Designing industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse facilities: Building automation and controls

More than just places to make and store products, industrial, manufacturing, and warehouse facilities are becoming more complex. The processes and automation within these buildings are important to the building owners, and the building automation and control systems keep the occupants comfortable.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 24, 2018


  • Andy Campbell, CEng, MCIBSE Senior Refrigeration Engineer Leo A Daly Minneapolis
  • David Crutchfield, PE, LEED AP Principal RMF Engineering Charleston, S.C.
  • George Isherwood, PE Vice President Peter Basso Associates Troy, Mich.
  • Tommy Lane, PE Department Head, Electrical Engineering Spencer Bristol Peachtree Corners, Ga.

CSE: From your experience, what MEP or fire protection systems within these structures require specialized automation or controls that previously might not have, or have there been specific requests for increased automation?

Crutchfield: We have seen that automation for the MEP systems has not increased as compared with nonmanufacturing projects. The client type for these structures usually cannot afford, and does not need, extensive controls or automation. Most maintenance of HVAC equipment is outsourced, and as long as there is a connection for the third- party maintenance vendor, there is little need for more local control.

Isherwood: Industrial facility projects seem to have one common theme among them in dealing with controls: How does a building management system (BMS) interface with the industrial control supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system? Does the client want to have a BMS backbone or use the SCADA backbone, and how will graphics and alarms interface at the front end? Will these look seamless in the end? Answering these questions seems to be a major challenge for each project.

CSE: What types of automation and control features are you seeing on these types of projects that you wouldn’t for other facilities?

Isherwood: The SCADA is a control-system architecture that uses peripheral devices to interface with the equipment in the facilities. These systems are industrial-grade and more expensive than a normal BMS.

CSE: For new structures, have you experienced building owners requesting equipment and systems to be connected using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, or some other type of asset-management or automation tool? If so, please describe the process/your experience.

Isherwood: We have not experienced IoT requests from building owners in manufacturing facilities. A lot of proprietary design is uploaded to the SCADA systems, and these are run independently from the internet.

CSE: Is your team using BIM in conjunction with the architects, trades, and owners to design a project? Describe an instance in which you’ve turned over the BIM to the owner for long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) or measurement and verification (M&V).

Isherwood: We are using BIM in our design processes. Once the project moves into construction, the BIM has not been updated with the shop-drawing information of equipment actually selected. The owners are using third-party software for O&M procedures.

Crutchfield: BIM is standard in the industry now, with all architects, engineers, and contractor teams using it. The model has become the deliverable now, and the transfer of the model from the architect/engineer to the contractor signifies when the job starts construction. From that point on, the contractor owns the model and coordinates with his subs from that. All trades have the model on mobile devices, so anyone in the field has access to the entire set of documents in 3-D.