Integrating BAS, controls for smart buildings

Technology integration between all engineering disciplines will create a smart building that can enhance building operations.

By Brandon McCarron, Envise, Garden Grove, Calif. June 26, 2017

Learning objectives:

  • Learn how networking building infrastructure and systems can lead to a smart building.
  • Plan for integrated building technology with CSE MasterFormat Division 25.

Smart buildings are made up of complex systems containing equipment, control devices, and sensors managed with networking infrastructure, processors, computers, and servers. The traditional construction approach to smart building infrastructure pushes down most implementation details and technology choices to multiple levels of contractors. In turn, these professionals design, procure, and implement infrastructure systems without any collaboration of effort or choices across disciplines.

The resulting absence of a standardized network architecture, security scheme, and user interface for the entire facility creates a fragmented network of systems that proves more difficult to operate, maintain, and expand over the building lifecycle.

Although it is possible to manipulate a smart building after construction is complete, it comes at a cost. The traditional construction approach must rapidly evolve, much like today’s operational technologies, to change the way that smart building technology is incorporated into new construction. Embracing this transformation will help building owners and operators avoid the sunk costs of meeting specifications at minimum, as well as the costs of integrating smart systems after the building is occupied. Translating the idea of integration to actuality requires upfront coordination and a collaborative team of experts from the architecture, engineering, and construction tiers focused on reducing construction and lifecycle costs through a technology-focused approach.

Maximizing the sum of all parts

A successfully integrated system will add greater value to the overall project as opposed to each individual design discipline that uses embedded technologies to monitor and control its respective systems.

For example, lighting and HVAC have many overlapping features, such as zone occupancy sensors and schedules, front-end visualization software, tools for setup and configuration, Ethernet and fiber-optic cabling, and communication protocols. These similarities present an opportunity to remove duplications and minimize the number of devices required to accomplish the same goal; automation tasks also can be streamlined once the systems are live. All of this adds up to eliminated waste.

In addition to lighting and HVAC, several other systems are responsible for maintaining any complex project including access control, closed-circuit TV, life safety, metering for utilities, and solar and energy storage. The importance of eliminating inefficiencies and minimizing waste in any building is no longer a value add. Today, it is a necessity for the long-term lifecycle management of any smart building.

Applying the CSI MasterFormat specification

When planning for integrated technology upfront, consider using the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) MasterFormat Division 25: Integrated Automation specification as the coordination point between design, construction, and service teams. This will enable the project team to address technology integration first and define goals and requirements prior to construction.

Introduced in 1963, the CSI MasterFormat specification for design coordination and contract documentation for construction projects in the U.S. did not have a place, or need, for integrated technology. Each division of the MasterFormat was covered under different disciplines, verticals, and tiers within the new construction industry, with designers as experts in their respective field responsible for each piece of the overall system.

In essence, an architect responsible for converging systems was not part of the design or construction process, and consequently, continuity did not exist in operational technology implementations from one building to the next.

As rapid adoption of direct digital control and networkable technology accelerated, so did the need for data assimilation in what used to be traditionally segmented systems within a building environment. As a result, the MasterFormat was revised to address the growing need for governance of all disciplines to converge the enormous amount of technology being implemented. That revision is now known as Division 25: Integrated Automation.

Implementing Division 25 as a coordination hub for design, construction, and service teams is critical for addressing commonalities between all the similar technologies being applied to the same portfolios and new-construction opportunities. Large campuses, hospital facilities, government agencies, data centers, and other high-performing or complex environments that have large operational requirements are especially prone to inefficiencies without standardization.

As emerging technology becomes viable, Division 25 serves as both a blueprint for upgrading existing technologies as they reach their end of life and as a technology version-control system for continuously improving and solving old problems with new, viable technology. While the inclusion of Division 25 adds sweat equity and coordination to the early development process, it is an essential framework for addressing the long-term sustainability of these facilities.

Cost and quality remain at the top of our industry’s priority list, and that will not change. However, our approach to incorporating smart building technology into new construction must revolutionize to more fully integrate project teams, which in turn, minimizes and even eliminates unnecessary and costly gaps. A true champion of operational technology integration allows the appropriate accountability and responsibility of normalizing network architectures while creating criteria for standardizing operational technology software, hardware, and communications. The result is more efficiency, less waste, and overall greater cost savings.

Brandon McCarron is technology integration engineer at Envise, a national building systems integrator.