E-commerce, remote education, online entertainment, wireless communication, watching video and TV programmes. Nowadays, you do not have to leave home to have access to these services if you live in a smart building.
Residents aren't the only beneficiaries; office clerks and housing developers also benefit from smart buildings.
China has invested 33 billion yuan (US$3.9 billion) to create smart buildings, and the investment is to reach 80 billion yuan (US$9.6 billion) during the 10th Five-year Plan period (2001-05), experts suggest.
Residential buildings will be the dominant user of the systems, which cost about 60 yuan (US$7.2) per square metre.
The systems will undergo profound changes in the near future, a result of rapid developments in IT and China's internationalized management since last December when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Xu Ronglie, adviser with the Science and Technology Committee of the Ministry of Construction.
He made the remarks at the Summit on Development and Management of Intelligent Buildings, held by Beijing DTZ Property Consulting Co Ltd last week.
China is now working with the third generation of smart buildings - based on the fast development of computer technology, control technology and communications technology.
Smart systems can also reduce buildings' costs. Costs of smart buildings include construction, and maintenance of the system.
With optimized integration of auto-control, management and communications systems, smart buildings run more efficiently with fewer workers. Owner's, meanwhile, incur fewer financial losses.
Government departments will simplify the process for developers who would like to construct smart buildings.
Real estate developers and experts acknowledge more efforts are needed to improve the practicality of smart buildings.
Most smart buildings are equipped with an integrated system, which means all rooms in the building have the same system.
Zhao Ning, an engineer of Wanzhi Real Estate Co Ltd, said smart equipment in a building should vary according to the incomes, educational backgrounds and ages of the people.
For example, old people cannot get used to electronic door locks, and low-income residents cannot afford video programmes from websites.
"I do not equip buildings with all the advanced technologies," Zhao said.
"Some developers would like to boast about their comprehensive intelligent systems when speaking with consumers. But in the long-run, returns from the investment will be cut down by the cost of maintaining equipment that people never use."
Smart systems are also investments, and some adjustments should be made in the investment, construction, operation and management of China's smart buildings to reduce costs of maintaining the equipment, suggests Hwung Guojun.
Hwung is a professor with the Department of Housing and Construction at the University of Hong Kong.
(Business Weekly December 4, 2002)