A flooded landscape strewn with debris was all that many could see last month as Hurricane Isabel hit the East Coast of the United States, leaving millions without power and blowing down 60-foot pine trees in many neighborhoods, including mine. Many people chose to remain indoors and rely on man-made structures to protect them against the temporary madness of Mother Nature outside. At the time, it made sense for people to associate any structure in sight with shelter––after all, safety and security was a primary concern. But in reality, today’s residential, commercial and institutional buildings provide much more than a sturdy roof over your head to protect you from gusting winds and torrential rain.

Buildings have revolutionized the way we live, and they strongly influence the way we work and learn. As inhabitants of a modern era, we spend most of our lives indoors and much of our own intelligence has permeated the inner workings of the places that surround us. Remember “The Jetsons?” Their building systems were based on all types of high-tech controls and robots that simplified life and brought an incredible sense of comfort to every character in the cartoon. Our own building systems are more integrated and productive than ever and have proven similar to the concept of daily life that Hanna-Barbera envisioned in the 1960s.

Though we like the idea of “whole” buildings bringing us more comfort, increased security and better light, it’s important to pinpoint the primary attraction of today’s brainy structures––energy consumption. Do you remind yourself to turn off the lights in your house when you’re out so the electric bill is lower? If not, you should. As a result of a difficult economy, building owners are becoming smarter about costs they can control, especially energy. Buildings that use less power obviously save more money in the long run, which is why intelligent structures are integrating energy management systems to cut down on costs. Read John Fulmer’s cover story on page 16 to find out more about solutions IBS may provide.

Keeping up with the Jetsons and the fact that people and devices are connecting every day, make sure to read this month’s Focus piece on designing Local Area Networks (page 78). LANs are permeating many markets––from enterprises to residences––and the author discusses the option of utilizing a traditionally wired system versus going wireless. Once again, cost is a factor.

Last but not least, if you were one of the millions left without power in August or last month, Lewis Tagliaferre’s feature on page 110 dissects the plentiful needs of our transmission grid and gives us some useful insight as to what we may expect in the future. Hope you enjoy the issue.

STANIMIRA Z. STEFANOVA, Editor