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Five Pitfalls to Avoid for Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure


With advanced technology driving the digital evolution, organization have to adopt technology, and that the project manager tends to occupy the prime communicating position on building projects, coming into direct or indirect contact with nearly everyone involved. As such, they should familiarize themselves with this realm of knowledge and treat it with equal regard to areas such as structural or mechanical engineering. Building automation systems, which control such things as heating, air conditioning, fire alarms, sprinklers, door locks and security cameras, as automated buildings become more proliferous and more sophisticated the range of possible attacks might become more nefarious. For instance, losing control of temperature in a building and starting a fire by remotely overheating equipment in a building, where a fire alarm and sprinklers are disabled could be catastrophic. In order to prevent all these risks and losses in the building, below are the pitfalls to avoid in Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure.

The Five Pitfalls to Avoid

1. The first step in preventing such problems is to understand on a general level how these systems work, in the case of buildings the setup is relatively simple, physical components that control building systems, (a thermostat controlling HVAC), for example, can be accessed remotely by the building’s operators because they’re connected to the internet. In a recent security exercise, for instance, IBM hackers gained access to a large corporation’s building systems through a single Wireless Access Point — a piece of equipment found in most people’s living rooms and could subsequently control the temperature, fire suppression and security systems in all that company’s buildings across North America. Systems controlling heavy infrastructure are often more complex than off-the-shelf building automation systems, they also tend to be proprietary and customized, so it’s difficult to make generalizations about them, as such, a sophisticated team of engineers could combine their knowledge to make educated about exactly what equipment is being controlled, they can see in a network’s everyday functioning, then manipulate it in ways they know would cause the damage.

2. What can be done about this? The most effective answer lies in the problem, lack of awareness about these vulnerabilities. Automated building systems control equipment that works in essentially the same way since well before the digital revolution, this equipment is engineered, designed, manufactured and installed by a chain of people who likely have no knowledge, expertise or training in cyber security. An architect in close quarters with a building contractor or manage is typically the conduit through which all these parties communicate with each other, Thus, if architects were to treat knowledge of these weaknesses the same way they treat knowledge of the building equipment that contains them, they could help spread that awareness to everyone involved in a project, a vital first step in making safeguards against hacking a standard practice.

3. It’s most likely that the security of building and infrastructure controls will eventually fall to the responsibility of a single-source project manager, engineer and vendor, in much the same way that structural or mechanical engineering is handled today, but that is a nascent field and when it does take on a greater role in building projects, project manager, engineer and vendor will undoubtedly be tasked with coordinating with the person’s involvement, In the meantime, it is important that the persons involve in this building project educate themselves as much as possible about how a building’s operation works or get the building management personnel involve as well as the building architect, this will matter in a more connected future.

4. Although powerful smart-building capabilities exist, obstacles remain to their wider use. Smart is not in everyone’s design vocabulary, people are still using return on investment as an excuse not to build smart, high performance buildings, they do not understand that it often can be done for the same first cost, if you know how to do it, in some cases, the building automation systems capabilities are just sitting there, waiting to be tapped, especially in existing buildings, getting a smart, high-performance building should not cost more. “The idea is to get that data exchange between building systems working together to achieve the highest performance possible. It’s more about developing a comprehensive strategy that will determine the order in which the technology puzzle pieces will be assembled, the strategy needs to consider your prioritization of sustainability, energy, and occupant experience goals, and this strategy will impact the appearance of the assembled puzzle, that strategy will help determine the order of integration the building subsystems’ puzzle pieces.

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Jesmin Liew
Jesmin Liew
Jesmin Liew has several years of procurement experience, specifically in the Building and Technology sector. She is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). She completed the Diploma in Procurement and Supply Management (DPSM) in December 2017 at SIPMM Institute.

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