Case study: System integration for intelligent buildings

Chicago’s newest intelligent building follows best practices to ensure successful system integration throughout.

By David Clute, cohesionIB, Colorado, and Rick Szcodronski, cohesionIB, California December 4, 2018

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the building amenities, features, and systems that make Chicago’s 151 North Franklin an intelligent building.
  • Learn how the building amenities and features were more accessible to the building’s owners, operators, and occupants using mobile and web-based applications.
  • Identify the specific solutions, techniques, and standards used for an integrated and interoperable building.

The 151 North Franklin building in Chicago is a 35-story, 807,000-sq-ft office tower that is technically advanced, sustainable, and forward-looking. Designed by John Ronan Architects, 151 North Franklin is a pioneering place for new ways of working. Its clean and elegant design merges inspiration and business, delivering innovation at every corner. Seamlessly flowing from outside to inside, tenants benefit from a rooftop sky garden, landscaped 2nd-floor terrace, and other inspiring amenities, fulfilling the promise that great design is great for business.

Integrating the many engineered systems within a building is a complex process, often handled by controls experts. This article will look at integration among all the building systems in 151 North Franklin (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, fire protection, etc.), and will provide suggested best practices for engineers to follow when integrating these systems into an intelligent building.

Building overview 

There are many ways to organize and present an intelligent building’s amenities and features. Table 1 summarizes 16 solutions, subsystems, and capabilities that are included in the 151 North Franklin building. Most of these solutions are provided by the landlord, The John Buck Co., as part of the base building design and construction. Within the tenant spaces of the building, the tenants will provide the systems specific to their business operations.

The building has been designed and constructed to maximize the opportunities for tenants to take full advantage of the base building amenities and features without having to replicate these systems within their own space.

User-centric design

The 151 North Franklin building has been designed with end users and occupants in mind. Some of the key characteristics of this design include:

  • High-performance architecture featuring glass curtain wall and solid stone base.
  • Floor-to-ceiling glass and 9-ft 6-in. ceilings provide optimized sunlight for increased productivity.
  • Rooftop sky garden, 2nd-floor terrace, and 4-story covered plaza, providing a wide variety of “third-space” options for work beyond the desk.
  • Industry-leading efficiency provided by column-free lease spans and columnless corners.

Technology to drive connectivity: The building’s technology systems have been specifically designed to drive connectivity and support a comprehensive digital experience for all visitors, tenants, building management staff, brokers, and operators. These systems include:

  • A cutting-edge communications platform, including uninterrupted cellular and Wi-Fi coverage from the garage to the rooftop.
  • A web-enabled, integrated building system platform for easy control of access, security, temperature, HVAC, and lighting.
  • HVAC with demand-based control, which provides greater flexibility and lower cost.
  • Redundant electrical capacity for flexible and expandable power delivery; backup generator space is available.
  • A supplemental solar electrical system.
  • Destination dispatch elevators for best-in-class performance.

Strategic design: The design of 151 North Franklin takes full advantage of Chicago’s views from its location. Design features include:

  • Panoramic, unobstructed vistas including Chicago’s famous skyline and Lake Michigan.
  • Ample set-back distances allow for high levels of light and air even on the lower floors of the building.
  • Minimal obstructions to neighboring properties provide light and air.


Sustainability features and industry certifications: 151 North Franklin is seeking U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-CS Gold certification and has already achieved WiredScore Platinum status because of the developer’s commitment to optimal energy use and high tenant satisfaction and retention. Specific measures that were taken include:

  • Tenant-monitored and tenant-controlled energy usage.
  • WiredScore Pre-Certified Platinum.
  • Four-story covered plaza designed to leverage adjacent green space, creating a vibrant community space.

The digital experience: Technology is continuously changing the way people work and connect, what’s possible in high-performance buildings, and notions about what constitutes a workplace. Information is expected to be accessible anytime and anywhere, seamlessly and securely. An organization’s ability to understand, embrace, and align technology with its corporate culture can provide a competitive edge that sets it apart to enrich branding, enhance productivity, and attract and retain the best employees. This makes it even more important that the information technology and corporate real estate teams be well aligned to reduce risks and gaps in strategy and implementation. Given the abundance of technologies available, how do we align possibility with practicality early on, then develop a clear path from strategy to execution?

John Buck Co. has equipped 151 North Franklin with a mobile smartphone application and a web-based tenant portal software. This software consolidates many different building services along with helpful information. It provides each tenant with an immediate self-service option for common tasks like enrolling new users with the security system, entering service requests, and adding visitors for building access.

The technical details

Building systems features:

  • Demand-based real-time data
  • Greater flexibility and lower cost
  • Unlimited supplemental chilled-water capacity
  • Dual feeds with an automatic throw-over switch.
  • Flexible and expandable power delivery.
  • Supplemental solar electrical system.
  • Backup generator space and additional riser capacity available
  • Solar-heated domestic water supply and solar electrical source in common area
  • Floor-by-floor HVAC system (tenant comfort control)
  • Base building/life safety pathway for tenant backup generators (G1, G2)
  • Electrical supply/dual feeds/dual risers
  • Dedicated outside air/ventilation riser (indoor-air quality)
  • Base building and tenant supplemental cooling riser.

The building design’s technical specifications

Excerpts from the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), communications, security, and sustainable design specification sections for 151 North Franklin are provided below.


Chilled water

The building’s cooling will be provided by offsite district chilled-water production plants via pipe connections from street distribution to the energy-transfer room located at the lower level.

Heating systems

  • Electric-resistance heating coils will be provided with each dedicated outside air handling unit, as well as each amenity and lobby air handling unit.
  • Electric-resistance baseboard heaters will be provided along perimeter windows and walls for the ground-floor lobby and at all floors with perimeter glazing higher than 9-ft 6-in.
  • Baseboard heaters will be interlocked with the fan-powered box serving the respective perimeter area.
  • Electric-resistance baseboard heaters along perimeter windows and walls for ground-floor retail areas will be provided by the tenants. Baseboard heaters shall be interlocked with the respective air conditioning units provided by the tenants.

Air conditioning

  • Four factory-packaged dedicated outside-air units will be provided in the Level 20 mechanical room to provide minimum code-required ventilation air to all of the typical office floors.
  • Conference center and fitness area: Variable-volume factory package units will be provided in the mezzanine space above the Level 2 locker room and toilet space to serve the conference center and fitness areas.
  • Ground-floor lobby: A variable-volume factory package unit will be provided in the basement level to serve the entrance lobby and lounge.

Duct distribution systems

Perimeter offices and interior offices will be supplied from separate variable air volume series flow-fan-powered boxes, system pressure-independent direct digital control (DDC) by the building automation system (BAS), low leakage and low-pressure drop for space-temperature control. Perimeter fan-powered boxes will include electric heating coils for envelope heat.

Building automation system

Control and monitoring

  • Control and monitoring of the building mechanical systems, and monitoring of other building equipment, will be provided by DDCs specified under CSI Division 230923, using instrumentation specified under 230913, to control/monitor points and execute sequences of operation as indicated on temperature control drawings.

DDC/BAS network, communication, and software

  • The DDCs and BAS shall provide central control and monitoring of major HVAC equipment. The DDC/BAS will consist of two tiers or levels of networks.
  • The first-tier network shall provide connectivity between all DDC network controllers (B-BC), the BAS server, and dedicated BAS operator workstations. It shall be Ethernet-based and shall serve as a backbone for all base building technology systems. A virtual local area network (VLAN) may be portioned by the owner and dedicated for BAS communications.
  • The second-tier networks shall provide communications from each DDC network controller (B-BC) to all DDC controllers, variable-speed drives, equipment-mounted controllers, and other smart field devices.
  • Second-tier communications shall be ASHRAE Standard 135: BACnet-A Data Communication Protocol for Building Automation and Control Networks on EIA-485 physical layer in a daisy-chain wiring scheme and have a minimum communication speed of 76.8K bps.
  • The BAS shall have custom graphical displays to monitor the operation of HVAC equipment connected to the BAS. User displays shall also include floor plans. Graphical displays shall be submitted electronically to the client and the engineer for review.
  • Each DDC shall connect to a communication network for central monitoring, remote override, setpoint adjustment, history collection to archive, and alarm annunciation. The BAS shall be capable of generating both advisory and critical alarm-notification messages via email to the designated recipients as determined by the client. Each DDC shall monitor and control the associated HVAC unit in a stand-alone configuration, independent of any other DDC.

BAS hardware features 

  • All BAS network communications shall use a physical layer of Ethernet and EIA-485. Ethernet cabling will be provided by structured cabling. EIA-485/twisted pair cabling shall be provided by the DDC contractor.
  • Network Controllers will be Tridium JACE-8000 (or OEM-equivalent) B-BC controllers, with or without input/output (I/O) depending on application, and will run Tridium’s Niagara 4 middleware software platform.


Electrical systems

Electric service

  • Primary distribution: Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) shall provide 12,470 V service feeders, originating from separate networks, to the project via underground concrete-encased duct banks. These duct banks shall enter into a utility-owned main-line switching station and transformer vault located in the basement level.
  • Secondary distribution: The building shall be provided with service entrance switchboard rooms and vertically aligned branch electrical closets strategically located to provide an efficient and economical distribution of wiring systems throughout the facility.


  • Provide lighting systems for base building lobbies; electrical, telephone, mechanical, and elevator equipment rooms; parking; service areas; corridors; stairways; toilets; storage rooms; dock area; elevator pits; supply and recirculation fan plenums; roof hatches; exit signs; etc. The lighting system shall be complete with fixtures, ballasts, drivers, lamps, branch circuits, and controls to interface with BAS and accessories.
  • Daylighting and shade controls.
  • The owner shall provide conduit pathway infrastructure from core to curtain wall to support the installation of future tenants’ motorized shades during their fit-out.


Domestic cold water

  • Provide dual 12-in. domestic water services connected to the water main in the street per the local water department’s requirements and route into the building’s dedicated pump room.
  • Provide and install an 8-in. domestic-water service, water meters, and all associated valves on the water services as required by the City of Chicago, and a branch with an 8-in. water line with a double-detector check-valve assembly for continuation by the fire protection contractor.

Stormwater system

  • Furnish and install roof drains at all roofs (as noted on the architect’s drawings) along with the interior drainage system and downspouts for a complete operable stormwater system.
  • All storm/waste piping, above grade level, shall be connected to a gravity storm sewer. Collect all storm piping and route to the storm detention structure included with overflow. The civil engineer will continue the sewer from that point.

Fire protection

Standpipe system

  • A standpipe system shall be provided for the new proposed high-rise building.
  • The water supply for the combination sprinkler and standpipe riser shall be hydraulically calculated to supply a residual pressure of 65 psi at the topmost outlet, with a flow rate equal to 250 gpm plus actual sprinkler system demand but not less than 500 gpm.

Automatic sprinkler system

  • A supervised automatic sprinkler system shall be installed throughout the entire premises, except in ComEd vaults, dedicated electrical transformer rooms, dedicated main-building switchboard rooms, dedicated electrical closets or rooms where voltage exceeds 600 V, base building life safety emergency generator rooms, elevator shafts, and elevator machine rooms.


Spaces and Pathways

  • Spaces—TEF: Two separate telecommunications entrance facilities will be located on the B1 basement level. These are small rooms where the telecommunications service providers will transition their outside-plant cabling to indoor-rated cabling and shall bond the cable sheaths. Multiple service providers may enter the building via the same TEF. They will each be given proportioned wall space to place their splice equipment.
  • Pathways—incoming services: Eight 4-in. conduits from the property line are specified for incoming serve to each of the two TEF rooms.

Base building structured cabling


  • Vertical fiber backbone: One 12-strand OM4 multimode fiber-optic cable will be provided from NetPOP A to telecommunications room A (TR A) on every 5 floors as well as the basement TR and SatPOP.
  • This backbone is for the building’s network and other systems the building wishes to deploy. It will allow the IP devices (BAS controllers, lighting controllers, security-access control panels, security cameras, etc.) on each group of three floors to connect to the building LAN access switch.
  • There may be a consideration for additional single-mode fiber-optic cabling if it is required to support a distributed antenna system (DAS) implementation.

Data network

The data network provides the delivery of information services throughout the building. The data network is a single, unified physical network that is comprised of several independent logical networks. A wide variety of network-enabled devices use the data network utility to send and receive information. A device’s ability to communicate with other devices is governed by the security policies that are implemented throughout the data network. By designing and implementing the data network to be flexible and adaptive, this reduces the management and operational expense of reconfiguration once the network is installed.

The systems/devices that will use the unified data network include the following:

  • Security (access control, video surveillance, visitor management, intercom).
  • Building control systems (integrated automation system (IAS), BAS, lighting/shade controls, elevator controls).
  • Audio/video (digital signage, background music, control system).
  • Wireless.
  • User devices (PCs, phones, printers, multifunction devices).
  • Servers.

Voice system

The main voice system will be completely Voice over Internet Protocol, with voice servers residing in the NetPOP or hosted offsite. The voice system shall have a redundant voice server with automatic failover capabilities.

Distributed antenna system

The building will deploy a DAS that will provide cellular enhancement for multiple wireless carriers over a common infrastructure. It also will allow for two-way radios used by building operations staff to utilize the same infrastructure.

Security system

General description

  • System purpose: The security system is designed to control authorized access and prohibit unauthorized access to private or restricted spaces and to record access events for later investigation or audit purposes. The security system will consist of card-reader access control, visitor management, intercom, and security camera subsystems. Duress- or panic-alarm systems and intrusion-alarm systems are not included.

Access control system (ACS)

  • The purpose of the ACS is to control authorized access and prohibit unauthorized access to private or restricted spaces and to record access activity for later investigation or audit purposes. The ACS will consist of card readers, data-gathering panels, door controls/sensors, and door alarms.

Visitor management system (VMS)

  • The purpose of the VMS is to register and log visitors, print badges, track visitors, and provide reports.
  • The VMS will consist of a standard PC with a camera and badge printer for lobby reception desk use and a stand-alone kiosk for visitor self-registration.
  • The system will be able to register and log visitor information.
  • The VMS shall issue visitor credentials (“digital credentials”) to mobile devices to allow those devices to allow access via turnstiles and at elevators based on specific access-authorization rights per tenant.

Video surveillance system (VSS)

The purpose of the security camera system is to augment the ACS by providing a means to remotely assess activity at access points and to record video images of activity at those locations for later investigation or audit purposes. The security camera system will consist of IP cameras and a network video recorder (NVR).

  • NVRs will have a TCP/IP network interface for control and operation.
  • All camera monitoring, playback, and control will be via standard web browser interface.
  • Personnel with proper system authorization will be able to access live and/or recorded video from desktop PCs.
  • The cameras will be high-resolution color cameras. Additional camera features, such as low-light capability and wide dynamic range, will be provided with specific cameras where those features will be necessary to provide a quality image.

Sustainable design

LEED certification and goals

  • The project will be certified under the LEED-CS v2009 rating system.
  • The project’s LEED certification goal is Gold.

Water efficiency

  • Water-use reduction 20%.
  • Water fixtures’ flow and flush rates must exceed the efficiency requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 1992/2005 and the International Plumbing Code by 20%.

Minimum energy performance and optimized energy performance

  • A baseline and proposed model was created using IES-VE Pro energy-modeling software.

Author Bio: David Clute serves as an advisor to cohesionIB. He has spent more than 35 years working with architects, engineers, facility managers, owners, and others on a range of global architectural and engineering projects involving facility lifecycle management, from concept design to demolition/disposal. Rick Szcodronski is the chief technology officer of cohesionIB. He is responsible for all technical aspects of the company’s products and works with his team to develop strategies for the company, its offerings, and its customer base using technological resources.