Engineering on an international scale: Automation and controls

Working on projects clear across the globe may introduce more obstacles to overcome than mere distance and language barriers—each locale comes with its own codes, climate conditions, and unique characteristics. This includes a discussion of building automation and control systems.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 29, 2015


Mark Haboian, Senior Program Manager and Chemical Process Engineer, Optimation Technology Inc., Rochester, N.Y.

Brian E. Hagglund, PE, Assistant Manager—Middle East, Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corp., Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, LEED AP, BEMP, Distinguished Technologist, Data Center Facilities Consulting, Hewlett-Packard Co., Chicago

Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP, FASHRAE, Principal, Arup, Los Angeles

CSE: When designing integration monitoring and control systems, what factors do you consider?

McConahey: Generally speaking, unless specifically asked to integrate, our approach for overseas projects is to allow the systems to remain independent: lighting, fire alarm, IT, elevators, HVAC, etc. For the building automation system (BAS), we often find that the IT infrastructure is not yet finished and installed by the time we need to control the HVAC system for early conditioning or tempering, so this system is often stand-alone with common data reporting through the Internet as appropriate. While there are many international companies that provide controls hardware and sell licenses for controls software, the real success of a system relies heavily on the skill and diligence of the local contractors or technical representative on the ground in the country of interest.

CSE: What types of cutting-edge sensors, biometrics, or other controls are you specifying in these buildings?

McConahey: Sensors are not particularly cutting edge if equipment controls are of concern. Biometric controls would typically reside under the security systems as a method of access control.

CSE: What are some common problems you encounter when working on BAS?

McConahey: Lack of proactive resolution of sequences and programming, service from the local agencies, and pushback on the quality of sensors we specify for good reliability and repeatability.

CSE: What types of system integration and/or interoperability issues have you overcome, and how did you do so?

Kosik: In the data center industry, one of the important interoperability goals is designing the IT equipment have a data conversation with the power and cooling equipment. The idea behind this is to increase efficiency on the facilities’ systems side and the IT side by using optimization strategies and algorithms to anticipate state changes of the IT equipment based on historical operational data. These types of tactics will allow the power and cooling equipment to operate at their highest efficiency and in modular designs, taking unnecessary equipment offline. This is just the beginning of the types of interoperability that can be achieved.