How to design controls, automation in government buildings

In this Q&A with multiple experts, learn how to design building automation systems and controls for government, state, municipal, federal, correctional and military buildings

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 22, 2021


  • Steve C. Davis, PE, electrical discipline lead, LEO A DALY, Atlanta
  • Raymond Krick III, PE, CxA, LEED AP, project manager, RMF Engineering Inc., Baltimore
  • Allen Poppe, PE, principal mechanical engineer, Stanley Consultants, Muscatine, Iowa
  • Andrew Stanton, PE, mechanical engineer | senior associate, DLR Group, Cleveland.

From your experience, what systems within a government, state, federal, correctional and military project are benefiting from automation that previously might not have been?

Steve C. Davis: Automation of HVAC systems is often used in the facilities that we design. This gives the owner options for monitoring and adjusting the systems remotely.

Is your team using building information modeling in conjunction with the architects, trades and owner to design a project?

Steve C. Davis: Yes, we use Autodesk Revit for BIM in the designs of our projects in conjunction with our Architects. We typically turn over our design to the government in AutoCAD format as they currently do not have a BIM platform for operations and maintenance and measurement and verification. However, we have turned over our model to contractors for them to use it for M&V, as well as clash detection.

Andrew Stanton: Our firm provides an integrated design system where we work in the same office as the architectural designers. The Revit model used is completely linked with the architectural staff’s and it allows the team to see changes in real time, creating a seamless design process.

How has COVID-19 changed the aspects of smart buildings? What smart technologies are being added to achieve COVID-19 safety?

Raymond Krick III: For the short term, due to COVID-19, ASHRAE Guidance has placed an emphasis on dilution. This has led building owners to disable energy conservation measures such as demand-controlled ventilation. Other strategies for dilution are being added through controls strategies such as pre- and post-occupancy building flushes.

Andrew Stanton: Additional air quality monitoring systems are being provided to ensure proper air changes and ventilation rates are being added to help achieve COVID safety.

Cybersecurity and vulnerability are increasing concerns. Are you encountering worry/resistance around wireless technology and IoT as the prevalence of such features increases? How are you responding to these concerns?

Steve C. Davis: Cybersecurity is a major concern on military projects. We identify all facility-related control systems that may require internet connectivity and coordinate all specific requirements with the appropriate authorities. We are required to follow all government criteria as related to cybersecurity. The government will typically use hard-wired ethernet cabling for data connectivity in facilities and will avoid using wireless technologies. Although, wireless local area networks are being used in some cases.

Allen Poppe: Basic cybersecurity requirements are included in federal specifications. It is common to disable wireless capability. For secure facilities, wireless access points are not common and control systems regularly have an “air gap” with no outside internet connectivity.