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Intelligent Structures: Increasing Your Building’s IQ
If only structures could take care of themselves. If only they were smart enough to sense when they are damaged and then repair that damage, just like living creatures do.
Though this isn’t a reality yet, buildings have become much smarter over the years. Advances in building maintenance mean that systems such as lighting, plumbing and HVAC are routinely monitored and calibrated to keep a building running smoothly and efficiently. Lights sensed based on need and occupancy to turn on and off, temperature are adjusted according to demand, and HVAC is fine-tuned based on season and time of day.
With so much sensory feedback, information processing and autonomous operating capability available at its fingertips, building management has come to be known as the nerve center of a structure.
In recent years, that nerve center has become more sophisticated than ever. The addition of on-site sensors that continually monitor building components or building systems—and then provide real-time information about their function—has created an intelligent operating system, or nervous system, for buildings today.
SMT Research offers one of the most comprehensive “nervous systems” available. Using software and a network of sensors that monitor factors such as temperature, moisture, differential pressure and humidity, SMT’s Investigative Monitoring service continually gathers data over time to provide a detailed snapshot of a structure’s integrity.
Even better than a diagnostic check-up for your building, the system provides continuous monitoring and reporting so that structural failures can be detected as they occur, allowing for immediate feedback and response.
One of the most common structural failures is also the most costly: leakage. SMT’s BuildingIntelli Membrane (BIM) monitoring system, a component of the Investigative Monitoring service, is a unique software package that builds intelligence right into your roof structure. A permanently installed membrane integrity monitoring system consisting of moisture detection sensors provides instant data acquisition and real-time reporting. This makes for a pretty sophisticated structural nervous system.
In the human nervous system, the brain uses information it gathers from the nerves to coordinate action and reaction. Sensory nerves send messages to the brain, such as: “Putting my hand in this fire is extremely painful.” Motor nerves carry messages back from the brain to the muscles and glands, such as: “Remove your hand immediately!”
The BIM monitoring system works in a similar fashion: A network of sensors (the sensory nerves, if you will) detects hidden moisture intrusions and reports back to Building Analytics (the “brain”): “There is a membrane intrusion exactly here on this drawing.” Building Analytics responds by analyzing the data and sending out notifications for action to appropriate building management personnel: “Take care of that intrusion immediately, before it turns into a disastrous leak.”
Maintaining any type of building is expensive: It costs far more to maintain a building over its lifetime than to build it, yet the importance and cost of maintenance has often been disregarded. A building that isn’t properly maintained can’t function smoothly, and will be a drain on financial resources. But a well-maintained building is not only a necessity for its occupants, it is an asset to its owners.
What smart building owners and managers know is that smart buildings can go a long way in helping to maintain themselves. Whether built into a new structure, or installed in an existing structure, SMT’s BIM monitoring system can help make your building a whole lot smarter.