An Interview with Eton Associates’ Director Jamie Ward

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Jamie, can you introduce us to ETON Associates and what you do?

We’re a systems integrator. That means we integrate all of the buidling control systems.
We’re quite well known in the construction industry in London and the South East for the major projects we’ve worked on; 1 Canada Square, Bloomberg Europe, 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie Talkie’), HM Treasury…the list goes on. 60% of the Canary Wharf Estate uses our controls, we’ve been going for 23 years and there are 85 Employees.

Why all the excitement in the market now about ‘Intelligent buildings’ ?

In simple terms, if you can learn in real time from the data coming to you from millions of sensors in every item on a building control network, then you can only heat or light the areas people need right at that moment, you can learn from patterns of behaviour, you can give people the services they want - be that data, wifi coverage, heating, security or whatever - and so you can get the most value financially from owning that buildling and create the best possible experience for the end user. 

To do those things, you need to have all the building’s systems integrated in one system and accessible through what we call ‘one pane of glass’ so you’ve got a dashboard to control and understand the whole thing.

I recently saw the global CEO of a major organisation calling for a worldwide decrease in energy costs across that company’s estate. For them, a 1% decrease in those costs would amount to savings of millions. Intelligent buildings will make these and many other aspirations possible now.

What’s the current state of market demand for your services?

We’re very much at the beginning of the intelligent buildings transformation and we’re starting to see a lot more specifications calling for the complete integration of all the buildings systems. 

Why now? It is simple and you see it across every industry sector in the world. The costs of  digital components is coming down, the power of those components is going up and new ways of combining them are creating game changing innovations. This is exponential change - getting faster and more powerful all the time. 

Moreover, if you look at the property industry and the construction design industry, people are putting enormous energy and investment into seeking out ways to exploit this digital revolution. So we’re about to see a volume of change coming.

Why do you follow the same in-house team approach that TClarke believes in?

Since we started ETON, I’ve always believed that there are real benefits for clients and projects if you have your own people to rely on. We don’t rely on third parties and their priorities and that means we can work on a tight schedule, deliver more easily and depend on the quality and motivation of our team. There’s a simple logic to this approach and it is proven time after time.

How are you doing in working together with TClarke’s TCIB team?

We’ve worked alongside TClarke for so many years and projects that the confidence has been there for a long time already. We’ve moved into TClarke locations - both our manufacturing operation at Stansted and our office teams in Moorgate - and that is obviously important. 

We are working together on 22 Bishopsgate and that really is a landmark innovative project in many ways - but, just a couple of months in, it goes further. We are already engaging with TCIB teams on a couple of ETON projects - at the Bank Street development at Canary Wharf and also at the first residential block that is going up there. They are designing the data networks for us and we will be installing them.

It is early days but you can see substantial progress.

How do you view the future opportunity?

I think that TClarke have been smart in seeing that the digital revolution has now landed and that the concept of intelligent buildings is really taking off. I could talk to you in detail about the technology changes that we think are going to drive things - from power over ethernet to open systems controls. 

But if you step back from the technical side you can just see that there are global mega trends at play here. Globalisation, rapid urbanisation, big data, climate change are four of them which all demand that we now build structures that are not just energy efficient but energy neutral and then environmentally beneficial. It is amazing to think that a city tower could actually be good for the environment - but this is the way we are going. 

Right now, people are investing and experimenting with data and technology with the aim of being able to control and monitor each last square foot of a building. Every month we see new, cheaper, more powerful and potentially game changing technologies coming on stream.

For ETON and TClarke, the opportunity we have comes from being at the forefront of the changes. The projects and partners we are fortunate to have mean that these changes are not happening outside our knowledge or influence - we are playing our part in shaping them and delivering them.

I believe that as these changes happen, knowledge and expertise will be key. Having knowledge and expertise in-house and having the opportunity to develop that on world class projects - as we do, I am optimistic about what we can achieve together.