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Buildings embrace ICT

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 27 – Ever heard of intelligent buildings? These are the buildings which have been integrated with the latest Information Technology systems such as closed-circuit television (CCTV), surveillance and access control, heating ventilation air conditioning and fire, life, Safety (FLS).

These systems are software driven which means that they access control over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

“Intelligent building seeks to integrate disparate systems on a common infrastructure by bringing together individual functional networks and components, thus improving the building quality from both the end-users and the owners’ perspective,” says Gerry Gitau the Business Manager for Intelligent Real Estate at Seven Seas Technologies.

Seven Seas Technologies is the company which has taken up the role of bringing the technology in Kenya and is building up momentum within the industry.

Gitau points out that the building industry is experiencing a transitional phase, where market acceptance is playing a more crucial role than prevailing technical changes.

“Today, many buildings are installed with multiple proprietary networks for operating the building automation systems and associated devices such as HVAC, surveillance, lifts etc. As a result we see complex and expensive network management issues, high installation costs and limited automation functionality,” he says of many of the buildings in the country.

The existence of multiple control environments for a single building, he says, leads to a less efficient and un-effective solution for optimising the performance of the building.

This then calls for a solution that addresses facilities management challenges that dramatically improve the efficiency of operating and maintaining a building.

Gitau says rapid advances in technology and the emergence of enterprise distributed computing platforms has created the need to integrate IT systems which has dramatically affected and guided the development of structured cabling systems.

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He says the intelligent information network uses the open standard of IP to provide a single multi service infrastructure for supporting all environmental and building controls – as well as conventional network data, voice, and video services.

It consists of a secure, resilient, high-speed network backbone running through the core of the buildings which provides a “total end-to-end connectivity solution” that offers customers low voltage connectivity as the bandwidth, data transfer speeds and mission critical information from various devices attached to the network is transmitted within a building or campus.

Gitau says that this basically means that when someone or a company puts up intelligent structures; they are able to save on the initial costs of the building.

“For example, because you are able to use one cabling pathway, you are able to use the same controlled environment, have one server room and save other costs,” he says adding that this also reduces the time it takes to move into a building after completion.

He says Intelligent Commercial Office Buildings enable property owners to become more responsive to their tenants. On the other hand, using next-generation amenities and services, owners can reduce tenants’ costs and administrative overheads.

“Ultimately, an Intelligent Office Building empowers property owners to generate new sources of revenue, support higher lease rates, reduce building lifecycle costs, and better manage multiple properties,” he says.

The same technology can also be applied when building hotels or resorts which not only allows guests the access to the Internet, IP video-conferencing, web streaming, but also enables the staff to access people, information and other resources, resulting in high quality, high-touch interactions that streamline processes.

“Staff can leverage building automation which ensures more efficient provisioning of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, fire alarms, lighting controls, safety, security and surveillance systems by converging all of the disparate networks that run building control systems on to the same intelligent network,” he adds.

Gitau says they have been trying to challenge the various stake holders on how to make buildings work smarter, educating them of the benefits of intelligent buildings and what they have to offer in terms of improved performance and value.

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He however acknowledges that their task is not easy in a country where contractors and many building owners like to cut corners by using cheaper equipment or doing without other essential materials at all.

Contrary to popular belief however, Gitau says the industry needs to adopt this technology by putting up the smart buildings that have systems that reduce the construction capital and operational costs in order to remain competitive.

At the same time, he is urging the government to consider incorporating in the new building code a clause that will require all new buildings to have integrated IT infrastructure.

Gitau says such a requirement would ensure that the building industry takes advantage of the opportunities that the arrival of the undersea fibre optic cable will bring as well as improve the quality of their structures both for the owners and the end users.

He says Seven Seas has been providing consultancy services on how to install building automation systems in the Kenyan market which presents a huge potential for the incorporation of such systems.

While admitting that the uptake is slow, he is optimistic that with time, many people will come to appreciate and adopt the technology as a means of cutting costs and a way to remain competitive.

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