Starting in the mid 1980s, buildings, materials or products began to be called intelligent or smart when they used computer technology to autonomously automate aspects of energy management, safety and telecommunication systems. It has been anticipated that this would optimize user comfort, energy consumption, safety or work efficiency and accommodate flexibility and adaptability. Hence, this paper aims to exp lore the reality of this term, is it merely to do with high-tech automation facilities and is therefore a modern concept? This paper argues that the "smart" concept has been as early as architecture; it is about effective interfaces between the building shell, building form, technologies available and human needs. Any building which fails to accommodate the needs of the users (as opposed to the designers, buildings, or managers) cannot be considered intelligent. An intelligent building is therefore the one in which the building fabric, space, services and information systems can respond in an efficient manner to the initial and changing demands of the owner, the occupier and the environment. The paper is a critical study of the curr ent manifestation of this concept as opposed to its historical evolution. As it highlights the question: how smart is smart? It attempts to conclude with a more holistic approach to "intelligence". Copyright © 2005 IAHS.