Intelligent Buildings The New Technology of Co-ops and Condos

Advances in technology are influencing virtually every area of our lives and for decades, condos and co-ops have taken advantage of technology to make their buildings run smoother. Things that are now commonplace - like intercom systems, video surveillance, or fire detectors - were once cutting-edge technology, so it's important for board members, management companies and employees to know what new technology is available now and recognize its potential value to shareholders.

"Being an "˜intelligent' building used to mean simple, stand-alone techniques for doing something, like buzzing an intercom or radio," says Jerry Kestenbaum, president of BuildingLink.com, a Long Island company that sets up buildings with database systems designed to help streamline a variety of operations. "Now it means systems that capture everything that goes on in a building and preserve it."

According to Ernest Schirmer, director of technology consulting for Acentech, a communications and technology consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "The general definition I use is a building that if it's an income-producing property, it's the features that allow the building to generate above-normal economic profit for an owner."

"[Automation] certainly is starting to get recognition," says Kirk McElwain, technical director of the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), a nonprofit group formed to promote technologies for North American home and building automation in North America. Boards can now make information available to shareholders and unit owners on a building website where residents can click on a link to send an e-mail to a managing agent or the maintenance staff, and residents can link their household computers together with building-wide wireless Internet service.

There's more to being an intelligent building than a fast Internet connection, however. "It almost doesn't qualify them as an intelligent building anymore," says Schirmer.

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