all aspects of the building, it’s intended use and it’s possible future use such that it meets Personal, Organizational, Local, National and Global considerations. This definition will then drive developers, architects, engineers and cost consultants to study the results of past activity and dismiss design that simply does not stack up against current requirements. This also calls for far higher standards of team co-ordination. I might say that it has been suggested by some that I should apply for a job at the United Nations rather than stay in my chosen field of Building Services and perhaps I should, but regardless of my chosen career path, the fact is that we cannot continue to build buildings with the casualness currently enjoyed by the design teams today. The waste and damage to the environment is becoming too great. I believe that all ‘Intelligent buildings’ should accommodate the three words Flexibility, Adaptability and Re-usability. I believe that the word Flexibility is little understood. I have seen adverts for Flexible Radiators and in screed flexible power systems. I believe that the word Adaptability is hardly ever achieved. Costly changes in office layout don’t go ahead and the staff work less productively. And I am sure that the word Re-usability is hardly ever considered. The embodied energy of sourcing and manufacturing fails to be optimized leading to unnecessary levels of pollution and wastage. And yet I believe that the buildings we construct in the coming years must accommodate all three words if they are to function successfully and thus intelligently. Flexibility Adaptability Re-usability.


Human reproduction is still increasing. In fact at the rate of around 1 billion people every 10 years and it is expected to level out at around 12 billion. Fortunately or unfortunately most readers of this paper will not be around in 60 years to experience such life but we are the forefathers of these generations and we owe it to them to pass on a world capable of sustaining a quality of life hopefully better but certainly equal to the one in which we reside. Drivers in the state of New York consume more oil in one year than the whole of Africa, The average Madagascan throws away 225 times his body weight of household garbage every year, The average European throws away 1300 times his body weight, The average North American throws away 4000 times his body weight. Not to mention cars, furniture, bricks and other important building materials. We all seek to bring third world countries up to the standards of Europe and the USA but I am sure that when there are 12 billion people on Earth all living to the standards of the drivers in New York that there will be no more oil to consume. Some while after that there will be insufficient timber and shortly after that one can imagine that there will be no fresh water and doubtful if there will be any fresh air to breath. This may sound alarmist and let us hope that such conditions never come to pass but they have already started to decline and will get worse, as surely as night follows day if we do not start to consider the issues now. We in the building services and construction industry probably consume the largest proportions of raw materials. I prefer to call them world resources as it tends to indicate a more limited supply. Some are replenish able but many are not, and we must start now to design intelligently in order to preserve diminishing materials and the fuel sources needed to process them. With world reaction to nuclear energy at such a low level of support, what energy sources will provide the needs of the 21st century Building Services and Construction consume the largest proportion of raw materials When 12 billion people are on earth, like it or not they will all want houses, televisions, video recorders, cars, holidays and dare I say it, jobs in much the same way as we do today. 12 billion people will not all be able to travel into city centres to work, consuming vast amounts of fuel, rubber and time. More seriously they will not be able to enjoy the current levels of wastage that we do, epitomized by skips full of office furniture, partitioning materials, timber and so on that we see in our streets today. Building intelligently needs a serious and determined effort to study the stupidity of current methods across the board from the original planning application through design and construction and on through facilities management and maintenance, to refurbishment or demolition of that particular Intelligent Building.


It simply won’t be intelligent to locate a building within the square mile because others are there. Developers and their advisers will have to consider where the work force will travel from and what means of transport will be suitable. In my opinion the sitting of Canary Wharf in London only served to further exacerbate the problems of man hour wastage, pollution, fuel wastage and resource wastage but it seemed like a good way to regenerate inner city life – a political hot potato at the time. In my opinion it has had the opposite effect creating large areas of commercial activity incapable of being supported by the surrounding community and thus alienating the small local community through apparent lack of consideration and so on, by the migrant population who arrive and depart every day in their thousands leaving the place like a ghost town.


It is totally perverse that a professional design team is employed to design a building based on the value of the materials and labour consumed in its construction. Why then would a commercially minded designer spend time to optimize the design. Why would he study more carefully the design of pumps and fans in order to reduce the power demand and thus the size and cost of transformers and the high tension distribution from the power station, if he earns more with a less engineered solution. This cannot be in the interests of the user or the nation. For anyone who continues to argue the case in favour of this procedure let me ask you if you would apply the same technique to the appointment of the heart surgeon on your own by-pass operation. Would you want him to reduce the amount of nylon thread and anaesthetic? Wouldn’t you pay more if he was to the study latest techniques and advise accordingly, rather than carry out the age old routines that he is familiar with but which are now known to be less effective. At a personal level I think we all agree. The problem is that we allow the greater issue to be someone else’s problem.


Buildings constructed from materials hazardous to health will no longer be acceptable. Up until recently little was known. Consider the difficulties associated with asbestos use and later of its removal. Little was known about toxic materials when asbestos was applied and hardworking men in the insulation business are now paying the price of that lack of knowledge. Lloyds of London estimate that one of their largest single areas of claims over the next few years will come from asbestosis related illness. It will surely be negligent if we continue to build using such materials simply because they are the cheapest or most plentiful, when information is to hand on their non-suitability. They must be fit for purpose and by that I mean manufactured not only to suit the immediate need, but also in a way capable of being dismantled and re-used by the existing owner or others at sometime in the future, either in a re configuration of that building or of another building, possibly even in a different country. Various cocktails of pollutants may contaminate an office we are learning more of the effects of formaldehyde from chip board, and ozone produced at every laser jet printer. But what do we know of the various cocktails of pollutants that may contaminate an office and the effects these have on the occupants. Certain commonly used refrigerants for example when mixed with cigarette smoke at high temperature can create Phosgene, a gas that was banned by the Geneva Convention as inhumane even in War. What effect does formaldehyde when mixed with ozone have on the mucous membranes of your secretary and is she working inefficiently as a result. We just don’t know, and buildings must be capable of change to cope with such situations. If one studies the energy consumed in manufacturing steel structures and pipes it is easy to see that it will simply not be possible to trash such materials in the future. Complete elements will need to be dismantled and the labour force employed will be trained in the careful demolition of such elements in order that they may be used again. Jointing techniques will have to be further considered. Victaulic type pipe joints will become universally accepted. We will not be able to keep re-processing these materials and polluting our atmosphere.


Standardization in window dimensions and doors has provided untold ease in replacement. It hasn’t reduced individuality to a point that is unacceptable but the advantages for glaziers, furniture manufacturers and many other businesses can be easily recognized. We have many other examples of standardization and these have been developed intelligently by thinking designers and manufacturers. Standard gypsum wall boards, standard 600mm or 1200x600mm ceiling tiles, light fittings, 600mm floor panels, 300mm and 600mm ceramic floor and wall tiles etc., etc.So why is it that when we are all invited to the first coordinated design meeting for that special new project we are told that the grid will be 3.7m and that the client seeks maximum flexibility in the design of the services and we launch into another round of tailor made designs virtually exclusive to that building! At what cost and more importantly, whose cost. I put it to you that it is to everyone’s cost. The problems seem to come with a few non standard items such as that non standard grid or pension fund demanded ceiling heights of 2.7m. Do the people setting these non standard demands realize the effect on world resources, extended construction times and increased cost. I think not, generally, but there is also a lack of real concern about the impact such demands have on our world and current day effectiveness. The demands are still placed on the designers to achieve fashionable results such as energy efficiency without any compromise on unreasonable demands based on past practice or experience. This will be simply unacceptable in the future. Certainly the energy saving and similar studies are not taken far enough when the basis of fee structures is counter productive.


It will be more and more important to study the possible and likely functions of a building and to consider the construction to meet such uses in the future. We are already witnessing office buildings being changed into domestic accommodation. Disruption due to the process of change will become a key issue as the costs of disruption to a highly paid work force simply will not be acceptable and absenteeism resulting from poor operation or lengthy change programs will need to be considered.


Most technologies are currently developed sufficiently for major strides in construction technology to be taken. Sadly the coordination skills to bring this about are sadly lacking and a greater emphasis on the importance of, and attention to, the Building Services Engineer’s demands at the earliest stage must be given if the costs associated with change are to be reduced. How often are we called in to design the services several months after the Building Envelope has been virtually finalized and we are limited in our design approach.


Services are probably the single most adapted elements of a building during its life time and they will have to be designed with greater flexibility, adaptability and re-usability. Currently the material making up the services installation is often scrapped before the end of its useful life and must return to its raw form before rising again as a new length of copper pipe or new tap or data cable etc. In the future the embodied energy in its first forming must be retained for as long as possible and this demand will start to affect the basic design. In the future, the CO2 emissions and other pollution of the re-working will be unacceptable, the fuel consumption will be prohibitive. This then will drive us to the “Lego brick principle” of design in which the disposable society will find less and less acceptance. Where individual materials will come to be accepted as ‘reusable bricks’ and be retained for as long as possible. After all, real bricks have served us well in this way for hundreds of years and second hand bricks are now standard materials. Consider for a moment all the heat that has been used in baking those bricks. Why not then consider more building elements in this way? They say one can judge the socio-economic grouping of a society by the quality of its garbage. The wealthier we become the greater the casualness with which we throw away. Some people would give a day’s pay just to get their hands on the rubbish in skips in city streets in London and New York. Much of it would continue to be used by others for some considerable while to come if the means of removal, re-distribution and in many cases repair, existed in a better form than the current skip and refuse collection services. In a recent publication AT&T indicated that in a 40 year life cycle of a building: only 11% of the cost is accounted for in the original construction,14% in financing,25% in modifications and50% in operation over the life of the building.


If therefore we are going to spend more than double on the changes after the building is occupied and a further 50% on operations such as salaries etc., it makes very good sense to stop and consider the relative importance of the initial costs compared with the running and modification costs and operational costs. Not from the selfish view point of passing on costs of cheap inefficient design to future tenants but from the view point of passing on real value for money and charging accordingly. In several projects including Alviks Strand in Stockholm and 4 Millbank in London, Panasonic in Paris and Digital in France where such wide consideration has been given to the coordination of the design, developers and end users have quoted savings compared with conventional building and services between 5% and 7% and so it can be seen that giving value for money can cost less. It really does need the whole team to be thinking in this way to succeed however. Such buildings have then gone on to show major savings in the costs of change equating in many cases to more than $150 US per sq m per annum.  At 4 Millbank savings in the cost of change in the order of $240 US per sq m have been reported when compared with ceiling based systems. How have they achieved such impressive results? Many have made use of raised access floors for cable distribution thus reducing fabric changes when cables need re routing, others have gone further and used the access floor as the main distribution route for all services and some companies such as Johnson Controls and Hiross are studying ways to improve air conditioning through the use of the raised floors as plenums for displacement type systems and to serve personal environmental workstations. These work stations are being studied as they offer the chance to increase or improve personal requirements with far higher diversity and thus reducing the overall need for air conditioning in the building generally. Such solutions achieve high standards of flexibility and air quality with modular components and reduce overall construction costs quoted in some cases as better than 5%, but more importantly can reduce operating costs by as much as 30% as quoted by Digital in their study of their facility in Sophia Antipolis in Southern France and Panasonic in Paris where under floor air conditioning has been shown to offer savings in the cost of change by as much as $140 per sq m.


I have already mentioned modular building boards, ceiling and floor tiles, etc., but these tend to be the components that go to make up the fit out of a building. It is time to consider the frame of the building, making greater use of steel beams and columns thus allowing the use of modular concrete planks for the floors in place of in situ concrete. With advances in technology it is also quite possible to consider modular factory built lift shafts, modular plant rooms and toilet pods. We already have modular power tracks and bus bars and we can consider the use of modular piping, ducting and air-conditioning equipment. With modular construction a building can be created with the minimum immediate requirements and yet have the provision for expansion allowed in riser shafts etc. following the study of the likely needs of the building which I mentioned earlier. It may not be necessary to install all the chiller plant or boilers on day one and in some cases the need may never arise. Certainly we don’t install partitions until the tenant determines his requirement and therefore we must ask why we install the air conditioning and lighting. There are two simple reasons. First, because the current techniques take too long to install and with too much disruption to the building, so they must be built in before the building is marketed and second, because the current contractual demands expect a system to be shown to operate at handover regardless of its suitability for the future, often unknown, tenant. As intelligent engineers we must ask ourselves why – if these systems cause so much disruption – are they considered. The cost of changing them later is going to be worse and the disruption to an established business even worse. Most services will be fully replaced at least three times in the life of a building and as buildings become more “monumental” the services will be changed many times more before the building is demolished. Interior change rate may be 80% in the first year Within sections of the building the interior change rate may even be as high as 80% (Estates Gazette) within the first year of occupation as a tenant sets up his business. This is the serious end because here materials have not even been used, in some situations, before they are stripped out. Again at what cost and to whom? Truly Flexible Space has to be the aim. In the future, systems that permit easy inclusion at any time will need to be more fully considered. Modular raised access flooring is now generally accepted as an essential element in a modern building. The void created for modular cable and power systems may with only a slight increase in height offer a plenum for the distribution and delivery of conditioned air. If coordinated with a flat plate slab of steel and concrete plank the solution may reduce the height of a building by more than 10% or 15%, saving on construction materials, time and in a small way on solar and thermal gain and thus on energy. By using the floor as a plenum its status changes in many countries from ‘Fixture’ to ‘Plant and Equipment’ and thus large tax allowances can be claimed. The air flowing in contact with the concrete can make use of the thermal mass as a store. Ductwork and pipe work can be minimized, cross contamination of spaces within the building can be dramatically reduced by means of dedicated tonal air conditioning units with the added advantage of diversity in operation and reduced incidence of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Later the same building can be systematically taken apart without the normal environmental impact we are so accustomed to seeing in our cities. Saving of 1.5 million USD.  In a recent study by the CIBSE Journal on a hypothetical 12 story building of 10000 sq m, such an approach was estimated to offer savings on the curtain walling alone in the order of $1.5million US, not to mention savings in structure and building program and the downstream savings of energy consumption etc.  Flexible relocatable terminal units for the air conditioning may be positioned in the floor replacing a floor panel, wherever and whenever required with the added bonus of personalized control. Additional ones may be added or excess capacity removed and used elsewhere in that building or indeed in another, compared with manufacturing extra ductwork to replace the old distribution system. Modular power tracks under the floor may be added to or removed in the same way. Easy testing and modification are features of such systems. Many companies supply such tracks to many parts of the world and these could be removed from one redundant building and be re installed in another at any time in the future, compared with stripping out conduit and hard wiring tailor made to a particular installation. Desk based power and data modules can reduce the congestion of cables feeding down into the floor and offer ease in portable appliance testing and addition of facilities on each desk as requirements change. This in turn reduces user disruption and allows increased productivity compared with the delays and disruption we are all so accustomed to within wall conduit systems and the like. Modular pipe work can deliver services up and down the building and with modern jointing techniques such as Victaulic couplings can eliminate the need for welding. The systems can be easily adapted or removed at any time in the future. Modular lift shafts can be added into a building at any time in its life. In new construction the shaft can serve as the construction hoist with higher levels of safety than conventional hoists whilst financially offering tax advantages because the shaft is regarded as removable equipment qualifying it too for Capital Allowances.  De-mountable partitioning, 600mm carpet tiles, up-lighting and desk-mounted task lighting techniques further reduce re-configuration times and offer greater longevity of materials. Central vacuum cleaning systems may be accommodated within the floor void offering yet higher standards of indoor air quality.  All nations must start to seriously consider the total energy cost of building. They must consider the energy cycle of products from initial gathering of the raw material through primary processing and transportation to secondary processing and transportation, from incorporation in the project and use, through to removal and reprocessing.  In the near future, it will simply be unacceptable globally to trash material along with its embodied energy and ways will have to be found to improve demolition techniques to minimize damage and wastage of these precious raw materials. There will be a need for improved redistribution techniques and improved education in the need for conservation it will be unacceptable globally to trash material.  The Chernobyl disaster helped to awaken the world to the fragility of our environment and the effect that one country can now have on others. The discovery of the hole in the ozone layer has forced governments to take action on CFC’s and the Earth Summit in Rio was the catalyst for world partnership in addressing the problems of global warming. So things have started. But we must not become complacent because it is no longer front page news. Mankind may believe it has a right to life but it certainly does not have a right to immortality and it must take care of its environment now to ensure the survival of future generations. Dinosaurs died out in a relatively short space of time probably due to environmental disaster in what is considered to be the fourth major extinction on planet Earth. Are we witnessing the Fifth and do we have time to bring about sufficient change to ensure the continuity of the Human Race. Alarmist? – Yes. But the subject deserves greater consideration than current world-wide government policies seem to give, in their short term populist approach.


To summarize I believe the three important words: Flexibility, Adaptability, Re-usability, are fundamental in addressing ‘Intelligent Building Design’ and that in future greater attention must be paid to maximize Re-usability.  The techniques already exist in most areas of construction to achieve these three goals.  The lack of concern of mankind in general probably through lack of knowledge, and project teams in particular, are currently the weak links in this important field of operation and until we as engineers make real inroads into this matter, learn more about our customer and his business and drive for greater awareness of the real issues at stake I do not think we shall be able to claim that we are building Intelligent Buildings nor enjoy the respect and esteem that our positions should hold.


  1. Price Waterhouse Report-No.4 Millbank
  2. Panasonic Report presented at Strasbourg Facilities Management Conference
  3. Digital Report-Sophia Antipolis, Operating Cost Study
  4. David Wyon Study: Environmental Work Stations
  5. Rocky Mountain Institute-“If you think education is expensive …Try ignorance!
  6. Clifford Chance Judgement Nett lettable space considerations of Flexible floor based AC Systems

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Swedish National Pension Fund Swedish Clinic for Occupational Medicine.

Glan Blake Thomas is the Managing Director of Advanced Ergonomic Technologies Ltd and is currently involved in development of under floor air conditioning systems for modern offices in several major projects in various parts of the world including the UK, South America, New Zealand, Malaysia, Korea and Hong Kong. He has presented papers at ASHRAE and the CIBSE.  This paper is copyright. Feel free to copy it but please ensure that this tag line is also reproduced.

Author: Glan Blake Thomas C Eng MCIBSE

Managing Director – Advanced Ergonomic Technologies Ltd

First Published: 2006